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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Aug 2012 (10)

Tribute to Neil Armstrong

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
27 August 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

I was sad to hear the news yesterday that Neil Armstrong had passed away.

Neil Armstrong Neil Armstrong in Apollo Lunar Module after his historic moonwalk in July 1969.
Source: NASA
 

It was just last week that I had been talking about the Apollo missions to a group of Grade 3 students. It was my son's class and they had asked me to talk about life on Mars. They were studying the idea that over time, living things need to adapt in order to survive, and so they were thinking about what people would need to live on Mars one day.

As we spoke about things like the need for water and oxygen, along with the differences between Mars and Earth, I asked if they'd ever seen what happened when the astronauts walked on the Moon. The group, including my son, looked at me blankly and I realised that they had never heard of the famous Moon landings.

So we checked out the NASA clips of Apollo 11's landing and those great action shots of astronauts bouncing around on the Moon due to its weak gravity. The kids were astounded!

spacecraft on Moon Photo of Apollo Lunar Module on the surface of the Moon with Armstrong's shadow in the foreground
Image: Neil Armstrong
Source: NASA
 

I was born just as the Apollo missions were coming to an end. Even so, it was always a part of my world. The Apollo astronauts were amazing men and my tribute to Neil Armstrong will be to make sure that young generations know of the incredible things he and his fellow astronauts did. May they always be an inspiration to all.

Links:

Statement from Armstrong Family (via spaceinfo.com.au)

Isaac the African Lion

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
24 August 2012
Comments
Comments (3)

Lion head Isaac the African Lion.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We've just acquired a magnificent male African Lion specimen thanks to the generosity of his former owners, an international museum network and a rapid response by our curator of mammals. Jeff Bradley, Mammalogy Collection Manager at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington, was at Melbourne Museum today to tell the story of Isaac the lion.

"Last year I got a call from a woman asking if we'd have any use for a mounted African Lion called Isaac. A friend of hers, Renee Mills, had recently died, and had left quite a collection of African artefacts and specimens, most of which were going to auction. Renee had collected him on safari in 1983 in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and he was a bit of a mascot at her travel agency. She specialised in African safaris so he was the centrepiece of her office and everyone's favourite.

Her friends and family just couldn't stand the thought of Isaac disappearing into a private collection. They were trying to find a museum that could put him on display, or use him for education or research. I told her that at the Burke we have no schedule to display any of our taxidermy. In terms of research value, we don't have a strong African mammal collection so researchers who need African mammals don't typically come to the Burke Museum. If we took him, he would be used very rarely, which wasn't what they were looking for. But I did offer to ask around and see if any other museums could use him.

When I got the photos and learned that they also had his skull and information about where he was collected, I sent an email out. Kevin Rowe at Museum Victoria was the first to reply and yesterday he finally arrived. To have a specimen like this gather dust and decay would be a crime, and I'm really happy to have him sent someplace like this and the family feels really happy that he'll be useful down here."

Group of people with lion specimen Curators and collection managers with Isaac the lion. L-R: Jeff Bradley of the Burke Museum, MV's Kevin Rowe, Karen Rowe and Karen Roberts.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

For a thirty-year-old specimen, Isaac is in extremely good condition and he will be a valuable addition to our Mammalogy Collection, especially since he is accompanied by his skull and locality data.

Lion skull Isaac's skull. It is very rare that private collectors would retain any parts of the skeleton, which is one reason why this specimen has particular scientific value.
Source: Museum Victoria

detail of scar on lion Isaac is covered in scars from altercations with other lions, including this big mark on his shoulder.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Says Senior Curator of Mammals Kevin Rowe, "Isaac is a fantastic lion with all the marks of his life in Botswana, and this was too rare an opportunity to pass up. We are fortunate at Museum Victoria that we have the capacity to acquire him. Working with Jeff has been a pleasure and it has only strengthened our relationship with the Burke Museum in Seattle."

Links

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington

MV Blog: So many specimens

Murder in Mesopotamia forum

Author
by Bernard
Publish date
23 August 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

Bernard works part-time at Melbourne Museum devising and delivering presentations for visitors. The other part of the time he has his nose in a book, most often a comic book.

Man dressed as Hercule Poirot Bernard/Poirot with a copy of Christie's Murder in Mesopotamia.
Image: Amanda Linardon
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Once upon a time, I went through a voracious Agatha Christie period, and immersed myself in a fictional universe of murders daring and domestic, and solutions logical and astonishing. I still return to the Queen of Crime from time to time, for a dose of ordered worlds turned upside down, with order (and an enlarged sense of that world) reinstated by Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot.

