Immigration Museum


Immigration Museum

The Immigration Museum explores the stories of people who have migrated to Victoria. Located in Old Customs House, the museum re-creates real-life experiences with a rich mix of film, personal and community voices, memories and memorabilia.

North South Feast West backyard blitz

by Catherine Devery
Publish date
15 January 2015
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Catherine makes her living administrating and programming festivals at the Immigration Museum. She is yet to win the Museum Victoria annual end of year party costume competition but she never says never.

The Immigration Museum is getting a backyard blitz. For our upcoming North South Feast West series, we’re activating our iconic CBD courtyard and creating the perfect setting to feast on culture.

The key to the courtyard transformation is an outdoor built environment by architects Millie Cattlin and Joseph Norster. Millie and Joe form These are THE PROJECTS we do together, a design practice known for creative and thoughtful installations that occupy public space.

Courtyard with seating made from pallets Testing Grounds outdoor art space by “The Projects”.

The installation is taking place this week in time for Sunday’s Chocolate Fest. The courtyard will be converted into a Chocolate Beer Garden featuring Choc Hops from Mildura Brewery and specialised Mörk Chocolate/Rooftop Honey “Mörktails”. The festival will feature chocolate stalls and tastings, talks and workshops and entertainment from a selection of Melbourne DJs and outfits.

Bowls of chocolate things Delicious chocolately treats from Mörk.
Source: Mörk Chocolate

Every Friday night in February, the courtyard will become an inner city cantina. Presented in association with PBS FM, each Courtyard Cantina will feature a bar and food pop-up from a variety of vendors including the likes of Senor BBQ, Boss Man Food, Trailer Made, Shebeen and Kumo. Music will be provided by a line-up of DJs and the entire museum will be open after hours for the duration of the events.

Courtyard Cantina flyer Courtyard Cantina flyer
Source: Museum Victoria

In April, we’ll fire up the courtyard BBQ for Chilli Fest and Coffee Fest in June will explore the world’s take on the humble café.

The whole series of events compliment the permanent exhibitions at the Immigration Museum which explore the history and impact of immigration in Victoria as well as stories of real people and contemporary Melbourne culture. It’s also a great opportunity to see Freedom: Photographs by Andy Drewit, a photography exhibition that celebrates refugees and asylum seekers’ freedom to pursue interests and engage in hobbies once safe in Australia. Freedom is showing until 31 May.

For tickets and more information, please visit the North South Feast West page. You can also follow all the happenings on Facebook: 


Scots Wha Hae

by Sadie
Publish date
7 November 2014
Comments (1)

Sadie works on exhibitions at Museum Victoria.

Question: What do the following Victorian place names have in common:

Armadale, Arthurs Seat, Bairnsdale, Ben Cruachan, Boisdale, Campbellfield, Clunes, Clydesdale, Coldstream, Drysdale, Ensay, Glenaladale, Glenelg River, Hepburn Springs, The Grampians, Lauriston, Lismore, Loch Sport, Mt Stewart, Orbost, Queensferry, Rutherglen, St Andrews, Stonehaven?

Scenery of mountains Lake Wartook, Grampians National Park
Image: Ken Harris
Source: Ken Harris

Answer: All these place names come from a place in Scotland or from a Scottish name.

The Scots are one of Australia’s oldest migrant groups. 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the first formal migration from Scotland to Victoria. During the 19th century many Scottish people settled in Victoria’s Western, Wimmera and Gippsland districts.

Women in Scottish dress Caledonian Society, Bendigo, Victoria, circa 1905
Source: Museum Victoria

Scots were represented among professions that bestowed place names—including governors and surveyors—hence many Victorian towns have Scottish names today. Thus, Campbellfield and Mt Stewart reference significant Scottish clans while Arthurs Seat and the Grampians hark back to fondly remembered locations in Scotland.

Girl in Scottish dress outside school building Garvoc, Victoria, circa 1935
Source: Museum Victoria

Our latest community exhibition, Scots Wha Hae, reveals the influence of the Scottish in Victoria from the 19th century to the continuing influx of young Scots today. You'll encounter stories of Dame Nellie Melba, Macpherson Robertson, AC/DC and the textile designer who developed the Victorian tartan.

