MV Blog

DISPLAYING POSTS BY: Adrienne Leith (4)

The rise and fall of mini-Melbourne

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by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
11 May 2012
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Adrienne creates and presents public programs at Melbourne Museum.

Most of our holiday activities for kids include a make-and-take aspect, where visitors go home with a memento of their own creation, such as an Egyptian pendant. Last holidays, we took a different approach, designing a communal and collaborative program to build a mini-Melbourne within The Melbourne Story exhibition.

We weren't sure if visitors would be happy to work on something that they couldn't take home, but we needn't have worried. Each day the mini-city grew and grew and grew, so much so that Whelan the Wrecker had to come in a few times to make room for the city's growth. (Ah, how art mirrors life!) By the end of the holidays, the entrance to the Melbourne Gallery was completely full.

Cardboard city Urban sprawl of the cardboard variety at mini-Melbourne.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Each participant received a cardboard square, two rectangles, a triangle, a person and three connectors to put the set together. From these simple components grew a huge array of city features. Memorable were the churches, art galleries, museums, dance studio, aquarium, South Vermont Primary School and about ten Herald Sun buildings. More personalised were the homes with family names (in English and Vietnamese) and street numbers. There were lots of boats, trains and trams but surprisingly no cars – however there was a submarine!

Buildings and residents of mini-Melbourne. Buildings and residents of mini-Melbourne.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The city was populated too, with little people sitting on or hanging off the buildings. The population explosion was very evident as the holidays progressed – the little people everywhere really made the whole scene come alive.

Mini Melburnians Mini-Melburnians in their cardboard city.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Participants were aged from about 18 months to grown-ups and of course not everyone approached the project the same way. Younger kids wanted to decorate and construct their own buildings, while older, kids, teenagers and adults banded together to make bigger and more ambitious group projects. The cardboard pieces were decorated with coloured textas and then constructed to individual designs. So much concentration and so many conversations!

Sadly, we couldn't keep the city but we did keep the little people, all 5,000 of them. We are now seeking an artist who might like to use them in an art work or installation so the people of our mini-Melbourne live on. If you have a new home for the mini-Melburnians, email me at Melbourne Museum.

Staff working on mini-Melbourne Museum staff preparing the cardboard components of mini-Melbourne.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The autumn holiday team included Lisa Nink, Bernard Caleo, David Perkins, Jen Brook, Alexandra Johnstone, Lauren Ellis and 46 wonderful volunteers.

Bugs for Brunch

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by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
28 March 2012
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Adrienne creates and presents public programs at Melbourne Museum.

What do you eat when you are having bugs for brunch?

Well, scorpions for starters, followed by BBQ-flavoured mealworms. Or perhaps you prefer your mealworms simply roasted with a dipping sauce? And would you like crunchy crickets with that?

A plate of roasted mealworms and crickets. A plate of roasted mealworms and crickets.
Image: Tom Pietkiewicz
Source: Umkafoto
 

More than 3,000 ethnic groups in 113 countries eat insects and other invertebrates, and in many places they are preferred over beef, pork and lamb. Producing insects generates fewer greenhouse emissions than for other forms of meat production and you get more for the same effort: less feed produces more protein. This means a high-protein and low-fat food source that leaves a smaller environmental footprint. While eating insects makes environmental sense, it's pretty confronting to many of us.

Developed as a children's program for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, the Bugs for Brunch events ran over four days and tickets sold out fast. Surprisingly, there were just as many young adults as children (with their parents) who came along learn about – and taste - edible bugs. They wanted to do something different, something fun, something with their friends and family. But were they ready to eat bugs?

Most declared they were slightly squeamish and only a few had ever eaten a bug. After being shown how many bugs are already in our food, they were even more grossed out.

But with tastes of bug vomit (delicious honeycomb from Mount Dandenong) to sweeten them up, and up close and personal viewings of all kinds of edible bugs from Bogong Moths and bardy grubs to scorpions, grasshoppers and Chilean Rose tarantulas (Grammostola rosea), people's opinions shifted.

Woman holding beetle grub A bardy grub (beetle larva) at Bugs for Brunch.
Image: Tom Pietkiewicz
Source: Umkafoto
 

After seeing lots of images of people eating bugs, looking through bug recipe books and watching a Pad Thai being made with mealworms, they were ready to eat! Lollypops with bugs in them and mealworm chocolate chip cookies gave them a soft approach to the "whole bug in mouth" experience. But by the end, those roasted toasted whole bug snacks were being scoffed. They couldn't get enough and every plate was empty by the end.

Pad Thai with mealworms. Pad Thai with mealworms.
Image: Tom Pietkiewicz
Source: Umkafoto
 

The Bugs for Brunch program was developed and delivered by Patrick Honan and Rowena Flynn from the museum's Live Exhibits team and Adrienne Leith from Education and Community Programs. The insects at the Bugs for Brunch event came from one of the country's few consumable insect producers and were bred under hygienic conditions that comply with Australian Food Standards.

Links:

Edible Forest Insects, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Q&A with Dr Andrew Jamieson

Author
by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
22 February 2012
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Adrienne creates and presents public programs at Melbourne Museum and coordinates Museum Victoria's lecture series.

A new major exhibition is coming to Melbourne Museum this year called The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia. To learn more about the history and significance of Mesopotamia, I interviewed an expert in ancient civilisations, Dr Andrew Jamieson.

Can you first tell us a bit about yourself and how you are involved with the exhibition?

I am an archaeologist from the Classics and Archaeology program at the University of Melbourne, and for the past 25 years I have been working on archaeological projects in the Middle East. I'm helping with the development and presentation of The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia at Melbourne Museum, and I'm looking forward to sharing some of my knowledge at some public lectures at the museum.

Where exactly is Mesopotamia?

