MV Blog


Five things about goats

by Dr Andi
Publish date
6 March 2012
Comments (8)

Like many organisations, MV has an internal website where staff can post information and notices about various things. Recently I saw this wonderful posting on the museum's intranet:

Anyone want a free goat?

I need to find a good home for my pet goat Sebastian. He is a 7yr old desexed male Toggenburg with horns.

He loves to go jogging, nibble on the neighbours' roses, sleep all day & then bleat & bash things in the evening. He'd make a great pet. Not suitable for small children.

Sebastian the goat Hi, I am Sebastian the Goat, and I have my own Facebook page.
Image: Shane Hughes
Source: Shane Hughes

I would love to go jogging with Sebastian and watch his evening Hulk moments, but alas, my flat's balcony is too small for even my pot plants. But it did get me thinking that goats are amazing animals. Here are five reasons why.


1. You can eat them, drink them, wear them... and wash, and knit with them.

Evidence suggests goats were domesticated in Eastern Turkey around 10,000 years ago. They were kept for their meat, their hide, milk and wool. Think luxurious cashmere, smooth goat's cheese, and gentle goat's milk soap.

I found some stylish kid (young goat) leather shoes in the MV collection. No doubt the collection managers handle them with kid gloves: figuratively and perhaps literally speaking.

blue women's shoes Pair of shoes, blue kid leather with Louis heel, circa 1905-1910. (SH 880814.)
Source: Museum Victoria


2. You can take a goat ride or use a goat freight service.

Historical images from the MV collection show harnessed goats at work and at play.

lantern slide of man and goats Lantern slide labelled ‘Old Ned and goats, hands blown off’. (MM 034986)
Source: Museum Victoria

boys with goat and cart Glass negative, circa 1900.
Image: A.J. Campbell
Source: Museum Victoria


3. Mythology combines goats with humans to become devilishly naughty characters.

Mythological depictions of the half-human, half-goat are often naughty types. Among the Greek gods was Pan the faun who was into partying with nymphs. Puck was mischievous fairy from English folklore. On the other hand, Satyrs, which are human-like beasts with goat bits, were often evil creatures.

This faun from the collection is a horse brass , which is a decoration, souvenir or amulet hung on a horse's harness. This faun appears to be seated in a lotus position!

Horse brass with faun motif Horse Brass - Faun, 1825-1939 (ST 034497)
Source: Museum Victoria


4. Goats are great for playtime.

People often kept goats to keep the grass down and for a bit of milk. That's why Mitzy the goat (pictured below) lived at Janet's place in Springvale in 1957.

Girl playing with a goat in a field, Girl Playing with Goat, in Field, Springvale South, 1957MM 110927).
Source: Museum Victoria

I remember as a kid I used to love to play jacks; mine were coloured plastic. I remember being quite grossed out when I learnt that real jacks were actually knuckle bones from a sheep or a goat.

goat knuckle bones Knuckle bones found during the Casselden Place archaeological dig, circa 1880 (LL 32184 2)
Source: Museum Victoria


5. Goats are not only sure-footed rock climbers but you can take them jogging.

billy goat flick book Flick book with a climbing billy goat by 'Cinematograph Living Pictures', circa 1920 (HT 25043.
Source: Museum Victoria

Flick books were a popular optical toys created in the 19th century. See our goat-inspired flick book in action in this video:


Sebastian the Goat's present owner Shane says Sebastian enjoys a bit of a jog and meeting new people. We wish him all the best in becoming an 'old goat' in his new home.

Cheers and bleats, Dr Andi

Five things about dragons

by Dr Andi
Publish date
23 January 2012
Comments (2)

Happy Chinese New Year! In 2012 it's the Year of the Dragon. I've been stalking Wally the Gippsland Water Dragon in the Forest Gallery for days but couldn't get decent photo. I figured he should be the notional poster boy for this year's Chinese horoscope. Alas I am hopeless paparazzo because every time a customer service officer called me to say he was out and about and ready for his close-up, he would flee at the sight of me.

So I wandered down to the Live Exhibits lab to try get some tips on reptile whispering or to see if Wally had a stunt double, dead or alive. The staff responded by saying things like "oh, here I have a picture of Wally on my phone," and another said "here is a snap of another type of water dragon I took while bushwalking." You gotta love our museum staff.

