Just a quick jaunt from Melbourne Museum is the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground, spiritual home of sport in this city, Since 2008 it has also housed the National Sports Museum. I dropped in to the NSM last week to visit several Museum Victoria collection objects borrowed for their displays.
In the Champions gallery, the Australian Racing Museum tells the story of thoroughbred horseracing in Australia through objects, pictures and sound. The skeleton of the racehorse Carbine is on loan from MV but more recently, one of Prue Acton's amazing Melbourne Cup Day outfits joined a display of race day fashions across the eras. At one end there is a full-length white dress worn by Florence Martha Cullen in 1890 when she watched Carbine win the cup; at the other end is an outfit worn by Gai Waterhouse just a few years ago. There's also an outfit worn by Fashions on the Field judge Beatrice Sneddon in 1965.
Jacket & Skirt - Prue Acton, `Concorde', Melbourne Cup, 1984 (SH 942111). The ensemble also includes a matching belt, hat, gloves and bag. Just the jacket, skirt and belt are displayed at the National Sports Museum.
Source: Museum Victoria
Prue Acton's 'Concorde' ensemble from 1984 was based on a Cubist or Geometric design. Lorinda Cramer, Collection Manager at the Australian Racing Museum, chose the outfit for display. "It's an amazing piece and I loved the lines in it," she said. "It's so perfectly constructed with pinstripes that match beautifully. It's an engineering feat!"
The jacket's shoulders are spectacularly wide in classic 1980s style. "It really speaks of the era," said Jackie Fraser, Assistant Curator at the National Sports Museum. MV conservators helped with the installation and according to Lorinda, "it was great fun padding out the shoulders! It surprised us all... there was so much fabric in them." Textiles age rapidly under bright light and require special care to protect and support them. "The conservators spent a lot of time getting it just perfect," said Jackie. "The cases have low lighting so that some textiles can be on display for up to a year."
Lorinda (left) and Jackie putting the Concorde ensemble back in place in the Champions gallery showcase after changing the ensemble behind it.
Source: National Sports Museum
Downstairs from the Champions gallery, curator Helen Walpole was working to finish installing a new temporary exhibition. Now open, Hidden History of the MCG tells the story of the Melbourne icon with treasures from the collections managed by the Melbourne Cricket Club. Did you know that a brass ship's bell announced the end of the football before the siren was introduced? Or that the first architect's sketches of the Great Southern Stand were doodled on a paper napkin?
In one showcase, two seagull specimens borrowed from MV and photographs illustrate birdlife interrupting play. When seagulls aren't begging for chips in the MCG stands, they're "being hit by cricketers and getting in the way of footballers," said Helen. She clearly has a soft spot for the specimens, explaining "we've named them – JL, or Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Steven – Steven Seagal. JL looks a lot more calm and Steven looks like an aggressive action hero."
Curator Helen Walpole with seagull specimens nicknamed Steven Seagal (left) and JL (right).
Source: Museum Victoria
The two mounts were prepared by MV's Dean Smith and Jim Couzens with their usual care. "There is so much detail in them. Where the feathers meet the beak is just astonishing; beautifully done," Helen admired.
The National Sports Museum is open 10.00am – 5.00pm daily. It is closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Video of Carbine's assembly on the National Sports Museum's Facebook page
'Concorde' ensemble on Collections Online
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