Melbourne Museum

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Melbourne Museum

Melbourne Museum explores life in Victoria, from our natural environment to our culture and history. Located in Carlton Gardens, the building houses a permanent collection in eight galleries, including one just for children.

Who do you love?

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by Blaire Dobiecki
Publish date
15 April 2015
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Blaire is a Presenter at Melbourne Museum and self-professed dog enthusiast. She specialises in having fun and doing science, often simultaneously.

Melbourne Museum’s term one weekend activity, Museum Love Letters, has come to an end, which means the results are in! Which museum objects received the most love?

Bar chart of love letters Bar graph showing the number of love letters sent to particular museum objects or exhibitions.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The dinosaurs are by far the most loved exhibits at Melbourne Museum, receiving a whopping 273 letters. In particular, 29 love letters were addressed directly to the T-Rex, a dinosaur that was nowhere to be found within the museum. The authors may have meant to send their regards to our lovable Tarbosaurus.

Unsurprisingly, Phar Lap was the next in line with 88 letters, followed by the entire Forest Gallery with 70 letters. The butterflies and bugs, Pygmy Blue Whale and 3D volcano movie were also highly admired.

Love letter to Little Lon house A love letter to the Little Lonsdale House in The Melbourne Story reads “Dear House, I like learning from the olden days. I like you. From Zali."  

But these letters revealed far more than just a numbers game. The activity was designed to allow visitors to reflect upon the significance of Melbourne Museum’s collection. Many stories of personal meaning for objects emerged.

Love letter to Sam Koala A love letter from Casey to Sam the Koala reads “I love the fact you were so brave and now you’re here.”
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Greg expressed his gratitude to the Cole’s Funny Picture Book for teaching him how to read. Jess thanked the meteorites for reminding her that there is so much more than just us in this universe. Lana appreciated the Love & Sorrow exhibition for reminding her that we are lucky today to live in a safe and free country.

Love letter to Cole's Funny Picture Book Love letter from Greg reads “Funny Picture Book of Edward Cole: When I was a boy you gave me countless hours of joy. Now I declare my thanks that will never end. For teaching me to read. My dear, dear friend.”
Source: Museum Victoria
  

The objects and exhibitions in Melbourne Museum carry many levels of meaning and significance. They uncover stories about history, science and society that are then shared with the public. This activity turned the tables and gave the public the opportunity to share their personal stories of object significance with the museum. It was a wonderful opportunity for staff to hear what objects visitors treasure the most and why.

Staff members were also encouraged to share their stories. John Patten, Senior Programs Officer in Bunjilaka, shared a story of very close personal significance to an object that is not currently on display. A breastplate worn by his great, great, great, great grandfather, a leader among the Dhulenyagen clan of the Yorta Yorta people.

King Billy's breastplate King Billy's breastplate
Source: Museum Victoria
 

John's love letter John's letter to the breastplate.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Look who's back

Author
by Jessie
Publish date
7 April 2015
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Near the end of March, we made few staff members and visitors smile—we returned Murray, the museum’s resident Murray-Darling Carpet Python (Morelia spilota metcalfei) to the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum. He had lived next to the Discovery Centre desk for several years but was removed from display in 2012 due to lack of resources. Since then he was kept in our back of house lab and only taken out for short public programs when we had time.

Detail of python Murray, the museum's Murray-Darling Carpet Python (Morelia spilota metcalfei)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Murray is an important animal to showcase at the museum as these carpet pythons are now listed as endangered in Victoria. They were once common in the northern regions of the state, but are now restricted to small localised populations. In Victoria, they are mainly found in rocky country, riverine forests, redgum forests and Black Box forests of the Murray Darling Basin to the north.

The major threat to their survival is habitat destruction, particularly the collection of wood from their habitat for firewood. They are also killed by cats, foxes and humans. Sadly, many people still believe that if you see a snake, you should kill it. This has a devastating effect on an already endangered species where every individual is precious to the survival of the species. It is important to be aware as firewood consumers that we may be burning up important resources for these members of the Victorian ecosystem.

In the wild, Murray Darling Carpet Pythons eat birds and small mammals. In captivity they are generally fed on mice and rats. Murray receives frozen thawed mice once a month, given to him by one of the Live Exhibits staff. Live Exhibits looks after Murray as well as a whole array of other animals across the Museum including other reptiles, birds, frogs and invertebrates. 

Six generations of Satchells

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
1 April 2015
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John Satchell grew up with a colour photograph of a model steam train hanging on his bedroom wall. Not uncommon for small boys, perhaps, but John's train had a direct link to his ingenious ancestors. His train—a perfect, working scale replica of a shunting engine from 1857—was built by his great grandfather, also John, and painted by his great-great grandfather James Satchell. The model train itself, eventually donated to Museum Victoria in 1990, is now on display in The Melbourne Story.