1. Wally the Water Dragon only poses for visitors and Live Exhibits staff.

Wally's scientific name, Phisygnathus lesueurii howittii, has a connection to Museum Victoria. Our founding director Frederick McCoy named this species after "that excellent geologist, magistrate, and bushman, my accomplished friend Mr. A. Howitt... willing to aid in any scientific investigation of the natural products of Gippsland, and who with infinite difficulty succeeded in procuring three specimens for me of this River-Lizard."

McCoy also reported that that these lizards must have given rise to the rumours of crocodiles in Gippsland.

Wally the Gippsland Water Dragon Wally the Gippsland Water Dragon.
Image: Caitlyn Henderson
Source: Caitlyn Henderson

Eastern Water Dragon Wally's stunt double cousin, Eastern Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii.
Image: David Holmes
Source: David Holmes

2. Chinese dragons have four claws and Japanese dragons have three.

Next time you find yourself in a dragon-slaying situation, take a moment to count the claws on the foot of the dragon. That way you will know the its origin; if it has four claws it is Chinese but if it has three claws it is characteristically Japanese.

Japanese wood carving of dragon Japanese dragon carving in wood with articulated body, limbs and tongue. (ST 018385)
Source: Museum Victoria

3. Some dragons have fire in their bellies that sounds the passage of time.

Some dragons may breathe fire, but this Chinese dragon has fire in its belly; it's a reproduction of a Chinese fire clock. The dragon is boat-shaped with wires that support a burning incense stick or taper. This gradually ignites cords that then drop metal balls into a brass dish below.

Chinese fire clock replica Chinese fire clock replica, made by J. Bishop, Melbourne, 1959. (ST 024869)
Source: Museum Victoria

4. Dragon's blood was once used to stain violins and treat diarrhoea.

Dragon's blood is a red resin prepared from the fruits of a climbing palm (Daemonorops draco). It is used for colouring mahogany, varnishes, for staining marble and in the preparation of lacquers and dentifrices. It was also used medicinally for the treatment of diarrhoea and severe syphilis!

Dragon's blood Glass jar containing Dragon's Blood used in the pharmacy of a mental health hospital, Victoria, Australia, circa 1900 (SH 850502).
Source: Museum Victoria

5. Dragons are from mythical lands and Victorian coastlines.

The Victorian marine emblem is the Weedy Sea Dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus). These wonderful fish are residents of Westernport and Hobsons Bays as well as Geelong and Portland.

Like most fish, sea dragons swim horizontally rather than in a vertical position, like seahorses. However, like seahorses, male seal dragons do the egg-carrying duty.

  Seagrass habitat with Sea Dragons. Seagrass habitat with two sea dragons.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria

So in the tradition of Chinese New Year, forget all grudges, wish peace and happiness to all, and sweep away ill fortune to make way for incoming good luck.


Gippsland Water Dragon

Frederick McCoy's debunking of the Gippsland crocodile myth

Question of the Week: Dragon's den

Five things about summer

by Dr Andi
Publish date
18 January 2012
Comments (2)

1. Summer means getting to a century... in cricket, in the old Fahrenheit, and for a beer break.

As a little kid, I remember summer was celebrated by the number 100. It was a big deal when cricketers hit a century (as it still is) and being able to say "it's going to be (or was) 100 today!" to whomever you met that day. I also remember some outdoor workers used to stop work if it got to a hundred.

One hundred degrees Fahrenheit is 38° Celsius; it's marked as 'blood heat' (body temperature) on this old thermometer from our collection. According to Mr Myles Whelan, this advertising thermometer "had hung inside the office of Whelan the Wrecker since the 1920s." He donated the sign to Museum Victoria after the company went into receivership in 1991. I wonder... did they go for beers when it got to 100°F?

Thermometer Sign - 'Stephens Inks', Thermometer, Metal & Enamel, 1920s. (SH 930886)
Source: Museum Victoria

2. Summer means water worship... sun worship is too dangerous.

Mr Hogan from the council pool was a fit muscular chap like the Roman god Neptune; he was god of water, sea and master of the chlorinated pond. For summer after summer, Mr Hogan tried to teach me to swim. He eventually got me to swim half the length of the pool but I was never able to repeat it. Swimming is a skill that still eludes me.

Nevertheless summertime does call for a bit of water worship and don't we all miss the days of wonderful garden sprinkler action.

