MV Blog


Launch of Spencer and Gillen website

by Kate C
Publish date
8 May 2013
Comments (2)

The Spencer & Gillen: A Journey through Aboriginal Australia website was launched last Friday at a celebration at Melbourne Museum. In attendance were MV staff, representatives from several partner institutions, Central Arrernte Elders, and descendants of the two ethnographers, Walter Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen.

Screenshot of Screenshot of the newly-launched website,
Source: Museum Victoria

People at launch of Spencer and Gillen Descendants of Sir Baldwin Spencer with MV curator Dr Phillip Batty and three visiting Central Arrernte Elders.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Central Arrernte Elders performing The launch included speeches by project partners and collaborators, and a performance by three Central Arrernte Elders. L-R: Martin McMillan Kemarre, Ken Tilmouth Penangke and Duncan Lynch Peltharre.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The website has been several years in the making and brings together over 50,000 objects, photographs, documents, recordings and drawings that are housed in institutions in Australia, Europe and the United States. Research coordinator Jason Gibson calls it "one of the most comprehensive collections to do with a group of Aboriginal people. Certainly there’s nothing else like it on the web. It covers life on the frontier in Central Australia between 1875 and 1912."

Among the treasures are rare and wonderful audiovisual recordings, including the earliest film footage taken on mainland Australia. "Most of this material isn’t available on the web anywhere else, so we had to digitise and compile it at the same time," explains Jason. With a new mapping function and many ways to sort and filter the collection, you can now access these vital ethnographic records in ways never before possible, which is particularly important for members of Arrernte communities. "We spoke to over 80 different individuals from five different language groups, mainly in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek and overwhelmingly everyone is really excited and proud to have their heritage on display for all to see."

Men watching film The Central Arrernte Elders watching the footage on of the 1901 Unintha corroboree at Charlotte Waters. This is the earliest film footage shot on mainland Australia.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria


View the Unintha corroborree footage on

Spencer and Gillen worked in Central Australia for 30 years. "Although they have been criticised by many people for their social evolutionist attitudes, this collection demonstrates the collaboration with local people," explains Jay. "Gillen’s very close relationship with Arrernte people was unusual at the time and they were among the first non-Indigenous people to grapple with the concept of the Dreaming. 'Dream time' was a Gillen interpretation of the Arrernte word Altyerr and this interpretation became important internationally in terms of thinking about religion and society."

The website is the product of a collaborative project that was funded by the Australian Research Council and led by the Australian National University. It would not have been possible without the partner organisations especially the South Australian Museum, Northern Territory Library, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.


Media News: Putting Spencer and Gillen back together

MV Blog: Following the travelling Tjitjingalla

MV Blog: Rare scene of first European contact

Port Phillip Taxonomic Toolkit

by Blair
Publish date
15 March 2012
Comments (5)

Hey check out – the new Port Phillip Taxonomic Toolkit website we launched this week! It's a joint initiative between the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and us at the museum.

Juvenile Scalyfin, jellyfish and biscuit stars in Port Phillip Bay. Left to right: Juvenile Scalyfin, jellyfish and biscuit stars in Port Phillip Bay.
Image: Julian Finn | Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria

There is a spectacular gallery of over 2,000 photographs that make it the site to surf if you don't want to get wet this dive season. And if you do get wet, then it's the one place to learn about the cool stuff you've seen underwater.

Have a click around and find your favourite pretty fin or an awesome octopus!

albatross, isopod and Moray Eel from Port Phillip Bay. Left to right: albatross, isopod and moray eel from Port Phillip Bay.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria

The site has 1,001 species from Port Phillip Bay with more to come in 2012. There are frowning faces of stargazers to picture-perfect blue devils, fish that walk instead of swim, cannibalistic sea cucumbers, and seahorses that eat lunch like sucking a hotdog out of a roll. They're all part of our truly amazing local marine life.

The Port Phillip Taxonomic Toolkit is primarily an identification and information resource for scientists and marine enthusiasts, but the images provide some fun and education for all audiences. There are also interactive menus to identify selected species as well as descriptions of characters that make the animals unique.

The project is funded by the Department of Sustainability and Environment's Seagrass and Reefs Program for Port Phillip Bay and will be completed later this year.

About this blog

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