  Steam Locomotive Model Steam Locomotive Model - Hobsons Bay Railway Pier Shunting Engine, No.5. (ST 038379)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

John's father Tony hung the photo for his son and often told him the story of the train. "Dad's a genealogist, and he's researched both sides of the family. He just loves history," says John. "He's always made me more than aware that this train exists and took me to see it in the museum. I loved steam trains as a kid and still do."

With Tony's 80th birthday approaching at the end of March, John and his wife Danielle searched for a unique and meaningful gift for him. They thought of the 1868 photograph of the elder John and James Satchell with their magnificent model, and how they might replicate it with the youngest Satchell, their toddler James. Until young James was born, John explains, genealogist Tony was anxious that "the Satchell family name was running out."

James & John Satchell, 1868 Photograph from 1868 of the Hobson's Bay Railway Pier shunting engine model with modelmaker John Satchell, and his father James Satchell. (ST 037829).
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Satchells recruited a friend to photograph John and James next to the train's exhibition showcase, but the tricky lighting and reflections meant no success. Danielle wrote a letter to the museum asking if there was any way we could open the showcase so they could get a perfect shot. It was an irresistible opportunity to link six generations of Satchell men, so last week before the museum opened, exhibition and collection management staff brought out the train. MV photographer Jon Augier captured the historic moment.

Child, man and model train Young James Satchell with father John posing with the model train built in the 1860s by their Satchell ancestors. Note the authentic Victorian-era gravitas.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The senior John and James both worked at Melbourne's first foundry, Langlands, originally established on Flinders lane. John was an apprentice there in the 1860s when he built the model, and his father James was a foreman. The model earned John a medal at the Intercolonial Exhibition of Victoria in 1866, and later, when he sold it, enough money to buy a block of land in Caulfield. The story is recorded in the Satchell family history written by Tony Satchell in 1988.

The surprise birthday gift is sure to delight this family historian. It might continue another family tradition, too. Says John of Tony, "he's brought up a couple of times that he thinks James should have a picture of the steam train in his bedroom. I've been saying 'oh yeah, that's a good idea' but leaving it at that because I don't want Dad to start thinking of getting a picture… it could ruin the surprise!"

Museum Victoria wishes Tony a very happy 80th birthday.

Satchell family The whole family: James Satchell with his mum Danielle and father John.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Transcribing field diaries

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
19 March 2015
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Deep in Museum Victoria’s archives lie boxes of notebooks. Notebooks that contain a significant part of our museum’s history. They are the field diaries of our past curators and collection managers, produced on scientific expeditions to explore, research and discover the natural history of Australia (and beyond).

Field diaries from Museum Victoria's collection Field diaries from Museum Victoria's collection
Source: Museum Victoria
 

These field diaries are of great interest to both scientists and historians. They are filled with invaluable data, providing insights into past species’ abundance and distribution, as well as personal descriptions of the trials and wonders experienced on historic expeditions.

A photograph from Graham Brown's field diary: Mt Rufus, Tasmania (1949). A photograph from Graham Brown's field diary: Mt Rufus, Tasmania (1949).
Image: Graham Brown
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Despite the fascinating information contained within the diaries (and the interest in them), they are relatively inaccessible. They were handwritten, often in less-than-favourable conditions (picture a scientist, crouched in the bush, notebook balanced on knee).

Sketch from Allan McEvey's field journal of his expedition to Macquarie Island, 1957. Excerpt from Allan McEvey's field journal of his expedition to Macquarie Island, 1957.
Image: Allan McEvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We have therefore started a crowd-sourcing project to transcribe the field diaries in our collection. The pages of each diary are carefully digitised and then uploaded into DigiVol the Atlas of Living Australia’s volunteer transcription portal that was developed in collaboration with the Australian Museum. Once transcribed, the text in the diaries will be searchable. We can create lists of the species mentioned and use this information to better understand and conserve our precious biodiversity.

Our most recent transcription project is Allan McEvey's field diary of his expedition to Macquarie Island in 1957. Museum Victoria's Curator of Birds from 1955, McEvey had a passion for scientific illustration and his field diaries are filled with sketches of birds and other wildlife.

Sketches of Black-browed Albatross, <i>Diomedea melanophris</i>, from Allan McEvey's field journal of his expedition to Macquarie Island, 1957. Sketches of Black-browed Albatross, Diomedea melanophris, from Allan McEvey's field journal of his expedition to Macquarie Island, 1957.
Image: Allan McEvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The original diaries, along with their transcriptions, will eventually be available online via the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), the world's largest online repository of biodiversity literature and archival materials.