These floatation aids were used by Margaret Daws at the beach around 1930 when she was about four years old. The Daws family lived in Coburg and rented the same Aspendale house every year for their annual two-month summer holiday at Mordialloc and Aspendale (Long Beach).

floation aids from 1930 Water Wings - Father Neptune's Safe Float, circa 1930 (HT 21431).
Source: Museum Victoria

Here's Gerald Brocklesby jumping over the sprinkler in the back garden of his family home at Blackburn, on 17 January 1953. The Brocklesby children often played in the sprinkler in the backyard for relief from the summer heat.

Photo of boy playing in sprinkler Digital Photograph - Boy Jumping Over Rotating Sprinkler, Backyard, Blackburn, 1953 (MM 110316).
Source: Museum Victoria

3. Summer cool is a short queue at the Gelato van.

When I saw this toy ice-cream truck I thought I could hear the distant sound of a slow paced, slightly off tune - the electronic xylophone version of Für Elise. It is part of the William Boyd Childhood Collection of post-World War II country Victorian toys that belonged to Bill Boyd.

Toy ice cream truck Toy Ice Cream Truck - Metal, circa 1950s (HT 18771)
Source: Museum Victoria

4. Summer is all thanks to 23.5. The answer to the universe and everything is not 42, it is 23.5. The seasons of the year are a consequence of the 23.5° tilt of the Earth's axis and its orbital alignment with the Sun. The summer solstice (longest day) has been celebrated in a myriad of pagan, religious, humanitarian, commercial, and family rituals.

This orrery was made by Benjamin Martin in London, England circa 1770. An orrery is a mechanical model of the Solar System. Generally they were intended to be schematic representations for educational purposes rather than strictly accurate ones. This orrery contains a mechanism that can actually produce elliptical orbits around the Sun and is pictured in the winter position for Australia.

  Orrery circa 1770 Orrery, Tellurium & Lunarium - Benjamin Martin, London, circa 1770. (ST 023770).
Source: Museum Victoria

5. Summer in Melbourne is parasol one day, umbrella the next. When I started writing this blog it was a hot 35°C day. The day I was checking the final draft, it was 19°C and a hailstorm had just subsided. By the time I went for lunch the skies were clear and the sun was out.

Many years ago an overseas friend emailed me and asked me what the weather was like; instead of taking a photo outside my office window I saw this t-shirt in a souvenir shop – so I sent her a photo of that instead.

souvenir t-shirt Photo of a Melbourne 'Four Seasons in One Day' souvenir t-shirt taken many years ago at a city souvenir store.  

Oh by the way... at the moment our award-winning Planetarium at Scienceworks is running a great show about the reasons for the seasons called Tilt.

And...if you visit Melbourne Museum in the next month don't forget to check out the Summer Holiday Snaps display in the foyer. It features 40 images from our image collection depicting summer holidays around 100 years ago. We are so used to looking at people from the early 20th century in austere portraits that it's wonderful to see these relaxed, leisure-time snaps with their candid, smiling faces. Some things haven't changed so much in 100 years, after all.

Summer Holiday Snaps display Summer Holiday Snaps display in the Melbourne Museum foyer.
Image: Andi Horvath
Source: Museum Victoria

Five things about ice

by Dr Andi
Publish date
12 August 2011
Comments (1)

I love the idea of an ice rink outside my Melbourne Museum office window. I really want to try ice-skating at this year's Melbourne Winter Festival (18 August–4 September). Admittedly I haven't skated since my teenage years but it's like riding a bicycle, isn't it?

The subject of ice conjures a range of interesting things, from majestic giant icebergs to the tinkle of ice in your cocktail. So I went looking for things in our collection on the topic of ice.

1. Ice-skating is an energy-efficient way to travel.

I learnt this fascinating factoid at a meeting with my fellow science communication colleagues. As a mode of transport it could only suit the odd Canadian who happens to have a frozen lake between home and work.

This is one of the 420 lantern slides once used by lecturer Walter S. Binks, a popular psychology and vocational guidance lecturer based in Melbourne, Victoria. He lectured throughout Australia in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lantern slide of a man ice skating Lantern slide of cartoon sketch of a man ice skating, circa 1930s. (MM 69844)
Source: Museum Victoria

Two ice skating ladies Two ice skating ladies happily demonstrating a bandaging technique at the rink, circa 1960s. (MM 054716)
Image: Laurie Richards Collectionof Commercial Photography
Source: Museum Victoria


2. Ice has much associated paraphernalia - boxes, buckets, cabinets, chests, cubes, houses, men, picks and tongs.

Before domestic refrigerators there was the ice chest (or cabinet or box). This is an early 20th century Koola cooling chest. The ice was generally placed in the top part, and water was poured onto the insulation panels (often made of things like fur, skin or charcoal ash). In this object the insulation was asbestos! Yikes! The low openings in the cabinet drew in air and this created a cooling effect. All the melted ice was collected in a drip tray underneath.

