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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Aug 2013 (4)

A shed full of a life

Author
by Jon Augier
Publish date
29 August 2013
Comments
Comments (8)

Jon is a photographer at Museum Victoria.

In my job I have the privilege of getting up close to many amazing, fantastic collections, and often gaining insights into the stories of the people behind these objects. Recently I went with the Curator of Engineering to a comfortable but modest house in a leafy north-eastern suburb of Melbourne, to take photographs of a collection in its original home before it was separated. Some will be acquired by Museum Victoria and the National Film and Sound Archive, and the remainder will be auctioned off or sadly disposed of in a less dignified manner.

tool bench in shed Beautifully ordered tool bench in the suburban shed.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The exterior of the well-maintained red brick house and tidy front garden said little about its late owner and the life he led. Nor did the unremarkable rooms of the main house. But behind the doors of the buildings in the back garden lay a truly amazing collection that spoke loudly of a rich and eclectic life lived to the full.

Tools in shed Saws, chisels and bits of hardware sorted by size.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The first room we entered was his workshop. To call it a shed would be something of an understatement, though given the special place that sheds have in Australia, particularly in Australian male culture, this must be vying for a place on the top of the list of the ultimate sheds.

The workshop was crammed full but orderly; a place for everything, and everything in its place. And there was almost everything in this place: the tools, equipment and materials needed for a huge range of pursuits including cycling, weight lifting, boxing, fencing, hockey, cricket, tennis, track and field, surf lifesaving, fishing, pigeon racing, astronomy, photography, tap dancing, electronics, carpentry, welding, tool making...

Shed nook filled with books and games. A nook in the workshop filled with books and games.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Among the tools and equipment: barbells, dumbbells, boxing gloves, speed balls, hockey sticks, fencing foils, tennis rackets, spiked running shoes, tap shoes, fishing rods, bicycles, taps and dies, files, spanners, hammers saws, drills, welders, lathes, milling machines, electronic test equipment, photographic printing and processing equipment, a rather serious telescope, and a reference library…

Musical instruments in a shed Musical instruments in the The Blue Orchids Theaterette include drums, guitars, maracas... oh, and some table-tennis bats.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

But that was only part of it; the adjacent building was devoted to the arts and entertainment. Through the front door was a sign in shining letters heralding 'The Blue Orchid’s Theatrette.' The equipment it contained showed that this was no idle boast: a projection booth complete with a 35mm motion picture projector, a screen behind a remotely operated curtain, and an elaborate audio system. The room also housed an extensive range of audio equipment: musical instruments enough for a decent band, including a drum kit, double bass, tuba, piano and guitar. There were also many movie posters and other memorabilia.

Outside the theatre in the shed The curtain concealing the screen and sound system in The Blue Orchid's Theatrette.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Included here are just a few of the hundreds of photos taken by me on the day. I hope you enjoy spotting the details in these photos. The value of such photographs is that they allow us to examine a site in detail, identifying elements that we do not notice on first viewing of the original scene. I also hope you enjoy, as I have, imagining the life this man led.

Musical instruments in a shed The music and hi-fi section in the Blue Orchid's Theatrette.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Much of this collection is of its time; a time passed. So when I was amongst it I thought, "Did the owner, a man just short of ninety, have a computer?" The answer was revealed on the way back out through the house… Of course he did, and of course it was not an off-the-shelf model, but an enthusiast's tower that he probably assembled himself!

WWI & Australian military history

Author
by Meg
Publish date
20 August 2013
Comments
Comments (1)

Question: My great-great-grandfather served in Egypt during the Great War – where can I find out more information about soldiers’ war-time experiences and Australia’s military history more generally?

Answer: A useful starting-point for general archival research of Australian military history is the National Archives of Australia Fact Sheets – enter the term ‘military’ in the search field to refine your results.

Private Albert Edward Kemp, 1916-1917: Albert Edward Kemp Mourning Collection Service photo of Private Albert Edward Kemp, who served in France + Belguim in World War 1 and was killed in action in 1917.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Your next port of call might be the Australian War Memorial. The War Memorial is a rich source of information about specific conflicts, terminologies and people. Examples of documents held by the Australian War Memorial include:

You can also find information specific to Victorian military service on the Veterans’ Unit website.

Extreme right of Anzac showing soldiers outside dug out and supplies on the beach. Extreme right of Anzac Cove showing soldiers outside dug out and supplies on the beach.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

If you’re interested in undertaking research on particular soldiers, such as your great-great-grandfather, there are a number of approaches to take:

  • Nominal rolls list members of Australia's defence forces who served during particular conflicts. A handy short-cut to the rolls is hosted by the Federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
  • The Australian War Memorial can help you ‘Research a Person’.
  • The National Archives of Australia holds military service records and attestation documents. World War I records are extensively available online, while World War II records are partially online and may be ordered.
  • Trove, hosted by the National Library of Australia, facilitates searches for newspapers, maps, books, images, historic music, archives and more.

 

'Captain Hunter', Egypt, Captain Edward Albert McKenna, World War I, 1914-1915: : Military Memorabilia Collection Portrait of Captain Hunter in the camp.
Image: Captain Edward Albert McKenna
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Finally, another good source of general information on military history is the museum collection. Today museums typically have at least some of their collections online – the Museum Victoria Collections Online may be a useful starting point, and you could also browse the Australian War Memorial collection online.