The Australian component of BHL is managed by Museum Victoria and funded by the Atlas of Living Australia. The project has allowed us to digitise over 500 rare books, historic journals and archival field diaries. This represents over 12000 pages of Australia’s biological heritage that was previously hidden away in library archives.

Interested in becoming a transcription volunteer?

If you would like to help us unlock the observations in our historic field diaries, more information is available on the DigiVol website.

MV's new digital exhibits

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
5 March 2015
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On Tuesday 3 March, Museum Victoria joined 25 Australian cultural institutions at Parliament House to launch the Australian component of the Google Cultural Institute.

Google Cultural Institute launch, 3 March 2015, Parliament House, Canberra Google Cultural Institute launch, 3 March 2015, Parliament House, Canberra
Image: Nicole Kearney
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Google Cultural Institute is an online collection of millions of cultural treasures from over 670 museums, art galleries and archives around the world. Visitors can explore millions of artworks and artefacts in extraordinary detail, create their own galleries and share their favourite works.

Museum Victoria has been involved in the Google Art project since 2011 and was among the first institutions to partner with Google to create what is now the world's largest online museum.

Featured content on the Google Cultural Institute Featured content on the Google Cultural Institute
Source: Google
 

Tuesday's launch welcomed 14 new Australian contributors, including the Australian War Memorial, the National Portrait Gallery and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Over 2000 of Australia's finest cultural works are now accessible online.

Among these treasures are 226 highlights from Museum Victoria's collection. These include Aboriginal bark paintings, photographs depicting early Victorian history, and scientific illustrations that trace the development of scientific art.

In order to tell the fascinating stories behind these collection items, we have created three digital exhibitions within the Google Cultural Institute:

The Art of Science: from Rumphius to Gould (1700-1850)

The Art of Science exhibit The Art of Science exhibit
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Scientific Art in Victoria (1850-1900)

Scientific Art in Victoria exhibit Scientific Art in Victoria exhibit
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A.J. Campbell (1880-1930)

A.J. Campbell exhibit A.J. Campbell exhibit
Source: Museum Victoria
 

These exhibits include stunning photographs and illustrations, curator-narrated videos and in-depth information.

Many of these illustrations come from rare books preserved in our library and, in many cases, accompany the first published descriptions of our unique Australian fauna. The books are available online in their entirety in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a project funded in Australia by the Atlas of Living Australia.

Love is in the air

Author
by Blaire Dobiecki
Publish date
2 February 2015
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Blaire is a Presenter at Melbourne Museum and self-professed dog enthusiast. She specialises in having fun and doing science, often simultaneously.

My opening question when presenting education programs to eager students is 'what’s the best thing you’ve seen today?' The range of answers always astounds me. From the Mamenchisaurus to the Marn Grook, sometimes kids name things that I didn’t even know we had. 

Museum love letter from Tui A love letter from visitor Tui reads 'Dear Dinosaurs, I love your big bones and srong teeth. You are soooo cool. Love Tui'
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Inspired by their answers, I’ve helped develop a weekend program called Museum Love Letters. From 31 January to 22 March, we invite everyone and anyone to write a love letter to their favourite museum object.

Museum love letter from Christine Love letter from Christine reads 'Dear pretty, groovy Luna Park roller coaster carriage, You make me happy just by still existing! Christine xo'
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Perhaps you’d like to tell Phar Lap that you remember visiting him as a child? Maybe you find the Federation Tapestry particularly touching? Is it time to tell the crystalline gypsum how beautiful it is? Now’s your chance!

Visit Melbourne Museum on a weekend to write your message on heart-shaped cards and post them in our special love letter mailbox. Otherwise, post your letter to:

Museum Love Letters
Melbourne Museum
GPO Box 666
Melbourne VIC 3001

Outpourings of love from staff are already rolling in. Here’s part of the letter from Caz in our Humanities department, to Phar Lap:

Love letter to Phar Lap Caz's letter reads, 'I remember the time I walked past your glass stable in the old Swanston Walk Museum, to discover that an anonymous fan had left you some crepe paper carrots on your birthday. Now that is true love!'
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Megan, one of our volunteers, has written to an entire exhibition!

Love letter to Bugs Alive Megan's Ode to Bugs Alive! reads, 'Oh Bugs Alive! I love you so, with your shiny wings + feet. With your hairy, shedding carapaces, you're a creepy, knobbly treat.'
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We will be keeping track of which objects receive letters of love and we’ll update you with the results throughout the program. Don’t forget to share your love letters with us on social media using the hashtag #MelbourneMuseum.

We look forward to reading your letters. There are rumours that the objects themselves may write back! 

About this blog

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

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