MV Blog


Wallace & Gromit competition winners

by Jareen
Publish date
24 December 2012
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A big, cracking thank you to everyone who visited the Wallace & Gromit's World of Invention exhibition at Scienceworks this year. Over 100,000 visitors tinkered inside the exhibition while it was on display from 19 May to 11 November, and just over 15,000 entries were received in the Cracking Ideas Competition.

Our panel of judges, including a representative from Intellectual Property Australia (IP Australia), has selected the lucky winners from the tremendous pool of wildly creative ideas and contraptions we received as part of the competition.

A big congratulations to you, budding inventors! Your prizes are on their way!

The Recycling Robot The Recycling Robot
Image: Millie (5 years old)

• Animal Alive by Isla (5 years old)
• A Hair Machine by Zoe (4 years old)
• Rainbow Slide by Elliot (3 years old)
• Automatic Rooftop Window Cleaning Machine by Juliet (6 years old)
• The Arvi by Oliver (5 years old)
• Clever Night Light by Rohan (6 years old)
• The Recycling Robot by Millie (5 years old)
• The Super Car by James (6 years old)

The Super Car The Super Car
Image: James (6 years old)

Bigger kids
• Memory cap by Ned (8 years old)
• The Super Bed-O-Matic by Ned (7 years old)
• The Perfect House by Ashley (10 years old)
• Mandy Rin by Stephanie (9 years old)
• S.L.T.D.A.R (Stephanie Leonard's Trash Detector and Remover) by Stephanie (10 years old)
• Solar Powered Earmuffs by Phoebe (11 years old)
• The Future Tablet by Tristan (12 years old)
• The Unnecessary Tea Machine by Daniel (11 years old)

Teen kids
• Blue pen with stylus by Sam (16 years old)
• Traffic Jam Jam by Maya (16 years old)
• The "Wake up you lazy git" O-Matic by John (13 years old)
• Aerodynamic Wind Propelled Sustainable Car by Beatrix (14 years old)
• Doggy Seeds by Faith (13 years old)
• The Cup-Caker by Isabella (14 years old)
• The No Drip Cone by Dshamilja (17 years old)
• Giant Mechanical Ozone by Murray (19 years old)

Guinea pig cage mover Guinea pig cage mover
Image: Natalie (39 years old)

Even bigger kids
• Water ladder by Rachael (38 years old)
• Idea-o-matic by Courtney (20 years old)
• Boot with tiny robot legs by Andrew (21 years old)
• Onion eyes by Anna (38 years old)
• Pot-o-gold locate-a-matron by Coralie (34 years old)
• Guinea pig cage mover by Natalie (39 years old)
• Pizza Player by Paul (45 years old)

Wallace & Gromit Wallace & Gromit on the set of the World of Invention TV series.
Source: (c) Aardman Animations Ltd. 2012

P.S. If you're in Sydney over the summer, don't miss seeing the Wallace & Gromit's World of Invention exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum too.


IP Australia

Casting for the Great Melbourne Telescope

by Matilda Vaughan
Publish date
21 December 2012
Comments (1)

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.

Last week I visited a foundry in Melbourne that was casting a vital component for our restoration of the Great Melbourne Telescope. The original part of the telescope - the declination disc - had been modified and broken at some time in its history and was not repairable.

Great Melbourne Telescope in 1870 The Great Melbourne Telescope in its own house at the Melbourne Observatory, 1870. The red arrow points to the declination disc needing replacement.
Source: Museum Victoria

This is the first part of the project to be made by a sand moulding or casting process very similar to that which was used in Ireland in the late 1860s. Our modern part is made from a type of cast iron invented in the 1940s which has magnesium added to give it properties that make it easier to shape. The electric induction furnace, which is used to melt the metal, was developed in the early 20th century.

A couple of weeks ago, Peter made a pattern out of wood for the casting. Tom next used the pattern to form a hollow in a sand mould. This kind of mould is a mixture of washed sand and a binder, made in two halves, and cured to retain its shape once the pattern is removed. The two halves of the mould were then closed, after a pouring spout, flow paths and risers (to allow the metal to flow to and fill all sections of the hollow) were added. Heavy weights on top ensured it remained closed when the metal was poured.

