Royal Exhibition Building

DISPLAYING POSTS FILED UNDER: Royal Exhibition Building (17)

Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition Building is one of the world's oldest remaining exhibition pavilions. Gloriously restored and still used for exhibitions, it was the first building in Australia to achieve a World Heritage listing.

A golden morning

Author
by Nicole D
Publish date
29 January 2011
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Have you ever looked down at the footpath in Melbourne's CBD and wondered about those 20cm round bronze plaques that seem to lead a trail through the city? Well, they are the path of the Golden Mile Heritage Trail. This walking tour explores Melbourne's buildings, laneways, streets, characters and history from its beginnings through to modern times. And, on a beautiful sunny Melbourne morning last week, I went to discover what it was all about!

The tour started at Federation Square, on the intersection of Swanston and Flinders Streets, one of Melbourne's liveliest spots for over 150 years. Our tour guide set the scene for the rest of the walk, describing the history of the buildings around us. From the 1852 gold rush era St Paul's Cathedral on one corner to the famous Young & Jackson's pub of 1861 opposite; from the Federation era opulence of Flinders Street Station of 1910, to the ultra contemporary public spaces of Federation Square, this intersection provides a physical snapshot of the city's history.

Sandridge Bridge Sandridge Bridge
Image: Nicole Davis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We next walked along the Yarra talking about how Melbourne was built up around this spot from its beginnings as an Aboriginal meeting place to the coming of Europeans to today. We chatted about some of the characters in the city's early history, such as John Batman, John Pascoe Fawkner and Robert Hoddle, and how they shaped the city. Our guide also pointed out interesting sites like the outlet for the creek that runs under Elizabeth Street and the Sandridge Bridge. This Bridge was originally a railway bridge and was the line that took immigrant passengers from Port Melbourne to Flinders Street Station before embarking on a new life in Australia. Now a pedestrian bridge, its sculptures and text panels explore the waves of people,from Melbourne's Indigenous inhabitants onward who have crossed the river on this spot.

Immigration Museum was next, where the tour officially starts. I turned tour guide for a few minutes, guiding our guide through the Immigration Discovery Centre and explaining what we do here.

We then meandered through some of my favourite sites in Melbourne - its laneways! I got to pop my head inside the Mitre Tavern and found out the fascinating history of the Savage Club, plus discovered a new spot I hadn't previously known about and will definitely be popping back to. Rutherglen House is an 1850s bluestone residence/warehouse located on Highlander Lane. Today it's still a private residence!

After our little laneway exploration, we wandered up Collins Street discussing the progress of Marvellous Melbourne and the boom and bust of the 1880s to 1890s. Despite the many modern office blocks that I always feel characterise Collins Street, there are actually a surprising number of buildings from the 1870s to 1900 period that survive. There are some fabulous opulent buildings like the Gothic ANZ bank building on the corner of Elizabeth Street and the adjoining Stock Exchange. I also really enjoyed seeing the way the 1890s Rialto and Winfield buildings have been incorporated into the Intercontinental Hotel and Rialto Towers.

Rialto Building from Collins Street Rialto Building from Collins Street
Image: Nicole Davis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The tour ended another hour later with some of Melbourne's famous arcades: the Block Arcade from the 1890s; Howey Place, next to which the famous Cole's Book Arcade was once located; and the controversial Capitol Arcade, developed in the 1960s.

As you can see the tour was densely packed and I could write reams on more of the great stories that our guide had to impart. He was amazingly knowledgeable, gave fabulous detailed accounts, and brought to life Melbourne's history for me. Most of all, he answered my constant questions with good grace and love of his subject. As a student of urban history, it was a fascinating insight and a great opportunity to talk with someone who had an in-depth knowledge of these places. If you want to get to know Melbourne, whether you're a visitor or a local, I highly recommend going on one of these walking tours.

 

Planting the sustainable garden

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
20 January 2011
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From the 1950s to 2009, the western forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building was an asphalt car park - useful, but hardly befitting the World Heritage classification of the site. Certainly there was no trace of the ornamental garden planted there for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

 

Cue World Heritage, World Futures: a major project that began in October 2009. Funding for this project was provided form the Victorian Property Fund on the approval of the Minister for Consumer Affairs.

The project's three phases: excavation of the site to recover artefacts from the original 1880s garden, installation of an enormous rainwater storage tank, and restoration of the heritage garden and circular drive - are almost complete. 

