Collections

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Collections

There are 16 million objects in Museum Victoria's collections - Australian Indigenous cultural material, extensive natural science specimens and a broad collection representing Victoria’s historical and technological developments.

50 years of dollars and cents

Author
by Nick Crotty
Publish date
12 February 2016
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In come the dollars, in come the cents;
To replace the pounds and the shillings and the pence.
Be prepared folks when the coins begin to mix;
On the 14th of February 1966.

For some people Valentine's Day fifty years ago might have been quite special, but for all Australians it changed almost every aspect of our lives.

 

Decimalisation of the currency had been debated since Federation but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that actual preparations began. At first, our new currency was going to be called the Royal, a term favoured by monarchist Prime Minister Robert Menzies. Other suggestions included the Digger, the Oz, the Emu, and the Koala. But these were not popular and we finally settled on the Dollar.

coins in a card from The Royal Australian Mint Uncirculated Coin Set, 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Image: Naomi Andrzejeski
Source: Museum Victoria
 

As the rather catchy jingle above says, the currency officially changed on Monday 14th of February 1966. The actual day was called “C-Day” or “Changeover Day” although the transition from pounds, shillings and pence to dollar and cents took almost two years. While Dollar Bill emphasised the simplicity of the new currency there were issues with converting one to the other. Many people required conversion tables.

10 dollars = five pounds
5 dollars = two pounds and 10 shillings
2 dollars = 1 pound
1 dollar = 10 shillings (or half a pound)
10 cents = I shilling
2 cents = 2 pennies
1 cent = 1.2 pence (although initially many shop keepers traded 1 cent for 1 penny)

Card with red writing Decimal Conversion Tables, circa 1970. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Source: Hugh Lennon
 

glass Tumbler - Decimal Currency Conversion, circa 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It was estimated that 1,700,000,000 pre-decimal coins needed replacing. More than one billion new coins were minted and 150 million banknotes were printed. The actual delivery of the new currency was called “Operation Fastbuck” and started in November 1965. Security was strict, especially as much of the new currency was coming by ship from the London Mint. From the Melbourne docks it travelled in armoured vans to the Reserve Bank warehouse. Then, to get it to the 3000 banks across Australia, a convoy of heavily-guarded semi-trailers carried crates of coins and banknotes. In all 70 drivers were involved, and each was given their own “Fastbuck Wallet” containing a set of the new coins. Amazingly, there were no known thefts.

wooden box Coin Crate - 1 Cent, Australia, 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The coins were designed by Stuart Devlin, a gold and silversmith born in Geelong. We still use Devlin’s designs today, although the one and two dollar coins were added in 1984 and 1988 respectively and the one and two cents were removed in 1992. The original circular 50 cent coin was changed to a dodecagonal coin in 1969; people were confusing it with the 20 cent coin, and its 80% silver content soon made its metal more valuable than its face value. Later, the paper banknotes were replaced by modern polymer notes.

coin Proof Coin - 50 Cents, Australia, 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections.
Image:  Naomi Andrzejeski
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Colour our Collections

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
2 February 2016
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1-5 February 2016 is #ColourOurCollections week. Organisations around the globe are taking part by creating colouring pages from the beautiful art in their collections and Museum Victoria is joining in the fun.

We have been digitising the rare books and historic journals in our library collection since 2011, almost 400 of which are now available on the Biodiversity Heritage Library website.

Hidden within these treasures are stunning natural history artworks – scientific illustrations that trace the development of our knowledge of Australia's biodiversity over time.

Short-necked Tortoise, <i>Emydura macquarii</i>, by John James Wild, from the <i>Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria</i> by Frederick McCoy Short-necked Tortoise, Emydura macquarii, by John James Wild, from the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria by Frederick McCoy
Image: John James Wild
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Of particular importance to Museum Victoria is the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria (1878-1890), which was produced by our first director Frederick McCoy. McCoy employed the colony's best illustrators to create images of our unique fauna.

The original sketches from this momentous work are still part of Museum Victoria's Collection, and these include many early uncoloured versions – images that make perfect colouring pages!

