MV Blog

NEWS & VIEWS FROM MUSEUM VICTORIA

MV at sea

Author
by Tim O'Hara
Publish date
4 May 2015
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Dr Tim O'Hara is Senior Curator of Marine Invertebrates.

It is 3am, the night is jet black, the boat heaves with the swell, and a bunch of scientists and crew dressed in full wet-weather gear are silently standing, waiting on the back deck. There is always a sense of excitement as new samples are hauled in. What bizarre deep-sea creatures will be brought up? Perhaps this time we will see the enigmatic mushroom-shaped Dendrogramma, an animal (apparently) that has confounded all efforts at classification since its first collection by Museum Victoria in 1986. Or maybe the massive sea-lice that can devour a dead whale? Or just seafloor life in incredible abundance?

Large blue and white Investigator vessel The Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator at the CSIRO wharf in Hobart.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria

Ship's crew using machinery on deck Deploying the Smith McIntyre grab.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On Easter Tuesday, four science staff and students from Museum Victoria (Di Bray, Mel Mackenzie and Skip Woolley and I) joined scientists around Australia on a trial voyage of Australia’s brand new research vessel, the Investigator. The idea was to test out all the gear necessary for deep-sea exploration, from iron box-like dredges, used for over 200 years to collect samples, to the high tech cameras that bounce above the seabed, worked in real time from a joystick and a bank of computer monitors in the bowels of the ship, thousands of metres above. We went south of Hobart into the Southern Ocean, specifically to look at life on underwater sea mountains in the Huon one of the Commonwealth’s recently declared marine reserves.

People in the Investigator vessel lab The sorting lab: Skip, Di and Mel facing Karen Gowlett-Holmes of CSIRO.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria

Big camera rig on ship deck The towed deep-sea camera.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria
 

But I had another motive to joining this trip. Next year in November I will be chief scientist of a voyage from Brisbane to Hobart that will survey Australia’s abyssal sea-plain (4000 m below sea-level). So I really wanted to learn all I could about the capabilities of the vessel and think about best practice scientific procedures to ensure we get the most out of the expedition.

The Investigator, run by the Marine National Facility funded by the Commonwealth Government, is a large (94 m), elegant and efficient platform from which to do deep-sea research. Diesel electric engines keep the noise down and high tech stabilisers prevent much of the pitch, yaw and roll that can make life miserable on smaller boats.

People on ship deck The crew deploying gear off the stern deck.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria

Ship crew deploying gear Preparing for the next catch: MV staff in canary yellow facing Mark Lewis of from CSIRO with Mark McGrouther of the Australian Museum looking on.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria
 

My main memories of the trip: dark thundery night skies, albatrosses, friendly company and lots of carbs to eat. All too soon we steamed back to another sunny day in Hobart. We didn’t find Dendrogramma – maybe next time.

Happy birthday field guide apps!

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
30 April 2015
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One year ago today we launched eight very special apps – field guides to the fauna of every state and territory in Australia. What makes these apps so special? They were produced collaboratively by Australia's seven leading natural history museums. 

The suite of 8 Field Guide to Australian Fauna apps. The suite of 8 Field Guide to Australian Fauna apps.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Together the seven museums produced descriptions and sourced images for over 2100 animals from terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. The result was a suite of pocket-sized identification guides, that could be used by everyone, everywhere – and they're free.

It's been a big year for the field guide apps. They have won two international awards, a Best of the Web award and a Muse award, as well as the Northern Territory Chief Minister's award for Excellence in the Public Sector.

The apps are also highly regarded by the app stores. All 8 apps appear in iTunes' Education Collections, which feature their hand-picked recommendations for "students, teachers, parents and lifelong learners". iTunes calls these apps "indispensable tools that will inspire students in every classroom".

MV Collection Manager, Katie Smith, using the Field Guide app. MV Collection Manager, Katie Smith, using the Field Guide app.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Over the past year, the apps have been used by the museums in school holiday activities, education programs, teacher training, community outreach and biological surveys. But we're most excited about how the public are using them – to identify animals and to learn more about Australia's amazing wildlife.

Students using Museum Victoria's app in the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum. Students using Museum Victoria's app in the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum.
Image: Mirah Lambert
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The apps have received glowing praise from their users and, since the launch, have been downloaded over 78,000 times. We're absolutely thrilled that the apps have been so well received and look forward to what the next year will bring.

The National Field Guide Apps Project was funded by an Inspiring Australia Unlocking Australia's Potential Grant. The project was a 2-year collaboration between: 

Who do you love?