Ancient Mesopotamia corresponds with the area known today as Iraq, north-east Syria and south-east Turkey. The word 'Mesopotamia' is of Greek origin (meso 'middle' and potamia 'river'), meaning the land between two rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates. Both the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers start in the mountainous regions of Turkey and flow into the Persian Gulf.

It was here, in a land through which the two rivers flowed, that some of the world's first great empires flourished - the Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

Statue of King Ashurnasirpal II Statue of King Ashurnasirpal II that was placed in the Temple of Ishtar at Nimrud where Ashurnasirpal established his capital city.
Source: @ The Trustees of the British Museum
 

So why is Mesopotamia so significant?

Mesopotamia is important for a number of reasons.  For example, Mesopotamia witnessed experiments in agriculture and irrigation, the invention of writing, the emergence of cities and complex society, and developments in art, literature, science and mathematics. Mesopotamia is also sometimes referred to as the 'fertile crescent' or the 'cradle of civilisation', because the crescent-shaped region was a moist and fertile land, and because the first complex societies emerged in this region.

Why is Mesopotamia relevant to us today?

For me, Mesopotamia is relevant today because it represents the origins or beginnings of western civilisation. Ancient Mesopotamia has a long and rich history that continues to influence our lives.

The Mesopotamians were amongst the first people to build and live in large cities. They also developed many aspects of technology including metalworking, pottery production, glassmaking, textile manufacture and leather-working.

The oldest writing yet discovered comes from southern Mesopotamia and dates to circa 3500 BC. It consists of pictographic signs incised on clay tablets that record the Sumerian language. The earliest writing was used to communicate basic information about crops and taxes. A few centuries later the pictographs were transformed into more abstract cuneiform ('wedge-shaped') characters. This distinctive script was incised on wet clay with a stylus (pen-like instrument), usually cut from a reed. Over thousands of years, Mesopotamian scribes recorded daily events, trade activities, astronomy, myths, and literature on thousands of clay tablets. So successful was this system of writing that it was used over three millennia by the different peoples of the ancient Near East.

Early cuneiform writing tablet, c. 3000 BC Early cuneiform writing tablet, circa 3000 BC. Quantities of barley allocated to officials listed by rank. The impressed circles and half-circles represent numbers.
Source: @ The Trustees of the British Museum
 

What can people expect to see in the exhibition?

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia is specially designed for Melbourne Museum It features over 170 objects highlighting significant episodes of Mesopotamian civilisation, including masterpieces from Sumer, Assyria and Babylon. It is rare for the British Museum to tour such priceless pieces. Some of these objects include an early Sumerian cuneiform writing tablet, a fluted gold cup with spout found in the death pit of the tomb of Queen Puabi at Ur that may have been used for drinking beer, a large stone statue of the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II inscribed in cuneiform giving his titles and lineage, and much more.

Gold cup Gold cup with spout found in the death pit of the tomb of Queen Puabi. The long spout would have been used like a drinking straw, probably for drinking beer.
Source: @ The Trustees of the British Museum
 

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia is a collaboration with the British Museum. It is on at Melbourne Museum from 4 May to 7 October 2012.

Links:

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia

Video: What is Mesopotamia?

Video: The Mesopotamian Minute

Pre-purchase exhibition tickets online

Dr Andrew Jamieson at the University of Melbourne

School holiday programs

Author
by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
13 July 2011
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Adrienne is a Senior Programs Officer at Melbourne Museum. Adrienne, David, Bernard, Tim, Beth, Alexandra, Lisa and Sonia can be found in the Mysteries of the Nile room these winter school holidays. Come visit!

Where do you find six kilometres of antique gold thread? 9,000 fake jewels? A printing company that embosses gold onto paper and is affordable? Egyptian palm trees? How do you make ancient Egyptian costumes when they really wore very little?

Being a materials expert and quantity surveyor should be on the job description for Programs Officers who develop and deliver the school holiday programs at Melbourne Museum. Once the team has done the fun bit of thinking up what will be educational and fun, it’s a nail biting time searching for materials, doing lots of calculations, working with designers, talking to suppliers, writing requisitions, praying for timely arrivals of the orders, training our wonderful volunteers and communicating to everyone else what’s coming up. And that’s before the holidays begin.

D-day arrives. Or is that H-day? From the start of the holiday period, there are day-by-day questions – will we run out of anything? Should we reorder and when? Can we afford it? Why are so many people turning up? Why is that little girl back again – wasn’t she in just yesterday? (How many pendants has she actually made so far?)

Sonia's pendants Beautifully coloured and bejewelled pharaoh pectoral pendants made by holiday program participants.
Image: David Perkins
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Last holidays our visitors made 7,000 postcards. In summer, 11,650 earth capsules. We’re planning on 9,000 pharaoh pectoral pendants being made these holidays. And for every 3 – 12 year old that makes a pendant, there will also be grandparents, prams and babies, mums and dads, big sisters and brothers, all  in the school holiday program space. The Mysteries of the Nile room is packed, with kids busy writing hieroglyphs and creating their pendants, donning costumes and posing Egyptian style, reading books and playing games, watching a mummification show and even wrestling Nile crocodiles.

Kids in holiday program Kids enjoying the school holiday program.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Is it worth it? Do we love it? More importantly, do they love it? We’ve been asking people what they think. “We come here every school holidays at least once because the kids love doing these activities. They are just great”.  They can reel off all of the things they’ve made in the past few years and it’s satisfying to hear. “What you’ve done is provide people with something to do, somewhere to sit if you need to be quiet, a fun corner for costumes and an educational show”. The parents 'get it’ and the kids love it.

Links:

Melbourne Museum school holiday programs

Immigration Museum school holiday programs

Scienceworks school holiday programs

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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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