Short-necked Tortoise, <i>Emydura macquarii</i>, by John James Wild, from Short-necked Tortoise, Emydura macquarii, by John James Wild, from the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria by Frederick McCoy
Image: John James Wild
Source: Museum Victoria
 

You can find colouring pages made from Prodromus of Victoria images on our Pinterest Board, along with other gems from our collection. We'd love to see how you #ColourOurCollections. Share your creations with us via Twitter.

Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata) by John James Wild, from Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata) by John James Wild, from "The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria" by Frederick McCoy (coloured by Nicole Kearney)
Image: John James Wild
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Want to know more about the scientific art in Museum Victoria's collection?

Vale Ken Porter

Author
by Liza Dale-Hallett
Publish date
12 October 2015
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Comments (1)

Liza Dale-Hallett is Senior Curator Sustainable Futures at Museum Victoria.

After a number of years of ill health Ken Porter passed away on Saturday 3 October. Ken was a key player in the interpretation and development of the HV McKay Sunshine Collection and has been an invaluable contributor to Museum Victoria. 

The H.V. McKay collection dates from 1884 with the extraordinary story of the ‘energy, vision and pluck’ of Hugh Victor McKay. Who, at the age of 18, built a stripper harvester prototype and went on to create the largest manufacturing enterprise in the Southern Hemisphere, known as the Sunshine Harvester Works.

In the mid-1950s the McKay family sold its interests in the company to the global giant Massey Ferguson. The name of McKay was unceremoniously chiselled off the Sunshine head office buildings, the timber panelling and desks were painted over with Massey Ferguson grey, and hundreds of workers lost their jobs.  Ken Porter started his 41 years work as a ‘Massey Ferguson man’ in 1956, right in the middle of this difficult transition.

Man with crate Ken Porter with the mysterious crate he rescued from a dumpster.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

The breath and scale of the H.V. McKay Sunshine Collection was the result of what Ken called a ‘quirk of fate’. In 1991, he spotted a wooden crate in a dump master, during a major clean-up at Massey Ferguson.  He thought the box might have been of some use to him at home, but when he recovered it he noticed that a square of cardboard had been nailed to it reading, “The plaster cast of H.V. McKay.  Not to be opened until another one needed”, signed Cecil McKay.

Ken knew this was important.  And with the help of a colleague Ron Doubleday, over the next two years they secretly rescued nearly 100 years of history. This ‘rubbish’ was squirreled away in the old Director’s Garage.  Ken liked to call this ‘Jurassic Park’ – it was long forgotten and littered with the skeletons of pigeons. The perfect hiding place for history. In 1993 Ken successfully secured the support of the company secretary, Ted Pask, to formally offer this substantial collection to Museum Victoria and the University of Melbourne Archives.

In 1996 Ken Porter worked closely with Senior Curator Liza Dale-Hallett to establish the McKay volunteer project.  He conscripted and led a team of 20 volunteers to identify and document the collection.  They represented a company experience of over 800 years.  About 200 ex-employees from across Australia also offered their expertise and memories. The McKay volunteers have catalogued and provided expert analysis of 28,000 images, 750 films, nearly 500 artefacts, over 10,000 trade and marketing publications. They have written stories that describe the 84 factory departments, the hundreds of types of farming equipment manufactured and the special stories associated with being part of the ‘Sunshine family’.

Ken also provided strategic advice on key themes and areas of research, identified opportunities for collection development and actively promoted the project to key stakeholders and community groups. His tireless commitment and enthusiasm has been an important ingredient in maintaining the volunteer team since 1996, and has been fundamental in increasing the significance of the collection and facilitating its public access.

Ken and his team were celebrated for their efforts in 2002 when they received the Victorian Museum Industry Recognition Award for the “most outstanding volunteer project in the Victorian Museum sector”.  Ken was also awarded an Honorary Associate by Museum Victoria in 2002 for his contribution to the development and interpretation of the McKay collection.

group of people with an award Ken and his team of volunteers received the Victorian Museum Industry Recognition Award for the “most outstanding volunteer project in the Victorian Museum sector".
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Ken described himself as a ‘Massey Ferguson man’ – and by jumping into a rubbish skip he became a man who made history. His special efforts, passion and vision were fundamental to creating and documenting one of the most significant industrial heritage collections in Australia.