So when the chance arose to develop a forum around Agatha Christie's experiences on archaeological digs, which directly led to her happy marriage to Max Mallowan and her1936  novel Murder in Mesopotamia, I stuck on my second-best stick-on moustache and leapt in!

Drawing of man and woman Drawing of Max Mallowan and Agatha Christie in 1946.
Image: Bernard Caleo
Source: Bernard Caleo
 

Chairperson for the forum, Melbourne crime writer Angela Savage, explains that the idea for the forum came out of friendly banter about what to read in preparation for our Mesopotamia exhibition. "Someone suggested Murder in Mesopotamia, which I was intrigued to learn was Agatha Christie's most autobiographical novel. The more I learned about Agatha's links to archaeology, her marriage to Max Mallowan and the time they spent together on digs in the Middle East, the more intrigued I became."

Setting the scene of Agatha Christie's visits to the digs in Mesopotamia will be Henrietta McCall of the British Museum, joining us via an exclusive pre-recorded interview to show us on-site photographs of Agatha Christie, Max Mallowan, and Leonard and Katherine Woolley, the leaders of the archaeological expedition.

People at archaeological dig Leonard and Katherine Woolley excavating in the Royal Cemetery of Ur, 1928
Source: By permission of the Trustees of The British Museum
 

Another of our panellists is crime writer Kerry Greenwood, author of the Phryne Fisher series of crime novels set in 1920s Melbourne (recently adapted into an ABC TV series), who will speak about the 'golden rules' that determine Christie's particular style of crime writing. Kerry will also speak about the fascination that the ancient world holds for her as a fictional setting – both she and Christie have set murder mysteries in Ancient Egypt.

The CEO of Museum Victoria, Patrick Greene, also an experienced archaeologist, is our other panellist. Dr Greene's experiences on archaeological digs and his recent travels to Egypt will figure in the panel discussions.

"The relationships between life and art, between detective fiction and archaeology, and how the allure of ancient worlds finds expression in popular art forms suggests rich material for discussion," says Angela Savage. "To be able to assemble such a distinguished panel feels like quite a coup."

It's great to have an opportunity to fill out my knowledge of the fascinating life of Agatha Christie, and I have it on good authority that our friend M. Poirot may indeed make an appearance at the forum, exercising his famous 'little grey cells'.

Man dressed as Hercule Poirot Hercule Poirot. Or some manifestation thereof.
Image: Amanda Linardon
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Murder in Mesopotamia forum is presented by Melbourne Museum and Sisters in Crime Australia on Sunday 9 September, 2.00-3.30pm.

Sir David drops in

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
21 August 2012
Comments
Comments (8)

Sir David Attenborough, in Melbourne for a speaking tour, visited Melbourne Museum unannounced last Wednesday with his daughter. Although he's best known for his natural history work, Sir David is fascinated by anthropology. He has collected Australian Aboriginal shields for many years, including rainforest shields from Queensland, and was keen to see local examples from the MV Indigenous Cultures Collection.

The seemingly unfortunate timing of his visit – Bunjilaka's permanent exhibitions are temporarily closed for redevelopment – actually turned out to be very good timing. Sir David mentioned to Kim Kaal in customer service that he had hoped to see Aboriginal shields on display. Quick-thinking Kim grabbed Bunjilaka's John Patten as he was walking past. Within a few minutes, John and colleague Kimberly Moulton arranged a tour of the collection store where the Bunjilaka Redevelopment Team has been working on the object-rich Many Nations section of the new exhibition, First Peoples.

David Attenborough with museum staff Sir David Attenborough with members of the Bunjilaka Redevelopment Team, looking at objects selected for display in First Peoples.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Sir David spent almost an hour talking with curators and collection staff about the objects selected for the exhibition. Rosemary Wrench, the curator of Many Nations, says that he was fascinated by the objects and asked detailed questions about their provenance, designs, creation and use. He was especially pleased to hear that First Peoples will have such a strong focus on the people and cultures of south-eastern Australia. His considerable knowledge about artefacts was apparent, but he was still wonderfully surprised by unfamiliar items, such as possum jaws used to engrave designs into tools and objects.

David Attenborough with museum staff Curator Rosemary Wrench talking with Sir David Attenborough about objects selected for First Peoples.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Sir David's favourite object was an etched shield from New South Wales. He examined it for some time and said, "That is magnificent, and worth a trip all the way to Australia just to see this." He was also particularly interested in a Victorian spear thrower and its ornate designs; he studied it very closely and described it as "remarkable and intriguing." He was very glad to hear that these and other treasures will be on display in First Peoples.

