Professor John Coghlan

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Speech by Professor John Coghlan, Executive Director of the Menzies Foundation, at the opening of the Menzies Virtual Museum on 13th September 2002

Prime Minister, Sir Daryl and Lady Dawson, Board Members, Council Members, Members of the Menzies Family and Guests including Professor Carl Bridge, Director of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London who is presently in Australia and was able to join us today.

Thank you all for coming to view our magnum opus first hand. This is a unique, especially user-friendly site and we hope the immediate Gold Standard for historical prime ministerial sites.

We have used the best technology available and willing people to do it. I hope you are impressed; a nostalgic trip for older Australians and educational experience for the generation Xers and overseas scholars or others interested in this era. Technology changes in the offing will allow considerable improvements in the near future relating to audio and film clips and, as Sandra has mentioned, increased relevant documentation on sub sites. I might note parenthetically that the prime minister's department has an especially informative site directed to all age groups.

Here is Menzies as he was. People either revered him or loathed him in the polarised political atmosphere of the period. Whatever your feeling the improved focus of hindsite enables a consensus view that these were, in many ways, the halcyon days. Being on the hustings was his forte, he obviously enjoyed the often vigorous verbal battle with hecklers. The past endows the present. We enjoy the benefits of his emphasis on education and increased Commonwealth involvement and the general improvement in lifestyle and well-being for all Australians. The Prime Minister has recently commented in a similar vein. Thus the central goals of the Foundation are derived.

In the construction of the web site we would like to record the great good will and support widely received. In particular I must acknowledge:
· The willing timeless commitment of my staff whose innovative and investigative capacities you see here in full flower;
· Mr Steve Bowman of Steve Bowman Studios who produced the outstanding video "Menzies in his Time" for the Foundation in 1994, for the collection and assembly of photographic and audiovisual material in an easily accessible form;
· Mr Bill Coppinger, formerly of Museum Victoria and now the Victorian Office of Employment Training and Tertiary Education for his early role in formulating concepts and with Mr Tim Hart of Museum Victoria for their continuing technical advice and expertise;
· Mr Richard Collman, Mr Philip Dubbin and Ms Melinda Traves of Australogia (Vic) for their leading edge graphic and web design;
· Ms Pam Shearman, our Web Manager, of Shearman Office Support for her collection, editing and loading of the time line text and images; for testing the site in its various stages and forbearance and perseverance during the whole project; and for the ongoing regular site maintenance and improvements now and in the future.

The Meszaros Family and Michael Meszaros who is here today, have allowed the Foundation the use of a head of Menzies as the obverse of a medallion. The Menzies head was made by Michael's father the eminent internationally recognised sculptor Andor Meszaros in 1969. He was a great admirer of Robert Gordon. The Foundation uses these medallions for various auspicious occasions - bronze, copper or silver. But for the Prime Minister it should be gold. Gold medallions are on the Australian mind these days. We are not a rich Foundation so this is pure gold for about a fraction of 1 mm but in its matt finish it looks fine. In the phraseology of Menzies it is my pleasant duty to present this medallion to the Prime Minister Mr John Howard on behalf of the Menzies Foundation as a reminder of his launch of the Menzies Virtual Museum Website today.

You are all welcome to stay to morning tea and to see more of the website.

Professor John Coghlan