Exhibitions

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Exhibitions

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

Mexico in the World Cup

Author
by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
30 May 2014
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Patrick is talking about Searching for the Aztecs in Mexico City as part of the Aztecs lecture series.

On 13 June, Mexico kicks off its World Cup campaign with a match against Cameroon in Group A in the group stage. Group A also contains Croatia and Brazil. Chances of a win against Brazil, the World Cup hosts, are not encouraging for Mexico. In three of Mexico’s 14 appearances in the World Cup these two teams have met, with Brazil scoring a total of eleven goals while conceding none. Mexican fans will be pinning their hopes on better results against Cameroon and Croatia. Mexico is lucky to be in the finals at all; after a series of indifferent results against other Latin American teams they scraped into the playoffs in which they qualified by beating New Zealand.

Perhaps the occasion will bring out the best in the Mexican team – and perhaps they will be inspired by a tradition of ball games that goes back to the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican civilisations. A ball game was an integral part of Aztec culture, with specially designed courts (or tlachtlis) placed in prominent locations in sacred and administrative precincts. However, it was not football. The rules required participants to use their hips and upper arms to keep the ball from touching the ground.

tlachti ball and ring Visitors to Aztecs can lift this replica ball - rather like a rubber cannonball - and imagine trying to propel it off their bodies and through the tiny hole in the stone ring.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the exhibition is a replica of the heavy rubber ball that the Aztecs used. Despite wearing a thick belt around the lower waist, injuries could result. Even worse, the game sometimes ended in human sacrifice. On the other hand, if a player achieved the near-impossible feat of sending the ball through one of the pair of stone rings high on the long sides of the court they were entitled to the pick of the possessions of all the spectators!

On their shirts, the Mexican footballers will wear the crest of the Mexican Federation of Association Football. The crest shows a football in front of the Aztec calendar stone, surmounted by the eagle that was part of the Aztec foundation myth.

When Mexico players have a home match they perform in one of the world’s largest stadiums, the Estadio Azteca. Footballers that play for one of Mexico’s leading clubs, the Pumas de la UNAM, have as their home ground the Olympic Stadium, which has on its exterior a huge sculpture designed by Diego Rivera with Aztec symbolism such as the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. Mexicans will be expecting their footballing heroes to rise to the World Cup occasion, inspired by the country’s proud Aztec heritage.

Olympic Stadium in Mexico City Olympic Stadium in Mexico City showing the sculpture designed by Diego Rivera.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Live broadcast of 2014 FIFA World Cup matches at IMAX Melbourne Museum

  • Saturday June 14th @ 8:00am - CHILE vs AUSTRALIA
  • Sunday June 15th @ 8:00am - ENGLAND vs ITALY

More about the Aztec ball game at aztec-history.com

National Geographic: Aztec, Maya Were Rubber-Making Masters?

Hair of the dog

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
8 May 2014
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The Aztecs were dog people. They were in awe of the jaguar for its stealth and fighting prowess, but for domestic companionship, they chose dogs, not cats.

And their dogs didn't look much like your typical house mutts. Known in English as the Mexican hairless dog, the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs called their breed the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced show-loh-its-queen-tli) after Xolotl, a god with the head of a dog who helped the dead in their passage to the underworld. (Xolotl was also the beleaguered twin of Quetzacoatl and ultimately turned himself into the amphibious axolotl, but that's another story.)

Mexican hairless dog A Mexican hairless dog called Izzy Frittata.
Image: Xugardust
Source: Xugardust via Compfight cc
 

The Aztecs exhibition at Melbourne Museum features a dog statue carved from stone in about 1500. This little dog has the half-closed eyes and raised head of a dog receiving a hearty scratch under the chin. It seems an affectionate portrait of a much-loved friend. However, when the Aztec owner of a Xoloitzcuintli died, their dog was sacrificed to accompany them on the journey ahead. This sounds horrifying to dog lovers today but the Aztecs also raised dogs for food and had no qualms about putting them to death.

