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.

The bountiful Mallee

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
17 December 2014
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In Bugs Alive! you can see almost 50 displays of live invertebrates. Most of them from either tropical or arid parts of Australia, illustrating the adaptations needed for living in extreme environments.

Blue butterfly and bee fly resting on grass stems Sleeping beauties, clothed in condensation in the early hours of the morning. | Left: Common Grass Blue (Zizina labradus) Right: A bee fly (Family Bombyliidae)
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So each year, when the weather conditions are right, we head out to the Mallee to boost our stocks of insects and spiders. The best time to visit is on a hot, humid night—which happened last week—just before or just after a thunderstorm. Like most desert species, Mallee insects wait months for the rain and then emerge from the spinifex in their thousands.

Two people in arid landscape Chloe Miller and Maik Fiedel searching through typical Mallee habitat.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

At night the desert resonates with the songs of katydids, the loudest of which come from Robust Fan-winged Katydids (Psacadonotus robustus). Unfortunately the fat abdomen of this dun-coloured species is often host to the larvae of tachinid flies (family Tachinidae). These parasites feed on the internal organs before emerging from the katydid which dies soon afterwards.

Brown katydid grasshopper A male Robust Fan-winged Katydid (Psacadonotus robustus).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Most katydid species are surprisingly colourful, sporting bright greens, blues and reds.

Three katydid grasshoppers Left: Female Striped Polichne (Polichne argentata); Centre: The undescribed ‘Mystery Hump-backed Katydid’ (Elephantodea species); Right: The unfortunately-named Victorian Sluggish Katydid (Hemisaga lanceolata).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

One of our prime targets is Mitchell’s Cockroach (Polyzosteria mitchelli) which we breed at Melbourne Museum off-display, perhaps the most beautiful cockroach in Australia. With its golden markings and eggshell-blue legs, this species is one of more than 500 native cockroaches that are rarely seen by the average Australian but which are extremely important in native ecosystems. They shouldn’t be confused with the five or so introduced cockroach species that infest our houses–native cockroaches are happy in the bush and almost never come inside.

colourful cockroach A female Mitchell’s Cockroach (Polyzosteria mitchelli)
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The desert seems to wake up after a rainstorm, with unexpected species such as snails and damselflies making an appearance.

Damselfly and group of snails Left: A female Metallic Ringtail damselfly (Austrolestes cingulatus). Right: Tiny desert snails (Microxeromagma lowei) living under bark.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Wolf spiders are the dominant ground species, their emerald eyes shining in the torchlight. This male wolf spider (below) was seen halfway down a burrow and was difficult to distract until we discovered the source of his interest—a large female wolf spider at the bottom of the burrow.

Wolf spider and burrow Left: A male wolf spider (LycosaRight: Close-up of the male.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Little Desert, Big Desert, Sunset Country and Hattah-Kulkyne each have their own distinct habitats and faunas, just a few hours’ drive from Melbourne.

Landscape with blue sky The endless sky and flat horizon of the Mallee region.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Dinorama ready for summer

Author
by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
12 December 2014
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Museum Victoria’s Senior Palaeontologist, Dr Tom Rich, says ‘most people don’t realise that Victoria looked completely different 120 million years ago. If you wanted to you could walk all the way to Antarctica. The vegetation was lush and green. During the winter, it was dark all day. This was the world of the polar dinosaurs that once roamed Victoria.’

It's a world that we're recreating in miniature through our Dinorama – a diorama of the rift valley in southeastern Australia during the Cretaceous period. Our preparators drew from the work of the museum’s palaeontologists and key artists, such as Dr Rich and Peter Trusler, to model the ancient landscape from styrofoam.

Two men in workshop Preparators Kim Haines and Brendon Taylor survey and discuss their progress on the Dinorama.
Image: Adrienne Leith
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Man building a diorama in a workshop Kim Haines sanding the waterways of the diorama.
Image: Adrienne Leith
Source: Museum Victoria

Man painting diorama in workshop Brendon Taylor putting the final touches on the diorama.
Image: Adrienne Leith
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The preps sanded and painted the diorama to create the detailed waterways of the valley. Preparator Brendon Taylor also painted a backboard to show the sky and give the diorama depth.

Apart from adding the last touches of some vegetation, the diorama is now ready for the foyer in anticipation of our summer holiday program. Come to Melbourne Museum in the summer holidays to help populate the Dinorama with miniature animals from the period. 

The Dinorama activity will run daily from 11am to 3pm from 26 December to 27 January.

Links:

MV Blog: Dinosaur diorama

School Holiday activities at Melbourne Museum

Farewell Stella

Author
by Priscilla Gaff
Publish date
9 December 2014
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Priscilla is a Program Coordinator for Life Sciences and works on education programs at Melbourne Museum.

Stella Young and I both started working at the museum in the same week, back in 2007. I’d come from a small team of five to the large beast that is ‘the museum’, and I was thrilled to make a new best buddy in week one.

Stella Young Stella in the museum office, showcasing her stylish new glasses, 2009.
Image: Murphy Peoples
Source: Murphy Peoples
 

We instantly knew we were one anothers' people. We bonded over our excitement to be working at the museum, and over our love of working with the children, families, and schools who visited. We’d both studied education at uni, and loved debriefing and deconstructing our interactions with the students – and in particular about the funny things the children would say. But my story of friendship with Stella isn’t unique; it wasn’t long before everyone in the museum knew her too. Her charm, her wit, her style, her intelligence and her warmth, not to mention her ‘naughty knits’ for sale at the Christmas Staff Market, drew us all into her. And we all loved working with her.

