Yaamanga Around Here, Coffs Harbour NSW


Project Completed: 2023

Floor Area: 275 sqm


Yarrila Arts and Museum and Coffs Harbour City Council

Thylacine’s role

  • Design development and specification for museum and gallery spaces
  • Review of base building design to ensure interface with exhibition is seamless and identify opportunities/challenges
  • Project management
  • Interpretive design
  • Graphic design
  • Media design
  • Lighting design
  • Fabrication and installation

The Yarrila Arts and Museum on Gumbaynggirr land in Coffs Harbour, NSW is the heart of the city’s new cultural hub. Yarrila is a Gumbaynggirr word meaning illuminate and this was our team’s rallying call – to shine a light on the stories of Coffs Harbour.

Our design for the centrepiece exhibition Yaamanga Around Here engages visitors through interactive elements and object storytelling. Rather than yet another regional history museum, this is a contemporary exhibition that leans into the personality of the Coffs region.

We collaborated closely with the curators to define what an interpretative museum experience could be and worked with the architects to realise this vision. The result is a space where art and museum are interconnected.

To optimise the limited floor space, we devised a vertical display solution, allowing the museum’s extensive collection to ascend the four-metre-high walls. This created a towering canvas of objects on open display threaded together with community stories, while digital labels invite visitors to delve deeper.

A cinematic Welcome to Country by ZAKPAGE films and Gumbaynggirr community, Daalga Nginundi Wajaarr Sing Your Country, greets visitors as they enter the gallery, before flowing to a central touch table to orient them in the cultural and geographical landscapes of the region.

Using the interactive map, visitors can explore layered history. Hidden moments of delight can be triggered, taking over the display with local characters, sights and sounds.

Vignettes juxtaposed with curatorial narrative explore three themes of Harbour, Headland and Hinterland and allow visitors to choose to explore by object or story.

Playfulness is present throughout. Injections of colour create a contemporary feel with murals of life-sized figures placing the visitor into the midst of the community. A layer for younger audiences draws them into storytelling through peep-holes, hidden objects and listening nooks.

Yaamanga Around Here transcends the confines of traditional exhibitions to create an inviting space for locals and tourists alike that is uniquely “Coffs” – vibrant and contemporary.

“This is a truly beautiful exhibition that has resonated with visitors from the first day we opened. Just over 80% of visitors are from the Coffs Coast region and their joy when they see a part of their story in the exhibition is a delight. This exhibition has connected a community with its history and pointed the way to its future.”

Michelle Smith, Team Leader Cultural Service, Yarrila Arts Museum

Project Partners – BVN Architects, Mental Media, ZAKPAGE, Benjamin Cisterne Lighting, Holotype, Designcraft

Photography by And the Trees Photography