Come and see the real thing! Exhibitions at Melbourne Museum, Immigration Museum, Scienceworks and beyond.

A primary school pop up museum

by Cam Hocking
Publish date
30 November 2015
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Here's a tough question; what do friendship, knitting, soccer and bugs all have in common? Apart from being incredibly popular, they are all exhibits featured in the brand new Princes Hill Primary School Museum

The museum has been curated and created by students from Grade 3&4 at Princes Hill Primary School in North Carlton. Throughout the year these budding historians, scientists and designers have been doing an in depth exploration of the role of museums in society. They have worked with staff from Museum Victoria, visited our museums to study exhibition design, and then applied what they've learnt to the creation of their own museum.

Exhibition plans Students guided Museum Victoria staff through a range of exhibits
Source: Melinda Cashen

As part of the project the students also brought their exhibits into a pop up museum at Melbourne Museum. Staff from all areas of Museum Victoria came and visited the pop up museum, along with some of the students’ parents, to hear about the project and offer feedback to the students about their designs. There was a wonderful feeling of collaboration and collegiality amongst the students and Museum Victoria staff, and a great deal of constructive feedback was offered. You can see a collection of tweets and photographs from the two days here, Tweets and Photographs. See a time-lapse of the setup, opening and pack up of the museum here, Time lapse.

The students were rightfully proud of their work and appreciated the staff and parent visits. Mia said that "It was so good to let other people look at your museum. I felt really important to have so many museum people come and look."

Another student, Loula, reflected on the value of the day.  "It was a great for other people to see the work of students and that they can do more if they put their minds to it."

Classroom teacher Melinda Cashen said "It was such an authentic experience for the children. They have built up a great relationship with the museum over the year and they felt that the effort they have put into building their own exhibits was worthwhile and valued. It allowed the children to see the process of curating and how a museum works in a real context, and they really appreciated the feedback they received, making changes to their exhibits when they returned to school."

There was also great benefit for the staff at Museum Victoria too. Rebecca Carland, Curator of History Collections visited the pop up museum on Tuesday. “I was delighted by how engaging the pop-up Museum was. The science displays made me re-think how we write for younger audiences, some of them really nailed it. And the use of digital tech in one of the history displays was seamless and so professional. I think we met a couple of our future colleagues.”

Students will now take the feedback they received and continue to work on their exhibits in preparation for the opening of their museum at Princes Hill Primary School in December. Congratulations to all of the Grade 3 & 4 students; we can't wait to come and see the final museum when it opens. You can keep up to date with the class' progress on their blog. http://34phps.blogspot.com.au/

Exhibition plans A museum staff member chats with a student about her exhibit
Image: Cam Hocking
Source: Museum Victoria

Goodbye Wish!

by Zoe
Publish date
23 October 2015
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This September, the Immigration Museum bade goodbye to our Wish Tree. Originally developed for the 2013 July school holidays, this interactive installation was so popular with visitors (and staff!) that it stayed in place for more than two years past its intended end date!

The Wish Tree in 2013 The Wish Tree in 2013, already covered in wishes.
Source: Museum Victoria

Based on a tradition from the Japanese Tanabata festival, the activity invited visitors to anonymously write a wish and hang it from a “tree” structure. Over the past two years, an estimated 20-25,000 wishes accumulated, requiring frequent pruning.

As temporary caretaker of the Wish Tree, I loved visiting the second floor foyer and peeking at new wishes. One rainy afternoon, I surveyed 1200 wishes in an effort to find out what our visitors wished for the most. Common themes included world peace; health for loved ones; concern for the current refugee situation, and romance (with an alarming number of wishes related to pop band One Direction!) Wishes were funny, sad, personal and mysterious – sometimes all at the same time.