Stella Young at craft stall Stella Young with her naughty knits hidden behind the red curtain, museum staff Christmas craft market, 2009.
Image: Murphy Peoples
Source: Murphy Peoples
 

Stella – you were a dear friend to us all. You challenged us, changed us, you left the museum a better place. We missed you when you left us for the ABC, but you stayed in touch, and we knew that your new job gave you an amazing platform for your passion and talents.

Three performers Museum Comedy tour guides Ben MacKenzie, Kate McLennnan and Stella Young, 2011.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We never stopped thinking of you as one of us, and we shall miss you terribly.

Before joining the ABC, Stella was based at Melbourne Museum where she was a Programs Officer for over three years. During her time at the museum Stella was a fantastic communicator, terrific work colleague, passionate educator and a great friend to many current and former staff members. We send our profound condolences to her family and friends.

Dinosaur diorama

Author
by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
18 November 2014
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Comments (1)

Adrienne creates and presents public programs at Melbourne Museum.

Imagine a Victorian Cretaceous rift valley complete with river bed, trees and a suite of prehistoric animals. Now imagine it recreated in miniature in a classic museum diorama: the DINORAMA!

Displayed in front of the Forest Gallery, the Dinorama will be the feature activity of our summer school holidays at Melbourne Museum. We're inviting visitors to make thousands of Cretaceous animals to fill the little landscape with life.

model of dinosaur Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei was a horned dinosaur, fossils of which were found at Kilcunda. Kim Haines made this tiny version.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In consultation with our palaeontologists, our preparators made miniatures of three animals—Koolasuchus cleelandi, Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei and Qantassaurus intrepidus—that lived in Victoria approximately 120 million years ago. From the models, the preparators make moulds…. and from the moulds, summer visitors can create thousands of little beasts from modelling clay.

model of dinosaur Michael Pennell's model of Koolasuchus cleelandi, a three-metre-long predator that lived in and around fast-flowing cold streams. Fossils of Koolasuchus were were found on the coast of Victoria just east of Phillip Island.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Every couple of days we'll bring out a new colour of clay until we have a Dinorama filled with multi-coloured ancient animals. Our school holiday activities start on 26 December, so keep an eye on the Melbourne Museum foyer after then.

modelling a dinosaur Inverloch was the discovery site of Qantassurus intrepidus, a small herbivorous hypsilophodontid with large eyes for foraging in long polar winters. Brendon Taylor created this model. You can see an animatronic Qantassaurus in the 600 Million Years exhibition.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

WWI honour boards - can you help?

Author
by Deb Tout-Smith
Publish date
10 November 2014
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Comments (1)

Deb is a senior curator in MV's Humanities department. She was the lead curator of WWI: Love & Sorrow.

In the wake of the tragic experience of World War I, thousands of honour boards, memorials and cenotaphs were made to remember those who served and died. They were commissioned by many organisations including community groups, schools, employers, government departments and agencies. Those which survive today are increasingly significant as testaments to community experience and the need to create lasting memorials in the face of nationwide grief and loss.

Honour board inscribed with soldier names Honour Board - Kildonan Presbyterian Homes for Children, World War I, circa 1920 (SH 901000)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), in collaboration with Museum Victoria, is seeking information on World War I honour boards commemorating the military service of members of the Victorian public sector. The CPSU hopes to compile information about surviving public sector honour boards and support the preservation of these boards for future generations. If you know of any, perhaps in your own workplace, please contact the CPSU on ww1@cpsuvic.org.

Another significant honour board is currently on display at Melbourne Museum’s moving new exhibition WWI: Love & Sorrow.

Timber honour board inscribed with soldier names Honour Board - Associated Stock & Station Agents of Melbourne, circa 1920 (HT 33129)
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This board was made around 1920 to commemorate the service of workers at the Associated Stock and Station Agents of Melbourne, which was closely linked to the Newmarket Saleyards. It was donated to Museum Victoria by the Yarra Glen Returned Services League (RSL) Sub Branch.

If you can provide any information about the people named on the board, please contact our  Discovery Centre.

Beetle back from the dead

Author
by Ken Walker
Publish date
15 October 2014
Comments
Comments (2)

Ken is our Senior Curator of Entomology.

On Monday last week, live images of an attractive Australian lady beetle popped up on the BowerBird citizen science website photographed west of Portland, Victoria. The photographer recorded seeing more than 50 beetle specimens in a small swampy area.

beetle Micraspis flavovittata ladybird beetle photographed in October 2014.
Image: Reiner Richter
Source: CC BY 3.0 AU
 

There is a wonderful CSIRO lady beetle website with a gallery of images for all known extant Australian species, however we were unable to match the photo to any in this gallery. So we sent the BowerBird images to the Canberra scientist who created the website. His initial reaction was to doubt the veracity of the locality data as he claimed this was not an Australian species. I reconfirmed the Australian locality with the photographer so we began to wonder if this was an invasive species.

The images were then forwarded to the world lady beetle expert at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London. We received news on Friday night from Roger at the NHM that this is a species "back from the dead". A species not seen or recorded for more than a 50 year period is considered to be extinct. There are only 4 known specimens of this species in collections (2 at the NHM and 2 at Museum Victoria) - the last specimen was collected in 1940!

Micraspis flavovittata Micraspis flavovittata beetle
Image: Reiner Richter
Source: CC BY 3.0 AU
 

This is indeed an Australian species, Micraspis flavovittata (Crotch, 1874). I remember we once had an exhibition at the museum called Extinction is forever…. and so it is, until someone finds it again! The only known localities of this species were Narbethong and Kallista so the Portland location is well west of these previous records.

Many people contend that the best citizen science projects are those in collaboration with professional scientists. Personally, I love the serendipity of citizen science discovery alone.

Links:

BowerBird

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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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