Ken has not just made history – his commitment and enthusiasm has substantially enhanced the lives of hundreds of ex-employees who have been involved in documenting their lives and this remarkable history.

Ken was a great colleague and friend. He was loved by everyone.  He will be greatly missed.

Links
H.V. McKay Sunshine Collection

Explore our collections 24/7

Author
by Ely Wallis
Publish date
28 August 2015
Comments
Comments (1)

Over the past two years, a team of programmers, designers, curators, collection managers and database experts from across Museum Victoria have been working on a new, integrated website for our collections. We are excited to announce that the MV Collections website is now live.

The new site provides a single website to explore our Humanities (including history, technology and Indigenous collections) and Natural Sciences (including zoology, palaeontology and geology) records, with over 1.14 million item and specimen records from our collections, and over 3000 authored articles and species profiles, representing our research.

Museum Victoria Collections website homepage Museum Victoria Collections website homepage  

As well as providing lots of information, there are more than 150,000 images on the site. Over 80,000 were taken by our own MV photographers and staff. We have applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to these images so that anyone can reuse them, as long as the image is credited back to MV. In addition, 31,000 more images are shown as being in the public domain, which means that there are no known copyright restrictions on their use.

The text is also all available for reuse and there’s a handy ‘Cite this page’ reference for students and teachers.

Use the site on your mobile device

The website has been designed to be used on whatever size screen suits you best. Desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones of all sizes will all work.

For programmers

For programmers and developers, the Our API section makes our data available for use by other institutions on their sites. You’ll already find MV data in DigitalNZ, the National Library of Australia’s Trove and the Atlas of Living Australia.

Also, the website code is available as open source on GitHub in Museum Victoria’s repository for any developers who wish to explore what’s under the hood.

Search

The search function is powerful, and quick, but there are a few hints that are handy to know.

Firstly, you don’t need to enter any search term at all – and if you don’t, you’ll get back every record in the system. That’s over a million results!

Each word you type is searched separately. For example, a search for Melbourne fashion will give all records with Melbourne plus all records with fashion. Records with both words should come up high in the results.

Museum Victoria Collections search with search term of &quot;Melbourne fashion&quot;Museum Victoria Collections search with search term of "Melbourne fashion"

If you want to force the system to search on a phrase, use quote marks “” around the phrase. E.g., try “Port Phillip Bay”.

Search on a phrase: “Port Phillip Bay”Search on a phrase: “Port Phillip Bay”

If you have already done a search, e.g. for the word tractor, you can add extra terms by typing in the additional word or phrase then click the “plus” button to the right of the search box. Adding an extra term will result in a smaller set of results. For example, the search below will give you results for all tractors in the collection that are associated with Shepparton.

Search which will give results for all tractors in the collection associated with SheppartonSearch which will give results for all tractors in the collection associated with Shepparton

Another way to refine your search results is to use the filters on the left of the screen. You can turn on or off as many filters as you want.

Museum Victoria Collections website search filters Museum Victoria Collections website search filters  

Features coming soon

We’re still working on a few features. Next up to be added is the ability to download images.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy exploring MV Collections, any time of the day or night.

Read our historic field diaries online

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
14 August 2015
Comments
Comments (2)

In November last year, Museum Victoria started a project to digitise and transcribe the field diaries in our collection. These diaries, handwritten by Australia's early field naturalists long before the days of electronic notetaking, are rich in scientific data and historic detail. They provide insights into past species distribution and abundance, as well as the trials and wonders experienced on historic expeditions.

  Afternoon tea with Graham Brown (this diary, volume 4, is now viewable on the Biodiversity Heritage Library). Afternoon tea with Graham Brown (this diary, volume 4, is now viewable on the Biodiversity Heritage Library).
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

They are fascinating sources of information and yet very few people have ever read them. As handwritten documents, each was created as a single hard copy. They have been carefully stored in the museum's archives for decades, protected from dust and light but inaccessible to anyone but the few curators who knew of their existence. Until now.

Rebecca Carland, MV's History of Collections Curator, with Graham Brown's field diaries. Rebecca Carland, MV's History of Collections Curator, with Graham Brown's field diaries.
Image: Nicole Kearney
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Over the past nine months we have digitised 24 historic field diaries from our collection and have been steadily uploading them onto DigiVol, the online volunteer transcription portal developed by the Atlas of Living Australia and the Australian Museum. In DigiVol, the pages can be individually transcribed, with a verification process ensuring the quality of the result.