Sculpture of a dog Sculpture of a dog about 1500. When a person died, if they had a dog it was sacrificed after the funeral. The dog would then guide its owner’s soul through the nine levels of the underworld.
Image: Michel Zabe
Source: © Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH)
 

Almost unknown in Australia, Xoloitzcuintlisor Xolosremain quite rare in Mexico and the USA because they nearly vanished completely after the arrival of the Spanish in Central America. Believing them to have healing properties, people in remote Mexican villages sheltered these sacred dogs and protected them from mixing with other mutts. Accordingly, they survive as one of the oldest breeds, and have been used by geneticists to examine the history of dog domestication. Frida Kahlo kept Xolos and included them in her paintings, helping to boost the popularity of the dogs and save them from another near-extinction in the 20th century.

Museo Dolores Olmedo Pick the real dog! Three Xoloitzcuintli dogs lazing about a statue of this sacred breed in the garden of Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico.
Image: Joshua Bousel
Source: joshbousel used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
 

Of course, the most striking feature of the Xoloitzcuintli is its virtual hairlessness, which is caused by a dominant gene. The gene is lethal when inherited twice (homozygous) – a puppy with two copies will not be born alive – while Xolos without a copy of the gene have an ordinary furry coat. Xolos often have missing teeth, probably linked to the same hairlessness gene.

Xoloitzcuintli puppies A pile of Xoloitzcuintli puppies
Image: Xugardust
Source: Xugardust used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
 

Links and references:

Vilà C, Maldonado JE, Wayne RK (1999) Phylogenetic relationships, evolution, and genetic diversity of the domestic dog. Journal of Heredity Jan-Feb;90(1):71-7. (PDF, 184 kB)

Cordy-Collins, Alana (1994) An unshaggy dog story. Natural History Vol. 103 Issue 2, p34

Hairless dogs compete at Reliant Show, Houston Chronicle, July 20 2012 

Why we can't give a stuff

Author
by Alice
Publish date
29 April 2014
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The Discovery Centre receives heaps of enquiries from budding enthusiasts eager to learn the art of taxidermy – it’s no surprise because Museum Victoria holds the largest collection of taxidermy mounts in the state.

behind the scenes Rows of taxidermy mounts hidden behind the scenes of the Melbourne Museum.
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Taxidermy is but one of many tasks performed by the multi-talented members of our preparation department. The preparators work purely on museum projects, combining skills in taxidermy, moulding, casting and model-making to enhance the state’s collections and research.

reptile moulds Reptile moulds and casts hand made by the preparation department.
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria

 

Seal model Sculpting and modelling a seal for permanent display.
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Only a fraction of the work that the preparation department performs makes its way to the public displays, with the majority of their work residing behind the scenes. Most animals coming into the museum join the research collections and don’t need to be prepared as life-like mounts; 90 per cent of the specimens prepared at the museum have data and tissue samples collected and are preserved as study skins and skeletons. These specimens become priceless tools in assisting scientists identify and compare new species, better understand the evolution of species over time, and research how we can conserve our fauna into the future.

Study skins Study skins used in the research collection.
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Skeletal remains Skeletons prepared for the research collection with the assistance of dermestid beetles.
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Due to the busy workload of our preparators, we are unable to provide personal advice to individuals about taxidermy. We are, however, bringing out our experts for the next Smart Bar to focus on the history, methods and tools of the craft. This Thursday 1 May, from 6-9pm our experts will explore the inside story of taxidermy with pop up talks and demonstrations.

Koala moulding Tools and measurements used in making a koala cast.
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

exhibition maitenance Ongoing maintenance of exhibition material such as this interactive component from Think Ahead is a large part of the preparation departments workload.
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

For those unable to attend, there is plenty of information available online through supply websites, online tutorials and forums. Commercial taxidermists can also be found in the Yellow Pages, and you may be lucky enough to find one who is willing to discuss their tricks of the trade. Formal tutelage in taxidermy is almost non-existent in Australia but getting involved in online forums and clubs is a great starting point to meet likeminded people and gain expert advice. Most of our preparators started out reading taxidermy books for beginners, many of which can still be found in local libraries.