Author
by Blaire Dobiecki
Publish date
15 April 2015
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Blaire is a Presenter at Melbourne Museum and self-professed dog enthusiast. She specialises in having fun and doing science, often simultaneously.

Melbourne Museum’s term one weekend activity, Museum Love Letters, has come to an end, which means the results are in! Which museum objects received the most love?

Bar chart of love letters Bar graph showing the number of love letters sent to particular museum objects or exhibitions.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The dinosaurs are by far the most loved exhibits at Melbourne Museum, receiving a whopping 273 letters. In particular, 29 love letters were addressed directly to the T-Rex, a dinosaur that was nowhere to be found within the museum. The authors may have meant to send their regards to our lovable Tarbosaurus.

Unsurprisingly, Phar Lap was the next in line with 88 letters, followed by the entire Forest Gallery with 70 letters. The butterflies and bugs, Pygmy Blue Whale and 3D volcano movie were also highly admired.

Love letter to Little Lon house A love letter to the Little Lonsdale House in The Melbourne Story reads “Dear House, I like learning from the olden days. I like you. From Zali."  

But these letters revealed far more than just a numbers game. The activity was designed to allow visitors to reflect upon the significance of Melbourne Museum’s collection. Many stories of personal meaning for objects emerged.

Love letter to Sam Koala A love letter from Casey to Sam the Koala reads “I love the fact you were so brave and now you’re here.”
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Greg expressed his gratitude to the Cole’s Funny Picture Book for teaching him how to read. Jess thanked the meteorites for reminding her that there is so much more than just us in this universe. Lana appreciated the Love & Sorrow exhibition for reminding her that we are lucky today to live in a safe and free country.

Love letter to Cole's Funny Picture Book Love letter from Greg reads “Funny Picture Book of Edward Cole: When I was a boy you gave me countless hours of joy. Now I declare my thanks that will never end. For teaching me to read. My dear, dear friend.”
Source: Museum Victoria
  

The objects and exhibitions in Melbourne Museum carry many levels of meaning and significance. They uncover stories about history, science and society that are then shared with the public. This activity turned the tables and gave the public the opportunity to share their personal stories of object significance with the museum. It was a wonderful opportunity for staff to hear what objects visitors treasure the most and why.

Staff members were also encouraged to share their stories. John Patten, Senior Programs Officer in Bunjilaka, shared a story of very close personal significance to an object that is not currently on display. A breastplate worn by his great, great, great, great grandfather, a leader among the Dhulenyagen clan of the Yorta Yorta people.

King Billy's breastplate King Billy's breastplate
Source: Museum Victoria
 

John's love letter John's letter to the breastplate.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

First Machines in Action Day for 2015

Author
by Matilda Vaughan
Publish date
10 April 2015
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Matilda swapped a life working as an engineer for a life curating the museum’s historical Engineering collection. She’s very curious about how stuff works, how it’s made and why. If a machine’s got a switch, she’ll definitely flick it.

This is not the most awkward photograph I’ve ever taken, but definitely uncomfortable. I am lying under our Cowley Steam Roller, having just put back the fire grate bars, one by one. A great workout for the upper arms and the muscles around the belly.

Beneath the Cowley roller. Beneath the Cowley roller.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Every two years some of us are lucky enough to get this view.  Our restored and working steam vehicles, the Cowley Traction Engine, the Cowley Road Roller and the Sentinel Steam Wagon, were due for their biennial boiler inspections. So back in February, the crew removed all the boiler fixtures and cleaned the firebox and fire tubes, ready for inspection. The cleaning is a dirty job but it is a great way to get a closer look at how they are made.

All three boilers passed their inspection and last month we put them back together again, steamed them up and checked that there were no leaks. All clear and ready to roll this Sunday at our first Machines in Action Family Day for the year.

Cowley traction engine and the Sentinel steam wagon The Cowley traction engine and the Sentinel steam wagon, ready for action on the Scienceworks arena.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

Invisible Farmer Project

Author
by Catherine Forge
Publish date
8 April 2015
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Catherine Forge is Curator of the Invisible Farmer Project at Museum Victoria. She grew up in regional Victoria (Gippsland), which is where she developed her love for cheese, the outdoors and rural Australian history.