While the Shrine of Remembrance is synonymous with the military history of Australia, traditionally it is not a collecting institution, although it does hold a small collection of objects for display purposes.

Beyond Australia, most nations hold national military collections, often in national museums, and some battlefields have museums specific to those conflicts. International collections that may be of particular interest include the National Army Museum and the Imperial War Museums in the UK.

World War I, Two Nurses, Heliopolis, Egypt, 1915-1917: Sister Selina Lily (Lil) Mackenzie Collection Two nurses standing on a street out the front of Heliopolis Dairy building.
Image: Selina Lily Mackenzie
Source: Museum Victoria
 

If you have a collection of material you need advice on managing, the Veterans’ Unit in Victoria provides workshops and information guides. Museums Australia (Victoria) also provides training workshops and printed information on managing collections.

Sayonara, Southern Surveyor

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
12 August 2013
Comments
Comments (2)

After decades of sampling the oceans in the name of science, CSIRO's research vessel Southern Surveyor made its final voyage in July this year. Its last trip was featured on ABC's Catalyst earlier this month.

The Museum Victoria collections have many reasons to thank RV Southern Surveyor, as several of our researchers have collected thousands of deep-sea octopuses, brittle stars, feather stars, shrimps, crabs and more while on board. In 2011, Dr Anna McCallum completed her PhD based upon data from two surveys of the WA continental margin, for which she left her cosy desk at Melbourne Museum and went to sea in what she describes as more of a "floating factory" than a cruise ship.

Anna McCallum on the bridge of RV Southern Surveyor Anna McCallum on the bridge of RV Southern Surveyor
Source: Museum Victoria
 

For over two weeks, the Southern Surveyor's crew hauled up animals that live between 100 and 1000 metres below the water's surface. They brought them into the ship's laboratory where Anna and other scientists worked in 12-hour shifts to sort, photograph and preserve the specimens. "Often there would be a backlog. We'd be working as hard as we could and they'd come in saying OK, here's the next load! The ship works 24 hours, non-stop, because once you're out there, you want to make use of all the time you've got." With long hours and frequent seasickness, it's hard work, but it's exciting; as Anna says, "most museum scientists will only look at deep-sea animals in jars, and this is one of the rare opportunities to see these animals when they're alive."

Crab, <em>Phylyra</em> sp. A tiny crab collected on a Southern Surveyor voyage, Phylyra sp, a probably new species that Anna affectionately calls 'muscle crab'.
Image: Karen Gowlett-Holmes
Source: CSIRO
 

Once back on land, identifying the specimens takes many months to years. Anna's speciality is Decapoda – the order of crustaceans that includes crayfish, crabs, lobsters, prawns and shrimp. 30 per cent of the almost 900 species of decapods collected during Anna's two surveys were new to science, while 140 were described but never before recorded from Australia waters. Research trips on the Southern Surveyor have dramatically increased our understanding of the deep-sea's astonishing biodiversity.

Crab <em>Leucosia haematostica</em> A specimen of the crab Leucosia haematostica found at 100 m. the first time it was recorded in Australia.
Image: Karen Gowlett-Holmes
Source: CSIRO
 

"Being out in the open ocean is different to anything you can experience in the bay," says Anna. "Once you get beyond the shelf, the swell is really big. But it's exciting and there's the camaraderie with your colleagues. Jo Browne was on a voyage with me and occasionally we found half an hour to lie in the sun up on deck and eat ice cream. It was just bliss, a small gap in two weeks of hard work."

Men processing marine samples in lab Two of the museum's marine biologists, Robin Wilson and Tim O'Hara, working in the lab of RV Southern Surveyor.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So the museum salutes RV Southern Surveyor and eagerly awaits its replacement, the new RV Investigator. This vessel is currently under construction and will be able to travel further south than its predecessor, telling us even more about the life in the ocean.

Links:

CSIRO Marine National Facility RV Southern Surveyor

Science Reports no. 11:  Decapod Crustacea of the continental margin of southwestern and central Western Australia Gary C. B. Poore, Anna W. McCallum and Joanne Taylor (2008)

Bunjil's wings

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
9 August 2013
Comments
Comments (8)

Outside, you see the vast nest - a thick tangle of branches and feathers - of Bunjil, Kulin creator being and Wedge-tailed Eagle. Within the nest hangs a marvellous kinetic sculpture that represents Bunjil’s wings, the sinuous curves of the Country he created, and the cycle of creation itself. As it moves and glows, Koorie Elders speak of Bunjil singing the Country, Law and people of the Kulin nation into being.

In this video, members of the First Peoples team talk about the Creation Cinema and Bunjil's Nest, and show you a preview of Bunjil's wings in flight.

 

Bunjil’s Nest and the Creation Cinema were developed under the guidance of the First Peoples Yulendj Group and are a creative collaboration between Glenn Romanis (Wedge-tailed Eagle feathers), Synthesis Design + Build (Bunjil’s Nest), ENESS (concept, design, vision and sound for Bunjil’s wings) and Melbourne Museum (overall concept and design).

First Peoples opens to the public on Saturday 7 September 2013 with an all-day festival celebrating Koorie culture.

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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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