Keep in mind that in Australia there are strict licencing protocols surrounding practicing taxidermy on native animals. For more information visit the Department of Environment and Primary Industries website.

Links:

Smart Bar: Stuffed

So many specimens

An Aztec pterosaur?

Author
by Erich Fitzgerald
Publish date
3 April 2014
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Dr Erich Fitzgerald is our Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

Next time you visit the Dinosaur Walk exhibition at Melbourne Museum, look up, and prepare to be gob-smacked. Behold, Quetzalcoatlus, largest of those magnificent Mesozoic aeronauts; the pterosaurs! With a 10-metre wingspan, Quetzalcoatlus was perhaps the largest flying animal ever…or perhaps not. But before delving into that palaeontological puzzle, another question will no doubt be on your lips: how do you pronounce “Quetzalcoatlus” and what does it mean anyway?! The answer lies in Mexico, about 1,000 years ago, at the dawn of the civilization that would eventually become the Aztec Empire.

The Nahua people, who gave rise to Aztec culture, believed in a feathered serpent god of the sky called Quetzalcoatl (pronounced ‘ket-sal-ko-ah-tell’). Aztecs inherited the worship of Quetzalcoatl as one of their chief deities: a dragon-like god that linked the earth with the heavens and created humans.

Aztec god Quetzalcoatl The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (16th century).
Source: via Wikimedia Commons
 

The feathered serpent god returned in 1971 with the discovery in Texas of the fossilized wing bones of a truly colossal pterosaur of late Cretaceous age (about 65 to 70 million years ago). In light of their location near Mexico and their suggestion of a reptile that dominated the skies, these extraordinary fossils were named Quetzalcoatlus (pronounced ‘ket-sal-ko-atlas’) after the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.

Quetzalcoatlus illustration Life restoration of a group of giant azhdarchids, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, foraging on a Cretaceous fern prairie. A juvenile titanosaur has been caught by one pterosaur, while the others stalk through the scrub in search of small vertebrates and other food.
Image: Mark Witton and Darren Naish
Source: CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
 

As impossible as it may seem, Quetzalcoatlus and its kin (collectively dubbed azhdarchids) were capable of getting airborne, then sustaining flight through long-distance gliding on thermal air columns. Yet recent research on the skeleton of azhdarchid pterosaurs has suggested that they actually spent a substantial amount of time on the ground, stalking prey while walking stilt-like on all fours. For now, the feathered serpent god of the Aztecs may have been brought down to earth, but in a twist of the serpent’s tale, its legacy continues thanks to fossils from an even more ancient world, long ago.

Links

Aztecs opens at Melbourne Museum on 9 April 2014

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History 

Visitor responses to Inside

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
10 February 2014
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From 29 August 2013 to 27 January 2014, Melbourne Museum hosted Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions. This travelling exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in the wake of the Australian Government's 2009 national apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants.

Visitor comment Comment left by visitor Sebastian that reads, "No child should suffer as much as this. "
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some half a million children spent time in institutional care during the 20th century and while some feel that they were treated well, others experienced terrible suffering, neglect, and in the worst cases, abuse. This exhibition is presented through personal accounts of people who grew up in care. Sometimes harrowing, often distressing, Inside's purpose is to acknowledge stories that have long been suppressed or ignored.

An area of the exhibition was set aside with slips of paper and an invitation to visitors to record their reflections. Hundreds of visitors filled out a slip of paper and pinned it up, compiling a very intimate account of how they felt about the exhibition. Many of the comments are extremely personal and we thank visitors for sharing their experiences in such an open and honest way.

The excerpts and examples in this post show the range of responses from former residents of Children's Homes, their friends and families, and from people who had no previous connection to this awful part of our country's history.