Cartoon of statue of female farmer labelled 'The Unknown Farmer' Unknown Farmer Cartoon
Source: Sea Lake Women on Farms Gathering Proceedings, 1991
 

Women in Australia play a vital role in farming and agriculture, contributing at least 48 per cent of real farm income through their on and off-farm work. Sadly, however, women’s contributions to agriculture have continued to be ignored, unrecognised and rendered invisible. Farming women have been excluded from censuses and official documentation, stereotyped as ‘housewives’ or ‘domestics’ despite their significant contributions to the farm economy and blindsided by a popularist vision of Australian agriculture that idealises masculinity and posits rural Australia as a ‘male domain.’ As a 1992 Government Report argued, rural women have too often been relegated to the position of the ‘Invisible Farmer.’

Liza Dale-Hallett at lectern Liza Dale-Hallett delivering keynote address at the Yarra Ranges Women on Farms Gathering.
Image: Alison Griffiths-Hoelzer
Source: YRWOFG Committee
 

On 21 March 2015 Senior Curator Liza Dale-Hallett (Sustainable Futures) launched Museum Victoria’s Invisible Farmer Project during a keynote address, Making Women Count, at the Yarra Ranges Women on Farms Gathering. Presenting in a panel alongside Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan and Victorian Rural Woman of the Year Julie Aldous, Liza introduced the main aims of The Invisible Farmer Project:  

  • To interview some of the 24 remaining women who were part of the first cohort of female agricultural graduates from the University of Melbourne.
  • To work alongside other institutions such as the State Library of Victoria to establish strategic collecting processes to document the Rural Women’s Movement and to uncover the stories of rural women.
  • To identify, as a matter of urgency, those that were pivotal in shaping the Australian Rural Women’s Movement.

Highlighting the fact that the stories of farming women are often intangible and undocumented – existing instead in living memory – Liza articulated an ‘urgent plea to move beyond the unknown farmer and to catch this history before it is lost.’

audience in lecture theater Delegates at the Yarra Ranges Women on Farms Gathering, March 2015.
Image: Alison Griffiths-Hoelzer
Source: YRWOFG Committee
 

It is significant that the Invisible Farmer Project was launched at a Victorian Women on Farms Gathering. These Gatherings have been occurring annually throughout rural Victoria since 1990 and were one of the major seedbeds for the Rural Women’s Movement that occurred in Australia during the 1980s-1990s. Senior Curator Liza Dale-Hallett first attended a Gathering in 1993 and has since had a long association with them that has included the establishment of Museum Victoria’s Victorian Women on Farms Gathering Collection. This innovative and award-winning collection has paved the way for the institutional recognition and preservation of rural women’s stories. Liza hopes that the Invisible Farmer Project will go one step further by inviting cultural institutions to collaborate in recognising, collecting and preserving the history of the Australian Rural Women’s Movement, before it’s too late.

The Invisible Farmer Project is funded by the McCoy Seed Fund and involves a partnership with the University of Melbourne as well as involvement from other collecting institutions (e.g. State Library of Victoria). If you would like to hear more about the Invisible Farmer Project, please get in contact with Catherine Forge (Curator) via email: cforge@museum.vic.gov.au or phone: 03 8341 7729.  

Look who's back

Author
by Jessie
Publish date
7 April 2015
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Near the end of March, we made few staff members and visitors smile—we returned Murray, the museum’s resident Murray-Darling Carpet Python (Morelia spilota metcalfei) to the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum. He had lived next to the Discovery Centre desk for several years but was removed from display in 2012 due to lack of resources. Since then he was kept in our back of house lab and only taken out for short public programs when we had time.

Detail of python Murray, the museum's Murray-Darling Carpet Python (Morelia spilota metcalfei)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Murray is an important animal to showcase at the museum as these carpet pythons are now listed as endangered in Victoria. They were once common in the northern regions of the state, but are now restricted to small localised populations. In Victoria, they are mainly found in rocky country, riverine forests, redgum forests and Black Box forests of the Murray Darling Basin to the north.

The major threat to their survival is habitat destruction, particularly the collection of wood from their habitat for firewood. They are also killed by cats, foxes and humans. Sadly, many people still believe that if you see a snake, you should kill it. This has a devastating effect on an already endangered species where every individual is precious to the survival of the species. It is important to be aware as firewood consumers that we may be burning up important resources for these members of the Victorian ecosystem.

In the wild, Murray Darling Carpet Pythons eat birds and small mammals. In captivity they are generally fed on mice and rats. Murray receives frozen thawed mice once a month, given to him by one of the Live Exhibits staff. Live Exhibits looks after Murray as well as a whole array of other animals across the Museum including other reptiles, birds, frogs and invertebrates. 

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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