The Mother Archive

Immersion, affect and the maternal in museum practice

Museum curators are beginning to consider the affective potential of collection objects and immersive exhibits to conjure emotional responses. While Australian museums are drawing on immersive techniques in their exhibits, the value of VR as a tool for empathy and affect has not been sufficiently investigated. Additionally, the representation of mothers and maternal experiences in museum collections and programs are areas neglected in scholarly work.

This project aims to achieve the creation of an immersive archive which includes VR cinema, experimental soundscape and which re-imagines museum artefacts and oral histories to bring the museum visitor into the inner-world of mothers. In a partnership between Museums Victoria and Monash University, The Mother Archive explores the ways that virtuality can be used to transmit embodied knowledge and ask how a virtual, immersive and embodied experience exploring the inner world of mothers and the experience of ‘matrescence’ (first time motherhood) can be created for the museum visitor.

Implications of this project include the realization of new ways to achieve immersive museum experiences through VR, the development of techniques to display artefacts with emerging technologies, and the development of a VR film that portrays the under-represented topic of maternal experience. Outcomes achieved so far have included the creation of VR film sequences depicting personal accounts of motherhood and archival research on mother-related collection material at Australian museums. This project is on-going.

Project members

Rebecca Louise Clarke
Tom Chandler (supervisor)
Therese Davis (supervisor)
Carla Pascoe Leahy (supervisor)


VR film, The Mother Archive

Paper delivered at Performing Artefacts conference, Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand, 2019 (forthcoming)

Paper delivered at Museums Victoria Lecture series, Museums Victoria (MV), Melbourne, Australia (forthcoming)


Project members

Rebecca Louise Clarke