ACMI is the national museum of screen culture, offering visitors the opportunity to navigate the universe of film, TV, videogames and art. ACMI celebrates the wonder and power of the world’s most democratic artform — fostering the next generation of makers, players and watchers. 

In 2019, ACMI and Swinburne partnered to provide rich and diverse opportunities for collaborative programming, research and thought leadership. The first year of the four-year partnership was successful in establishing cross-collaboration opportunities and fostering institutional linkages that will continue to deepen as the partnership evolves. 

Collaborations within the partnership have equipped Swinburne students for the future through work integrated learning. Cutting-edge research in media preservation and digital cultural heritage have archived videogame and media art collections for future generations. Design innovation through the partnership has also created sustainable outcomes for ACMI that have lowered the ecological footprint of ACMI’s signature Lens device. 


Co-designed and manufactured the Lens

Now used by millions of ACMI visitors

Industry-engaged learning

Through continual student projects and internships

Preserving Australian history

Through research collaborations on Australian videogames and media art collections

Key projects and outcomes

Learn more about what this partnership entails and some of the outcomes.  

Swinburne’s Centre for Design Innovation was appointed by ACMI to research, develop, produce specifications for manufacture and identify manufacturers for the Lens. The Lens is a free handheld device that allows visitors to tap and collect objects of interest throughout the museum to take home and explore later online. With the help of the Centre for Design Innovation, the Lens was developed to be recyclable. This high-profile initiative will be used by millions of visitors to ACMI and serves as a hero collaboration for our partnership with ACMI. 

The Constellation is a human-curated digital map that reveals unexpected connections branching off every object that a visitor collects on the Lens. Located at the end of ACMI’s new centrepiece exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image, the large-scale interactive screen reveals broad streams of interconnected content expertly curated by ACMI staff. Visitors can continue to explore these connected ideas in the museum or take their Lens home to unlock their curated Constellations on their own devices.  

In close collaboration with ACMI staff, Cinema and Screen Studies students from a number of units have applied their knowledge of screen history and theory to create a number of the Constellations that ACMI visitors will discover. Through class projects, Swinburne students have mapped hundreds of thematic, stylistic, and biographical links between the exhibition’s collection and wider examples of film, TV and screen media. These student Constellations link early sound technology to modern musicals, connect Australian movies to global blockbusters, and trace a path from Quentin Tarantino to The Simpsons

Working on the Constellation has provided Swinburne’s Cinema and Screen Studies students with the experience of collaborating with a sector leader on a real-world project. This experience enriches student learning and provides students with a real advantage in their post-graduation careers. 

Like Swinburne and ACMI’s partnership, the Constellation is an opportunity to connect teaching and research to industry and community projects. The Constellations created by Swinburne’s Cinema and Screen Studies students will be explored and enjoyed by ACMI visitors for years to come.

Two ARC Linkage Projects are currently underway with ACMI, led by Swinburne’s Professor Melanie Swalwell from the Centre for Transformative Media Technologies. Both highlight the importance of recording the history of, and ensuring continuing access to, the new artforms and media of the twentieth century. 

The first of these projects, ‘Play it again: Preserving Australian videogame history’, aims to develop a collection and research the local production and reception histories of 1990s digital games, as well as stabilising and providing access to the games — a challenging digital preservation endeavour. In conjunction with partners at RMIT and AARNet, the team will deploy and evaluate different configurations of the Emulation as a Service platform.

The second project, ‘Archiving Australian Media Arts: Towards a method and national collection’, brings the combined expertise of investigators in media arts history, digital preservation, conservation, archiving and curation to bear on case studies drawn from the archives of key organisations: Experimenta media arts, dLux media arts, ANAT as well as collections at Griffith University Art Museum and State Library of South Australia. Alongside other partners the Art Gallery of NSW and RMIT (and support from international organisations Rhizome, UNESCO PERSIST, and OpenSLX), the team will develop a good practice method for stabilising and presenting emulated access to selected media artworks, investigate the exhibition and re-display of historical artworks, and evaluate their use by researchers in the reading room. 

Superheroes & Me was a four-year project in which Swinburne researchers teamed up with ACMI to better understand the popularity and pervasiveness of superheroes. Funded by the Australian Research Council, the project was led by Swinburne’s Professor Angela Ndalianis and Associate Professor Liam Burke, who worked with ACMI’s curators and public programs teams to produce outcomes that would engage the wider community. 

These collaborations included Cleverman: The Exhibition, a four-month exhibition hosted by ACMI that examined how the TV series Cleverman reworked Indigenous Australian mythology in the superhero genre. The exhibition received media coverage from The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC and was seen by almost 50,000 visitors. 

Another innovative output was the virtual reality experience Superheroes: Realities Collide, which allowed users to choose superpowers and explore a comic-book version of Melbourne’s CBD. It was hosted at ACMI for four months where it attracted thousands of users. 

Under this partnership ACMI also hosted and co-organised two international conferences — Superheroes Beyond and Superhero Identities — which featured dozens of presentations from international scholars and industry leaders including the first female Wonder Woman artist Trina Robbins and the first African-American woman to win the comic industry’s top honour, the Eisner, Dr Sheena C. Howard. The Superheroes Beyond conference also served as the premiere of the documentary short film Superheroes & Me, which was based on over a hundred interviews the research team carried out with Australian superhero fans. The film would later win the Best Documentary Award at the FantaSci Short Film Festival in the US. 

The Superheroes & Me project demonstrated how, by collaborating with industry leaders such as ACMI, Swinburne’s research can have an impact far beyond academia. This partnership helped lay the groundwork for Swinburne’s larger partnership with ACMI, a collaboration that finds Swinburne and ACMI uniquely placed to become leaders in research projects that engage and inform industry and the wider community. 

On 4 May 2019, Dr Dan Golding, Swinburne Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, launched his latest book Star Wars After Lucas: A Critical Guide to the Future of the Galaxy. The ACMI Public Programs team collaborated with Dan to produce an 'in conversation' with Clem Bastow and Ally McLean to explore the Star Wars universe after George Lucas startled fans and the entertainment industry alike by selling the Star Wars franchise to Disney. 

  • "We are delighted to welcome Swinburne as our Major Academic Partner. It is very exciting to be able to develop our shared interests more deeply in the areas of technology, innovation, digital culture and screen industries, and through the Centre for Transformative Media Technologies. The partnership will enable Swinburne students and staff to work more closely with ACMI across teaching and learning, research and branding opportunities."

    Katrina Sedgwick , ACMI Director and CEO

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