Aboriginal shield front and back Aboriginal shield from New South Wales, showing the elaborately carved front and the handle at the back. (X1047)
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Detail of Aboriginal shield Detail of the exquisite carving on the front of the NSW shield.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Coloured diamonds

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
19 August 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Your Question: How do diamonds get their colours? What's so special about the pink ones?

Diamonds are made up of carbon atoms arranged in rigid tetrahedrons (triangular pyramids).  Pure diamonds are transparent and colourless. They are very rare and therefore very valuable.

Five diamonds from E.J Dunn collection found in Beechworth Five diamonds from E.J Dunn collection found in Beechworth.
Image: Frank Coffa
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Most naturally-coloured diamonds are created when trace elements interact with the carbon atoms during the diamond's creation. The presence of chemical elements such as nitrogen, sulphur, and boron can colour diamonds in shades of yellow, green and blue.

Diamond specimens from the Great Southern mine (Rutherglen, Victoria). Diamond specimens from the Great Southern mine (Rutherglen, Victoria).
Image: Frank Coffa
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Pink diamonds, however, are a different story.Trace elements have never been found in pink diamonds. Instead, the colour is caused by a distortion in the diamond's crystal lattice, created by intense heat and great pressure from all directions (non-isotropic stress) after the stone's formation in the earth. This distortion displaces many carbon atoms from their normal positions and alters the qualities of light reflected by the diamond. It is this special configuration of the molecules that allows us to observe the stone as pink.

Although pink diamonds are found throughout the world, pink diamonds from the Argyle Mine are said to have the finest colour of fancy, intense pink (colour saturation). This is because Argyle pinks possess densely-packed graining planes that emanate pink colour (twinning lamination). In contrast, non-Argyle pinks have few and indistinct pink graining and are therefore generally lighter in colour. The pink graining in Argyle stones is sometimes visible to the naked eye.

Pink diamonds are not just special because of their structure; they're also incredibly rare: for every one million carats of diamond produced at Argyle, only one carat will be of high-quality pink colour.

The Argyle Pink Jubilee diamond (from Argyle Diamond Mine, WA): the largest pink diamond ever found in Australia, donated to Museum Victoria by Rio Tinto. The Argyle Pink Jubilee diamond (from Argyle Diamond Mine, WA): the largest pink diamond ever found in Australia, donated to Museum Victoria by Rio Tinto.
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The largest pink diamond ever found in Australia is the Argyle Pink Jubilee diamond (8.01 carats). It was donated to Museum Victoria by Rio Tinto and is currently on display in Melbourne Museum's Dynamic Earth exhibition.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Museum Victoria: Australia’s largest pink diamond

Melbourne Museum: Dynamic Earth

Museum Victoria: Diamonds

The Age: Rare diamond puts Melbourne Museum in the pink

Did you work at Kodak?

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
16 August 2012
Comments
Comments (13)

Curator Fiona Kinsey is seeking former employees of Kodak Australasia Pty Ld who worked at the company's factories. She would like to collect oral histories of Kodak workers to support research and documentation of the museum's Kodak Heritage Collection, which includes photos, documents, products, marketing materials and more.

Women dressed in Hawaiian costume Black and white, silver gelatin photograph of staff in costume at a Kodak Comforts Fund event at the Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd factory in Abbotsford, Victoria, during WWII, circa 1942. (MM 96629)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

From 1908 to the 1960s, Kodak was based in Abbotsford on a large factory site now occupied by CUB. In 1961, a huge purpose-built complex at Coburg was officially opened, which then served as Kodak's Australasian headquarters. Local production ceased in 2004 but the Head Office for Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd still operates in Melbourne, back in the company's old neighbourhood in Abbotsford.  

Buildings on the Yarra River Colour photograph of the Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd factory in Abbotsford, Victoria, circa 1962. (MM 98557)
Source: Museum Victoria

Aerial view of factory buildings Colour postcard of an aerial view of the Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd factory in Coburg, circa 1965. (MM 98413)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

These massive Kodak factories housed much more than just assembly lines for making film paper and emulsions. There were also medical facilities, administrative offices and staff canteens. Fiona is keen to talk to people who worked in any era or section of the company, but she's particularly interested in the history of the Abbotsford factory pre-1950s. She'd also love to hear from relatives or descendants of Kodak staffers who might have relevant information, documents or images.

Anyone with Kodak-related history or material can contact Fiona Kinsey via the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre by telephone (03 8341 7111) or via their online contact form.

Links:

Kodak Heritage Collection on Collections Online

MV Blog: Putting Kodak's pieces together

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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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