Children in Scottish dress with woman playing bagpipes Highland Dancers, 1950s
Source: Bill Schrank

The patriotic song Scots Wha Hae (‘Scots who have’) was written in Scots by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1793. The unofficial national anthem of Scotland for centuries, it was chosen as the exhibition title by the Scots of Victoria to evoke a sense of Scottish pride while acknowledging the opportunities offered by life in Australia.

One boy and 10 girls in Scottish dress Highland dancers
Image: Kara Lorgelly
Source: Kara Lorgelly

The exhibition Scots Wha Hae: 200 years of Scottish influence opens at the Immigration Museum on 15 November 2014. Come help us celebrate at the Scottish Fling Festival on 16 November with Scottish food, dancing, whisky-tasting and more.

Kids Fest - PLAY!

by Phil
Publish date
30 June 2014
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It’s that time of year again, when we get incredibly excited about the amazing visitors coming to our Winter Kids Fest at the Immigration Museum - and this year they will be coming to PLAY! This year’s festival provides children and parents with the opportunity to experience a range of fun and exciting indoor and outdoor games, toys and activities from many cultures.

Children everywhere like to play with balls, jump, run and chase each other.  However the rules and equipment they use may be different depending on their own cultural traditions. Some games were originally based on religious ceremonies, while other games were based on mythology, folk customs and the routines of everyday life. On Sunday 6 July, children and their families will get the opportunity to discover these and many more for themselves.

Crowd of visitors in the Immigration Museum Theatrette. Crowd of visitors in the Immigration Museum Theatrette.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

On the ground floor we will have performances of Indigenous hip hop dancing along with a Punch and Judy Magic Show, while roving performances from the King Marong African drumming group will keep us entertained throughout the day.

  Children participating in workshops and activities during Kids Fest Punch and Judy during Kids Fest
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Upstairs we will be discovering traditional children’s games with the Play Lady in our Community Gallery and play traditional games enjoyed all over the world, including jacks, marbles, elastics, and spinning tops. In the Long Room there will be an opportunity for the children to make their own toys, in particular a kite to fly outside or decorate a set of babushka dolls. There will also be a treasure hunt challenge to find toys in our exhibitions – how many will your family find? 

Girl playing with babushka dolls Girl playing with babushka dolls
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

In the Immigration Discovery Centre children will be able to challenge friends and family to a battle of tic tac toe, chess, snakes & ladders, or dominoes. There will also be a selection of online multicultural games available on our computers.

School Visitors Immigration Museum Children playing chess
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Meanwhile the fun will continue outside in the Festival and Market Street Courtyards for children to get active with skipping, quoits, bucket stilts, bocce, hopscotch and much more.

  Two children, a girl and a boy playing with coloured balls Two children, a girl and a boy playing with coloured balls
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Join in the revelry and celebrate worldwide games, toys and activities at this special one day festival.

Let the games begin!


by Kate C
Publish date
9 March 2014
Comments (1)

Harry Telford bought Phar Lap at auction for 160 guineas, back when Big Red was known only as "Good Walker, Great Shoulder, Very Strong Made Colt".

horse auction catalogue The page from the Annual New Zealand Thoroughbred Yearling Sales on 24 Jan 1928, with hand-written notes about Harry Telford's purchase. (HT 8465)
Source: Museum Victoria

There were 160 tradesmen working in the Engineering Workshops of the Kodak factory complex in Coburg.

Photo of Kodak workshop Men operating machinery in the Kodak Engineering Workshop, Coburg, circa 1963. (MM 95964)
Source: Museum Victoria

Harry Johns drove his famous boxing troupe around in a bright red, customised International AR 160 Series truck.

Harry Johns' boxing truck Harry Johns' boxing troupe truck. (SH 961969)
Source: Museum Victoria

This centuries-old English penny in our Numismatics Collection was given the registration number NU 160.

Edward 1 penny Penny, Edward I, England, 1280-1281 (NU 160)
Source: Museum Victoria

And today, Museum Victoria is 160 years old! On 9 March 1854, the Assay Office in La Trobe Street opened to the public. Surveyor-General Andrew Clarke arranged for two rooms on the first floor of the Assay Office to be aside for the new Museum of Natural History and its collections.