Koola cooling chest Koola cooling chest (ST 030419).
Image: Charlotte Smith
Source: Museum Victoria

Ice blocks for your ice chest used to be delivered by the ice man from the ice house who would lug around the blocks using a pair of these ice tongs.

Ice tongs (ST 026528). Ice tongs (ST 026528).
Source: Museum Victoria


3. Ice can be a temporary art medium.

This photo is circa 1960s. It depicts two male chefs skilfully carving ice with chisels. They have sculpted a lovely polar bear, a penguin and some seals. But look closely: there is also Venetian gondola and I think there's a punch bowl. Plus you can just make out that the centre piece is a 3D version of the old RACV logo. 

Ice-carving Elaborate ice-carving, 1960s (MM 054918).
Image: Laurie Richards Collection of Commercial Photography
Source: Museum Victoria


4. There are links between life on earth and my freezer.

Water is one of those rare substances that expand when they solidify. Luckily for freshwater fish, ice therefore floats providing insulation for winter and not a frozen food section.

This picture reminded me of myself pondering the defrosting efficiency of my freezer.

Lantern Slide - Woman in Ice Cave Lantern Slide - Woman in Ice Cave (MM 032537).
Source: Museum Victoria


5. Ice is at its best in the form of cream or gelati!

This gelati box is from Taranto's Continental Gelati and Ice Cream Company Pty. Ltd, circa 1962.

Taranto's gelati carton Box - Taranto's, 'Three in One', 1962 (SH 000949)
Source: Museum Victoria

Five things about winter

by Dr Andi
Publish date
29 June 2011
Comments (3)

The Google doodle on June 22nd celebrated the southern hemisphere winter solstice. Earlier that morning the pop-up tag read ‘the start of winter’ but later that morning it mysteriously changed to ‘winter solstice’. It prompted me to think about the various cultural and scientific criteria that mean the start of winter. So I came up with five of my own criteria (with the help of the MV collection of course).

1. Winter means taking soup more seriously. So I ventured into the collection store to look at this publication, ready to jot down the odd recipe for you but let’s just say 1933 was probably a better year for wine. It contained 1933 classics like Sheep’s Head Broth, Kidney Soup and Egg Soup. There was also a section on Soups for Invalids which consisted of Mutton Broth, Invalid Broth (which was mutton broth with egg yolk and milk) and Beef Tea.

    Recipe Book - 'Winter Dishes', published by Home Beautiful magazine, August 1, 1933 Recipe Book - 'Winter Dishes', published by Home Beautiful magazine, August 1, 1933 (SH 900857)
Source: Museum Victoria

2. Winter means little heaters with lots of personality. I used to have one; it became my little warm friend on dark nights until it could puff no heat no more. Today, heater designs are very bland. The designs of the 1920s and 1930s had character and attitude, and they had great names like ‘Jupiter’, ‘Century’ and my favourite... ‘Don’. 

  Photograph - Hecla Electrics Pty Ltd, Heater with Sydney Harbour Bridge, circa 1930s A black and white photograph of a Hecla heater circa 1932 with an embossed image of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the front panel (MM 106793). Also check out its brother with an embossed image of a Roman chariot.
Source: Museum Victoria

Flyer - Lawrence & Hanson Electrical Co Ltd, Hecla Appliances, Melbourne, 1924 Check out the names of heaters from this flyer issued by Lawrence & Hanson Electrical Co Ltd, promoting Hecla appliances, Melbourne, for the season of 1924. We actually have the ‘Century’ in the MV collection. TL52046.jpg
Source: Museum Victoria

3. Winter means getting the first waft of your winter coat with slightly musty cupboard smell.  At school, the winter uniform also marked the season.

