Meg has been discovering in the Discovery Centre since 2008 and is undertaking doctoral research on psychedelic psychiatric drugs. In her spare time she is a proud Carlton supporter. These last two things are unrelated.

Full moon funnies

by Meg
Publish date
16 April 2014
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Last month I was asked if the museum experienced a spike in the number of “unusual” (read “weird”) enquiries during a full moon. My initial reaction was to dismiss this theory as light-hearted superstition – then I stopped to think on it for a bit… and my subsequent reaction was to dismiss this theory as light-hearted superstition. However I also resolved to undertake a simple survey of the enquiries database to see what the cold hard stats had to say about it.


Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background. Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background.
Source: NASA

The “lunar effect” phenomenon – the belief that the lunar cycle influences human behaviour – remains a significant feature of some human cultures, present as far back as the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and even earlier, through to modern adherents to the Wiccan tradition, or Neo-Paganism more broadly.

It has long been suspected that the moon and its phases have an effect on mental health – indeed the term “lunatic” is derived from the Latin lunaticus, “of the moon.” Lunar effect mythologies include, for example, lycanthropy (werewolves), increased fertility and birth rate, and weather events and natural disasters, among others.

So what of the lunar effect on museum enquiries?

On each of the four full moons so far this year Discovery Centres took an average of 22 new enquiries for the day, of which one, or two at the very most, might be broadly categorized as unusual. On the full moon of January 16, we received a comment about one passenger’s recollection of a man-overboard incident that occurred during his migration to Australia on board the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, and a question about the significance of the role of thongs (what???) in nineteenth-century Victorian construction. Meanwhile, during the full moon of March 17 we were contacted for advice by the concerned owner of a French bulldog who had been the unfortunate victim of a scorpion attack in the bad ‘burbs of Adelaide. Outside of these, the rest of the enquiries were pretty standard fare: image requests, spider identifications, tractor donations, etc…

On the full moon of February 15, however, we did receive three [spam] emails in a row offering heavily discounted supplies of Viagra – suggests there may be some truth to the fertility claims?  

Address to a haggis?

by Meg
Publish date
25 January 2014
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As we rise on the morning of January 26th to celebrate our national day, Australia Day, on the opposite side of the globe another proud national celebration will also be getting underway – the Burns Night Supper in bonnie Scotland.

Robbie, or Rabbie, Burns (1759 – 1796) was a Scottish bard (poet) and one of the nation’s most celebrated figures, and each year Scots both at home and abroad commemorate his life and work on the evening of his birthday on January 25th.

Robert Burns Robert Burns
Image: Alexander Nasmyth (artist)
Source: Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Burns Night Suppers are usually organised and hosted by Burns Clubs, and in their most formal incarnations they have taken on a prescribed form – the evening begins with the piping in of the guests, who when seated then share in a reading of the Selkirk Grace, a prayer of thanks for the forthcoming meal. The prayer reads, in Scots:

"Some hae meat and cannae eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit."

Haggis at a Burns Supper Haggis at a Burns Supper
Image: Kim Traynor
Source: Kim Traynor

The piping then resumes to welcome the haggis which arrives in a procession accompanied by the chef, the piper and the reader nominated to address the haggis. Once settled on the table, the reader delivers the Address to the haggis, a poem composed by Burns in 1786 in honour of the dish. The address is followed by a toast to the haggis, and finally the “great chieftain o’ the pudding-race” is served alongside its traditional companions “neeps” and “tatties” (turnips and potatoes) with a dash of whisky sauce (often just neat whisky), and the feast begins.

Haggis, neeps and tatties Haggis, neeps and tatties
Image: Meg Lomax
Source: Meg Lomax

Other examples of Burns’ works are read throughout the evening, and the celebration traditionally draws to a close with a rousing rendition of Burns’ famous song Auld Lang Syne.

Appreciation for Burns’ words remains a strong feature of Scottish ex-patriot communities across the world and the Scottish community in Victoria is no exception – in January 2014, the Robert Burns Club of Melbourne will continue the tradition by hosting its 64th annual Burns Supper. And for those luck folk who identify as Scottish Australians, the haggis feast of the night before might be followed up with the (not too dissimilar) national dish of Australia the next day – the good old Aussie meat pie.

WWI & Australian military history

by Meg
Publish date
20 August 2013
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.

About this blog

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