A wish reads “I wish I have ice cream ereyday” A wish reads “I wish I have icecream ereyDay (sic)".
Source: Catherine Devery

Further examples included (preserving the original spelling):

  • I wish for a alive unicorn
  • I wish my friends don’t bully me
  • Love and respect for new immigrants in Oz
  • I wish to end my heroin addiction
  • I wish mum would relax
  • I wish that my country (Sudan) becomes peaceful soon
  • I wish I wasn’t at the imagration museam (!)
  • I wish I was old enough to marry Spiderman

A wish reads “I wish to make my first friend. I’m 32. I’ve had a long life so far.” A wish reads “I wish to make my first friend. I’m 32. I’ve had a long life so far.”
Source: Catherine Devery

Today, the Wish Tree structure invites a different form of self-expression. It’s been transformed into a self-portrait studio, and visitors are already contributing fantastic, fascinating and diverse self-portraits.

Thank you to all of the visitors who helped make the Wish Tree so special. Did your wish come true?

Two fathers from WW1

by Shane Salmon
Publish date
3 September 2015
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Shane works on touring exhibitions at Museum Victoria.

The impact of World War One took a particularly tragic toll on families, as great numbers of fathers and sons failed to return home from the front line. The worry and grief of fathers and mothers knew no boundaries, whether in Australia, England, Germany, or elsewhere. 

Melbourne Museum is currently hosting two exhibitions on the subject of the First World War. Both contain powerful stories about those who served in the war, and the impact their loss had on families. With Fathers’ Day approaching this weekend, we reflect on two fathers who fought in the war, and tip our hat to all absent fathers this Sunday.

'My three kids'

Robert Stewart Smylie, a 42-year old father of three, died on the Somme with a photograph of his wife and three children in his shrapnel-damaged wallet.

Roberts Stewart Smylie's wallet. Family photos in Roberts Smylie's wallet.
Source: Imperial War Museums

Smylie was a school headmaster who had taught English, Latin and Mathematics for 20 years. Despite his age and responsibilities, on the outbreak of war he joined the army and eventually travelled with the 1st Battalion in Flanders.

While stationed in Flanders, he wrote a long poem about his experiences to his three children, ending with the hope that they would all soon be together again. A full transcript of the poem appears at the end of this post.

Poem in notebook Smylie's poem for his children.
Source: Imperial War Museums

Smylie's sketchbook appears in The WW1 Centenary Exhibition

A scrapbook of grief

Frank Roberts was recently married when he arrived at the Belgian battlefields in 1917. His first daughter Nancy was born soon after. He kept in close correspondence with his family, including his father Garry, until his death in a fierce battle at Mont St Quentin on 1 September 1918.

The loss of his son Frank cast a shadow over the rest of Garry Roberts’s life. He spent countless hours contacting soldiers who served with Frank, meeting them, trying to piece together what had happened.

From his massive collection of articles, photographs, letters and other memorabilia, Garry compiled 27 huge scrapbooks documenting Frank’s life and the world in which he had lived. The scrapbooks are among the most poignant expressions of grief ever made.

big scrapbook of photos One of three Roberts’ Scrapbooks on display at in the WWI: Love & Sorrow exhibition at Melbourne Museum.
Source: Museum Victoria


You can see the scrapbook and other traces of Frank Roberts in WWI: Love and Sorrow.


Transcript of poem written by Robert Smylie, 19 November 1915

I am writing this tonight, My three kids
By a little candle-light, My three kids
And the candlestick’s a tin
With some dry tobacco in
And so that’s how I begin, To my kids

Now I wonder what you’re at, My three kids
Moll and Bids and little Pat, My three kids
Why of course there’s two asleep
But perhaps Moll’s thinking deep
Watching little stars that peep, At my kids

Since I left you long ago, My three kids
There’s a lot you’d like to know, My three kids
That has happened to your dad
In the varied luck he’s had
In adventures good and bad, My three kids

I have soldiered in a trench, My three kids
Serving under Marshall French, My three kids
Once a shell dropped with a thud
Quite close, covered me with mud
And it’s lucky ‘twas a dud, For my kids