We are immensely grateful to the volunteers who have contributed their time and attention to transcribing our field diaries. Ten field diaries have been fully transcribed and the volunteers are now working on a diary written by notable ornithologist Frederick Lee Berney between 1898 and 1904.

The first collection of five field diaries to be run through the digitisation and transcription process was produced by Graham Brown between 1948 and 1958. Now that they have been transcribed, the contents of the diaries can be searched and the data extracted. When analysed, Brown's diaries contained 5611 bird sightings, complete with dates and locations. This historic data will now be made available to scientists and can be used to inform climate change studies and species management plans.

A small fraction of the 5611 bird observations Graham Brown recorded in his diaries. A small fraction of the 5611 bird observations Graham Brown recorded in his diaries.
Image: Nicole Kearney
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The next step is to make the images of the field diaries available through a publicly accessible website. We have just uploaded four volumes of the Graham Brown field diaries and their transcriptions onto the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and we will continue to add more over time. Museum Victoria has already contributed over 500 rare books and historic journals to this global repository of historic literature (through a project funded by the Atlas of Living Australia). We are thrilled that our field diaries are now joining these other significant volumes.

Help us unlock the observations in our historic field diaries
If you would like to become a transcription volunteer, sign up on the DigiVol website.

MV at sea

Author
by Tim O'Hara
Publish date
4 May 2015
Comments
Comments (2)

Dr Tim O'Hara is Senior Curator of Marine Invertebrates.

It is 3am, the night is jet black, the boat heaves with the swell, and a bunch of scientists and crew dressed in full wet-weather gear are silently standing, waiting on the back deck. There is always a sense of excitement as new samples are hauled in. What bizarre deep-sea creatures will be brought up? Perhaps this time we will see the enigmatic mushroom-shaped Dendrogramma, an animal (apparently) that has confounded all efforts at classification since its first collection by Museum Victoria in 1986. Or maybe the massive sea-lice that can devour a dead whale? Or just seafloor life in incredible abundance?

Large blue and white Investigator vessel The Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator at the CSIRO wharf in Hobart.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria

Ship's crew using machinery on deck Deploying the Smith McIntyre grab.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On Easter Tuesday, four science staff and students from Museum Victoria (Di Bray, Mel Mackenzie and Skip Woolley and I) joined scientists around Australia on a trial voyage of Australia’s brand new research vessel, the Investigator. The idea was to test out all the gear necessary for deep-sea exploration, from iron box-like dredges, used for over 200 years to collect samples, to the high tech cameras that bounce above the seabed, worked in real time from a joystick and a bank of computer monitors in the bowels of the ship, thousands of metres above. We went south of Hobart into the Southern Ocean, specifically to look at life on underwater sea mountains in the Huon one of the Commonwealth’s recently declared marine reserves.

People in the Investigator vessel lab The sorting lab: Skip, Di and Mel facing Karen Gowlett-Holmes of CSIRO.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria

Big camera rig on ship deck The towed deep-sea camera.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria
 

But I had another motive to joining this trip. Next year in November I will be chief scientist of a voyage from Brisbane to Hobart that will survey Australia’s abyssal sea-plain (4000 m below sea-level). So I really wanted to learn all I could about the capabilities of the vessel and think about best practice scientific procedures to ensure we get the most out of the expedition.

The Investigator, run by the Marine National Facility funded by the Commonwealth Government, is a large (94 m), elegant and efficient platform from which to do deep-sea research. Diesel electric engines keep the noise down and high tech stabilisers prevent much of the pitch, yaw and roll that can make life miserable on smaller boats.

People on ship deck The crew deploying gear off the stern deck.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria

Ship crew deploying gear Preparing for the next catch: MV staff in canary yellow facing Mark Lewis of from CSIRO with Mark McGrouther of the Australian Museum looking on.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria
 

My main memories of the trip: dark thundery night skies, albatrosses, friendly company and lots of carbs to eat. All too soon we steamed back to another sunny day in Hobart. We didn’t find Dendrogramma – maybe next time.

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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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