Digital Photograph - Two Women in Winter Coats, Sitting at Alicante Restaurant, Melbourne, 1964 This photograph shows two sisters, Bernadette and Helen Herbert at the Alicante Restaurant, Melbourne, 8 July 1964. Helen remembers that she was wearing a purple coat she made herself. (MM 110815).
Source: Museum Victoria


Socks - Prue Acton, Uniform, Wesley College, 1995-1996 Pair of white cotton sports socks, part of the 1996 winter uniform for Wesley College, Melbourne. Designed by the famous Prue Acton (SH 950641).
Source: Museum Victoria

4. Winter means my work colleague went cross country skiing ... again.

Whilst everyone else in the office shudders as they look the inclement weather out the window, she is jumping for joy at the thought of powdered snow and wombat sightings. I think of soup, heaters and curling up like a wombat.


Victorian Railways booklet promoting Victorian winter holiday packages
Victorian Railways booklet promoting Victorian winter holiday packages, published in April 1939. Victorian Railways played an important role in State tourism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, even operating the Mt Buffalo Chalet from 1924 to 1983 (HT 6107).
Source: Museum Victoria

5. Winter means Tunna or Gagulong (depending on where you are in Australia). Indigenous knowledge divides the seasons much more sensibly; depending on where you are in Australia there are more than four seasons. The Bureau of Meteorology has more info.

Knitted wool red and white beanie (1954-1957) Knitted wool red and white beanie (1954-1957) (SH 900300).
Source: Museum Victoria

One last thing about winter – I love beanies.

Stay comfy, Dr Andi

Five things about microwaves

by Dr Andi
Publish date
2 June 2011
Comments (6)

I was reminded by my mother the other day that I had once refused to eat microwaved food. It was the 1970s and I’m not sure if it was teenage rebellion or whether I was spooked by the thought of microwaves. Here are five things about microwaves - some are spooky but some are fascinating.

1. In 1945 Percy Spencer had an “Aha!” moment after a melted lolly. Percy was doing military research on radars when he noticed that the peanut choc treat in his pocket had totally melted. It was the first item of food to ever be microwaved and luckily it was a lab accident that ended well. He realised the goo in his pocket was due to the modified radio waves - or microwaves - that he was working on.

Early microwave oven An early commercial microwave on display at the House Secrets exhibition. This is a 1959 Swedish Husqvarna, Electronic 2001 ‘Cupol’. (I suppose the number ‘2001’ must have seemed like a space age term in 1959).
Image: Andi Horvath
Source: Museum Victoria

2. The mid 1970s became a microwave bonanza and they began selling like hot cakes. Up until then, microwaves had been used in the food industry, restaurants and even submarines. But it wasn’t until the various components, including the new microprocessor, had come down in price and early myths about radiation were dispelled that the commercial domestic market finally took off.

Microwave sales display A salesman looking to make a bonanza of a commission. From the State Electricity Commission of Victoria collection, Museum Victoria. (MM 009529).
Source: Museum Victoria


3. Microwaves work by jiggling water and fat molecules. A rather unattractive metal box called a ‘magnetron’ is at the heart of every microwave oven; the rest is just insulated casing. The magnetron generates the microwaves that jiggle molecules so fast that they heat up the food.

  Magnetron The magnetron - rather a good name for a super hero or a grunge band, don’t you think?
Image: Andi Horvath
Source: Museum Victoria

4. Some things don’t belong in a microwave oven. The House Secrets exhibition at Scienceworks has a display of things not to microwave because it destroys your appliance. We sacrificed a number of microwaves making this film so you don’t have to ruin yours. So don’t try this at home.

Microwave display at House Secrets The video of microwave mistakes is inside a microwave in the House Secrets exhibition. Marshmallow will puff up and then flump, thin metal creates mini lighting (electricity arcs form between the metal and the microwave) and an unpierced egg will explode due to build up of steam.
Image: Andi Horvath
Source: Museum Victoria


5. Making a tasty gourmet meal in a microwave oven is still a challenge. The pictures in 1970s cookbooks always seem rather unappetising – perhaps the food stylist’s profession was in its infancy. When I asked around the office, most people told me they just use their microwaves to heat things. Perhaps if MasterChef runs a microwave cooking challenge it may inspire people to give it a go.

1970s microwave cookbook Are those chicken skewers with lemon pieces? It doesn’t seem to me to be a microwave thing but maybe that’s why they chose it for the cover: to surprise you. This 1970s microwave cookbook is on display in the House Secrets exhibition.
Image: Andi Horvath
Source: Museum Victoria

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