And I’ve crossed the ground outside, My three kids
It’s at night that’s chiefly tried, My three kids
And the bullets sang all round
Overhead, or struck the ground
But your daddy none has found, No my kids

I have mapped our trenches new, My three kids
And some German trenches too, My three kids
I have sprinted past a wood
Counting steps, for so I could
Judge the distance as I should, My three kids

I have placed our snipers where, My three kids
On the Germans they could stare, My three kids
And they killed their share of men
Quite a lot for snipers ten
From their little hidden den, My three kids

And I’ve slept in bed quite warm, My three kids
But I haven’t taken harm, My three kids
When upon the ground I lay
Without even straw or hay
In the same clothes night and day, My three kids

When they sent us back to rest, My three kids
Then they seemed to think it best, My three kids
To send your dad ahead
To discover where a bed
Could be found, or some old shed, My three kids

And new officers were trained, My three kids
And the men we’ve lately gained, My three kids
And while that work was in hand
I was second in command
Of B Coy and that was grand, My three kids

But it didn’t last all through, My three kids
There was other work to do, My three kids
When they made me adjutant
I was busy as an ant
And it’s not much catch I grant, To my kids

I have ridden on a horse, My three kids
Captured from a German force, My three kids
And I’ve marched and crawled and run
Night and day in rain and sun
And shall do it till we’ve won, For my kids

And I’d rather be with you, My three kids
Let you know I’m lucky too, My three kids
Lots of men I used to know
Now are killed or wounded, though
I remain, and back I’ll go, To my kids

And I hope you’ll all keep well, My three kids
Just as sound as any bell, My three kids
And when this long war is done
We shall have some glorious fun
Moll and Bids and little son, My three kids.

Junior Dino Experts

by Kate C
Publish date
28 May 2015
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The very young are most susceptible to dino fever. In children, the symptoms are very clear: compulsive recitation of dinosaur names, a predilection for dinosaur motifs on every surface, a hyper-alert state anytime they 're near a fossil. In extreme cases, kids can reel off all the scientific inaccuracies in Jurassic Park. Fortunately, some kids never shake dino fever and they grow up to be palaeontologists.

Wayne Gerdtz curated two Melbourne Museum exhibitions that draw in lots of visitors: 600 Million Years: Victoria evolves and Dinosaur Walk. A chronic case himself, Wayne recalls a childhood filled with lurid dinosaur books. Since he grew up in remote country Victoria, his visits to the museum in Melbourne were infrequent and much anticipated. One prized souvenir from the 1970s exhibition Dinosaurs from China still hangs in his house. His palaeontological interests moved on to extinct mammals but dino fever still beats strongly in his heart.


Another trained palaeontologist, science educator Priscilla Gaff, thanks her Nana for fostering her interest in dinosaurs. From the age of 5 or 6, her Nana took her to the old museum every holidays. Cilla is still so afflicted by dino fever that she planned her upcoming overseas trip to include a visit to Mary Anning's old fossil-collecting grounds in Lyme Regis. (Anning herself hunted for fossils from a very young age and uncovered the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton when she was just 12, soon after her brother found the beast's skull.)

Mary Anning Portrait of Mary Anning with her dog Tray and the Golden Cap outcrop in the background. The painting is at the Natural History Museum, London.
Image: Credited to 'Mr. Grey'
Source: Public domain via Wikimedia

Now we seek the next generation of palaeontologists through the Junior Dino Expert Competition at Scienceworks. We are looking for children between the ages of 3–12 years of age who have a severe case of dino fever and a passion for sharing their dinosaur knowledge with others.  Applicants need to submit an application form and a creative response that demonstrates their love of dinosaurs. This could be a video, piece of writing, slide show, collage or anything else.

Junior Dino Expert Competition promo Junior Dino Expert Competition
Image: MV
Source: Museum Victoria

For details on how to enter, and a list of excellent prizes, visit the Junior Dino Expert Competition page. Be sure to have your entries in by Monday 8 June!


Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family at Scienceworks

Roaming T-rex

by Krystal
Publish date
21 May 2015
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Scotty the Tyrannosaurus rex got lost on his way to Scienceworks!

A shipping container holding this ancient predator and two baby dinosaurs has turned up on the Swanston Street Forecourt of Federation Square on its way to the Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family exhibition.

Detail of T.rex puppet's teeth Scotty's teeth
Source: Erth Visual & Physical Inc

The dinosaurs will need to be let loose before being taken back to their family at Scienceworks. Come down and meet these incredible creatures as they roam around Federation Square on the afternoon of Saturday 23 May.

Follow Scotty’s movements on the Scienceworks Facebook page and through the hashtag #trexontherun on Twitter and Instagram.

T.rex puppet with a man and a girl Scotty looks scary, but he's pretty friendly.
Source: Erth Visual & Physical Inc

Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family opens at Scienceworks on Saturday 23 May 2015. Dinosaur puppets by Erth Visual & Physical Inc.

Multilingual Museum Tour launch

by Jen Brook
Publish date
26 March 2015
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Jen manages Humanities programs at Museum Victoria.

To celebrate Cultural Diversity Week, last Friday we proudly launched the Immigration Museum’s Multilingual Museum Tour. This free downloadable app, made in partnership with SBS, is your personal tour of the museum in six languages: Arabic, French, Italian, Japanese and Mandarin and English. The tour features detailed text, audio commentary and stunning historical imagery that reveal the stories of the people, businesses and architecture that have transformed Melbourne and Victoria.

Four people at tour app launch Immigration Museum Manager Padmini Sebastian and MV CEO Dr J Patrick Greene (far right) with launch guests Mr Peter Khalil and Hon Robin Scott MP.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The tour was launched by Hon Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, who addressed a crowd of special guests including representatives from the Victorian Multicultural Commission, City of Melbourne, Melbourne Visitors Centre, the Yulgilbar Foundation, Multicultural Arts Victoria and AMES. We also had had the Consulate Generals of Spain, Italy, and France and our project partners SBS. The Minister spoke of the importance in recognising Melbourne as a successful, contemporary multilingual society and the significance of the Immigration Museum as a place to celebrate Victoria’s multiculturalism. Cultural Diversity Week is one of Victoria’s largest multicultural celebrations and, like the Immigration Museum, provides an opportunity for all Victorians to come together to share their culture, faith and language.

Guests at the launch of the tour app Guests at the Immigration Museum to launch the Multilingual Museum Tour.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The museum is proud and delighted to have partnered with SBS for this project, an organisation at the forefront of celebrating multicultural Australia, providing high quality, independent, culturally-relevant media to all Australians regardless of geography, age, cultural background or language skills. SBS’s talented radio presenters are the voices behind the Arabic, Italian, Japanese, French and Mandarin guides. The English guide is presented by Immigration Museum Manager Padmini Sebastian.

Six presenters of the app Presenters of the Multilingual Museum Tour app:
MANDARIN: Liu Jiang, SBS Radio
ARABIC: Iman Riman, SBS Radio
ITALIAN: Carlo Oreglia, SBS Radio
FRENCH: Christophe Mallet, SBS Radio
ENGLISH: Padmini Sebastian, Manager Immigration Museum
JAPANESE Miyuki Watanabe SBS Radio
Source: Museum Victoria / SBS

The Immigration Museum’s Multilingual Museum Tour builds on the technology initiatives and programs that Museum Victoria has been developing in recent years which assist in increasing audience access to our museums and collections. These include Melbourne’s Golden Mile, Spotswood Industrial Heritage and Carlton Gardens walking tour apps, as well as the Field Guide to Victorian Fauna app, which has been downloaded over 100,000 times,

Guests at the Multilingual Museum Tour launch. Guests at the Multilingual Museum Tour launch.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

You can download the app free to your own Apple and Android device before your visit, or ask to borrow one of our devices from the Immigration Museum ticketing desk.

About this blog

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