Landscapers have installed the watering system and are now preparing the ground for planting. Within the next month the project will be finished and a beautiful water-wise garden will return to Rathdowne Street.

Watering system laid out at REB This extensive watering system will use the water from the new rainwater storage tank to ensure the garden stay lush and green sustainably.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So keep an eye on the final flurry of activity behind those purple hoardings this month; the World Heritage, World Futures blog contains posts on the project's progress from the very beginning if you'd like to know more.

Hoardings around the REB Hoardings around the project building site with a glimpse of the restored circular driveway.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Royal Exhibition Building

World Heritage, World Futures

REB in your pocket

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
23 December 2010
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The cafe at Melbourne Museum is full of staff each morning seeking a caffeine hit at the start of their workday. This morning, web developer Reuben held out a shiny twenty cent piece, delighted. "Look what I got in my change!"

  REB 20 cent piece Centenary of Federation commemorative twenty cent piece with the Royal Exhibition Building in the background.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

According to the Royal Australian Mint, this coin was designed by Ryan Douglas Ladd and Mark Aaron Kennedy of Lara Lake Primary School as part of a student design competition. It portrays our own Royal Exhibition Building which hosted the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament, since it was the only building in Melbourne with the capacity to hold the 12,000 people in attendance. After this first gathering on 9 May 1901, the newly-formed Federal Government sat in Melbourne until the opening of Parliament House in Canberra on 9 May, 1927.

As we sat in the shadow of the Royal Exhibition Building this morning, we couldn't resist a picture of Reuben's twenty cents alongside its inspiration. 2.9 million of these coins were minted so check your pocket; you too may have a little piece of World Heritage among your small change!

Links:

Old Parliament House (now site of the Museum of Australian Democracy)

Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament of Australia

Numismatics on Collections Online

Twycross the big spender

Author
by Charlotte Smith
Publish date
30 November 2010
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Comments (2)

This guest post is by Charlotte Smith, Senior Curator, Public & Institutional Life, who is in Paris researching the John Twycross 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Building Collection for an upcoming book. This collection comprises 175 exquisite decorative arts objects purchased by wealthy wool merchant John Twycross at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

Detail from the plan of the French Court Detail from the plan of the French Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.
Image: C. Smith
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I thought my finds last Friday at the Archives Nationales de Paris were pretty impressive – floor plans of the French courts, showing where each exhibitor was located, with a key – but today things got even better. I uncovered a document titled Section des Beaux-Arts. Oeuvres vendues a Melbourne [translation: Fine Art Section. Artworks sold in Melbourne]. The document is a list of 47 artworks. It describes the artist, title of work, purchaser and purchase price. What is really exciting for my research is John Twycross is mentioned eight times!

A record of purchases from the French Court. A record of purchases from the French Court. Twycross is listed third from the top.
Image: C. Smith
Source: Museum Victoria
 

He spent £806, the equivalent to a little over $63,000 today. While we don't have these paintings in the Twycross Collection, knowing more of what John purchased at the exhibition is really exciting, and adds to our understanding of the scope of the collection he amassed at the 1880 Exhibition.

Accompanying documents describe how artworks could be purchased from the French Court; one had to go to the French Consulate office on Collins Street between 10 and 4 on weekdays, where a clerk was always 'ready to give the prices asked for such paintings by the artists'.

Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower in Paris was built for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. This was one in a series of World's Fairs that included the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The tradition of World's Fairs took off after the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.
Image: C. Smith
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links

The Twycross Collection

The 1880 and 1888 International Exhibitions

Royal Exhibition Builidng: Site of two World Fairs

Time-lapse at the REB

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
23 November 2010
Comments
Comments (1)

After months of work to excavate artefacts, dig an enormous hole, pour a rainwater tank that will hold over a million litres of water and cover it up again, the very last stage of the World Heritage, World Futures project is underway. We've been recording time-lapse footage for most of the project. This video shows work on the donut-shaped driveway on two days in November.

The workers and machinery look tinier than usual with of a bit of tweaking to create a tilt-shift effect. It's a simple trick that changes which area looks sharp and which area looks blurry, and suddenly it looks like a miniature world.

I can't wait to see that area planted out! It's been covered by asphalt car park for decades, then hidden behind purple construction hoardings more recently. 

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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