This letter from the Public Records Office of Victoria records the formal permission granted the newborn museum by Assay Master Dr Edward Davy. (We assume Clarke had taken the liberty of moving a few specimens in before the official word arrived.)

Letter from Assay Master Dr Edward Davy Copy of letter to Surveyor-General Andrew Clark from Assay Master Dr Edward Davy, 1854.
Source: PROV

Government Assay Office
Melbourne 28th Apr 1854
In reply to your letter of 22nd inst enquiring what accommodation can be given at the Assay Office for receiving Specimens which may, from time to time, be forwarded to the intended Museum of Natural History, I have the honor to state that there are at present, two rooms on the first floor of the building disposable for the purpose referred to.
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most Obdt Servant,
E. Davy
Assay Master


Now we just need to figure out how to fit 160 candles on a birthday cake... I think we're going to need two cakes.

Boy with two cakes Boy with two cakes on his third birthday, Prahran, 1942. (MM 110629)
Source: Museum Victoria

Address to a haggis?

by Meg
Publish date
25 January 2014
Comments (3)

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.

1889 tram model

by Matilda Vaughan
Publish date
29 October 2013
Comments (3)

Matilda swapped a life working as an engineer for a life curating the museum’s historical Engineering collection. She’s very curious about how stuff works, how it’s made and why. If a machine’s got a switch, she’ll definitely flick it.

What do you do when a significant part of our local transport history would make a great addition to a new exhibition, but it no longer exists? Well, you recreate it in miniature, of course.

By 1888, Melbourne was already on its way to an integrated suburban rail transport network, and horse-drawn tramcars mingled with cable tramcars. Tramcars propelled by electric motors were very new and developing rapidly. Overseas commercially-operated installations were powered by either on-board batteries or connections to external underground or overhead electrical wiring. The first electric tram powered by an overhead wire in Australia was demonstrated as a fee paying, passenger-carrying attraction within the grounds of the 1888 Melbourne International Centennial Exhibition.

Men on Melbourne's first electric tram Australia’s first suburban electric tramway service at the Box Hill terminus on opening day, 14 October 1889. Do these passengers look excited about their ride on the latest public transport system in Melbourne?
Source: Doncaster & Templestowe Historical Society (DP0203)

While news reports from the time provide basic information about the tramcar and the exhibit, we couldn’t find any surviving photographs. However images do exist of its later use, in the following year, on the Box Hill-Doncaster Tramway Company’s route. This route ran from Box Hill Railway Station up what is now known as Tram Road, towards the Observation Tower and close to where Doncaster Shoppingtown now stands.

We provided these photographs, supplemented with curatorial research gleaned from historical literature such as newspapers, engineering journals, patents and electric tramcar and street railway technology reviews, to model maker Mark O'Brien. He used this information to prepare a digital model using 3D modelling software, carefully deconstructing parts to suit the manufacturing method.

Man sitting at computer showing a 3D digital model The 3D digital model can be rotated and viewed from all angles, to match the viewers’ perspective to the original photographic image.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

Then came the real art of the project: translating the digital model into an actual object. The miniature parts were crafted with a blend of traditional model making techniques and additive manufacturing technology (3D printing).

parts of tram model Left: assembly of the tram model parts prior to painting and finishing. Right: the truck (or bogie) construction prior to painting, in the hand of the model maker Mark O'Brien.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

parts of tram model Left: detail of conductor base. Right: electric motor, wheels and axle box, 3D printed and finished to resemble metal.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

Scanning the tram model into the collection system Upon its arrival at the museum, we checked the condition of the tram model, registered it, tagged it and scanned into the Collection Location System for tracking.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

When the Box Hill tramway closed down, the original tramcar was sold to H.V. McKay’s Sunshine agricultural implements manufacturing plant and stripped of its electric motor and fittings. The tramcar carriage itself became one of the shelter sheds used for workers’ leisure activities in the nearby parklands. It suffered the fate of most wooden objects left out in the weather for years. In the museum environment however, this miniature representation of the tramcar will live on as part of the as part of the state’s permanent Rail Transport Collection, and will be part of the Think Ahead exhibition at Scienceworks from December 2013.


Museum Victoria Collections Electric Tram Model

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