My father lived in foster care. I still remember the stories of how he was beaten. It's so painful looking at these things. Caterina,19
1930s-1950s St Augustine's Geelong was my father's home from 5 weeks old. Messed him up for life, but he managed to be a wonderful husband, father and mate. Darren, 49
So sad, so ANGRY. Such abuse shapes your life and requires great courage, support and time to work through. Monique, 34
For my Grandfather, placed in the Ballarat Orphanage at age 3 in 1923. We never heard your full story as you didn't want to talk about it. This exhibition has given us an idea of what your life would have been like. May you rest in peace. xx Shaye, 37
Keep the truth shining and justice for all, I was 12 year old when I was put into a home for no reason at all like many girls. I will hold my head up / no shame. Suzanne, 45

Comment Comment left by visitor Claire at the Inside exhibition. It reads, "Words fail me. What I would give to be able to right all the wrongs."
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The homes are still with us today, happy for the ones who have been able to move on. Heather, 70
It was tough there but I turned out all right. Don, 74
I was seven when I was told I had nine other brothers and sisters and I had my first birthday party when I turned 17. Alf, 62
This is an authentic exhibition that reveals a very dark side of Australia's 20th century social history. The personal stories of abuse make me weak. But I do not perceive the story told to be wholly balanced. Mark Scott (MD of the ABC) was a child migrant and internee at Fairbridge, NSW. A few resilient souls did rise above the indifferent care at orphanages and achieved success. Tell that story too please. David, 59
It was foster care for me… 10 long years of moving from house to house. At Christmas time three houses in one week. The memories of a gift bring tears to my eyes. A simple Beatles poster from strangers. These people had taken time to find out what I liked – meant the world to me. Never abused but never loved, roof over my head but not a home, always alone but for the memory of that Beatles poster. That memory brings me warmth. That Christmas I was known. Juliette, 36
I am so sorry for ever saying 'it's in the past, get over it,' 'I didn't do it, why should I pay!’ - I now understand my ignorance to these horrific occurrences. My compassion is at large thanks to this display. Anon age 18

Visitor comment Comment left visitor Michael to Inside. It reads, "They stole our dignity"
Source: Museum Victoria
 

If you missed Inside but would like to know more, the NMA Inside website contains many of the exhibition's stories and objects. Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions travels next to the Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle from 14 March to 29 June 2014 and to the Queensland Museum, Brisbane from 9 August to 16 November 2014.

Classic Japanese James Bond car on show

Author
by Shane Salmon
Publish date
5 February 2014
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Shane works in the Exhibitions team, and stays interested in most things techy, as well as old and new music.

Melbourne Museum does not host many motor vehicles, but the Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style exhibition has showcased three very special cars. An iconic 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldeneye and Skyfall travels with the exhibition and appears at the entrance. Another Aston Martin, a 1969 DBS from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was on display in the museum foyer from mid-October until mid-December.

Currently in the main foyer of Melbourne Museum is a very rare car that appeared in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice — a 1966 Toyota 2000GT convertible. 

Toyota 2000GT Front view of the Toyota 2000GT now on display in the Melbourne Museum foyer.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

You Only Live Twice was shot predominantly in Japan and the film’s producers requested an exotic, locally-produced vehicle worthy of a James Bond production. They saw images of the yet-to-be released 2000GT, and knew they had found their car.

Two models of the vehicle were used for filming, and were made into convertibles to enable the crew to get better shots of the actors and the interior. A common misconception is that the cars were modified because Sean Connery was too tall to fit in them, but the request was made to Toyota before production commenced. The two vehicles used for production were the only 2000GT convertibles ever produced. 

Toyota 2000GT Interior of the Toyota 2000GT
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The 2000GT was one vehicle that James Bond did not get to drive, as his Japanese accomplice Aki (played by Akiko Wakabayashi), drove him firstly to meet his contact Mr Henderson, before twice rescuing him from inevitable danger. The car is memorably introduced when Bond greets Aki at a sumo wrestling tournament with the code phrase “I love you”, and she responds with “I have a car” — lines written by Roald Dahl.

Only 337 models of the 2000GT were ever produced, making it a very rare and desirable car for collectors around the world. This particular model is a popular attraction at the Toyota Automobile Museum in Aichi, Japan and is on loan to Melbourne Museum until the exhibition closes.

Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style runs until 23 February 2014.

Toyota 2000GT Museum CEO Dr Patrick Green checking out the Toyota 2000GT.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

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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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