Man working with metal The sparks fly as Bryn takes a sample from the furnace for temperature testing.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

The pounded earth floor and the filtered light through the open doorways and skylights in the roof of the foundry transported me back in time. It was 7 AM and Bryn had already been awake for hours and the sparking pot of molten metal (spheroidal graphite iron) was his morning's labour. He tested its temperature and composition, turned the knob of the electric induction furnace's control panel, and gave the signal. After the removal of the slag crust, the metal was ready for pouring.

Man pouring molten metal Bryn pours the molten metal into the next mould as Tom looks on. Our filled mould is on the floor behind them.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

Bryn added the final ingredients and carefully tipped the 1500°C molten metal into the pre-heated ladle. He then transported the ladle to the moulding area and poured it first into our waiting mould, and then onto the other smaller moulds. Being such a large casting, ours needed almost 24 hours to cool down before breaking open the mould.

Sand mould in workshop The lower half of the sand mould, with the casting removed. The sand from the top half is in pieces in the background. The sand will be cleaned and reused, as will the molten scraps of metal.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

At 6 AM the following morning, Bryn was ready to break open the mould. The weights were removed and the upper part of the mould lifted away. Then the casting itself was lifted into the air and the sand and metal debris removed. It was then transported by the overhead mobile crane to the finishing room, where the hardened parts of the spout, risers and flow paths were ground and knocked off and the surfaces cleaned.

Men with newly cast metal pieces Bryn (left) with the pattern for our declination disc, and Tom (right) with the freshly removed casting. Note the four cylindrical 'risers' at the edge, the pouring pathways (almost like a running person) in the middle and the square shaped pouring spout (head of the running person). These pieces are reused for the next batch of metal.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

The next step for this part will be heat treatment to 'relax' the metal, followed by the final shaping and machining. It is a rare sight to see this process so close in our urban environment and one of the great aspects to working on restoration projects of this magnitude.


Great Melbourne Telescope website

Great Melbourne Telescope on Collections Online

Redmap Australia launched

by Di Bray
Publish date
13 December 2012
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Di is Senior Collections Manager in our Sciences Department and is absolutely passionate about the amazing and unique fishes found in our waters.

Museum Victoria staff are involved in a fantastic citizen science project that's taking a giant nationwide leap from its starting point in Tasmania. With today's launch of the Redmap Australia website, the community is being asked to look out for unusual occurrences of species in the seas around Australia. These community sightings will help reveal if fishes and other marine species are shifting their ranges with the changing climate.

Man holding a fish A Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) caught away from its usual range along Tasmania's east coast and logged on Redmap.
Image: Scott Johnston
Source: Redmap

The website, also known as the Range Extension Database and Mapping Project, began in Tasmania in 2009. Already Tasmanian fishers and divers have logged hundreds of unusual sightings including Eastern Rock Lobster, Southern Maori Wrasse and King George Whiting, all spotted further south than usual.

  Southern Maori Wrasse Southern Maori Wrasse (Ophthalmolepis lineolatus) are uncommon in Tasmanian waters but more and more are being reported to Redmap along the north and north-east coasts of Tasmania. This one was snapped by diver Emma Flukes off the coast of St Helens.
Image: Emma Flukes
Source: Redmap

Yellowtail Kingfish Large schools of Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) are being spotted in south-east Tasmanian seas, further south of their usual marine postcode.
Image: Mick Baron
Source: Redmap

Redmap founder, Dr Gretta Pecl, is a senior marine scientist at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania. She says Redmap "taps into the knowledge - and eyes - of thousands of fishers, divers and swimmers to track changes in fish distributions in Australia's vast coastal waters." Some three or four million Australians go fishing or diving at least once a year.

The Redmap website encourages members to share photos and anecdotes about turtles, octopus, lobsters, corals, seaweeds, urchins, prawns and marine mammals. A network of marine scientists around the country will review each photo to verify the species' identity and ensure high-quality data. Redmap aims to become not only a continental-scale range-shift monitoring program along Australia's vast coastline, but also engages Australians with marine issues using their own data.

Some seas along the Australian coast are warming at three to four times the global average. We're not sure how species will react to warmer waters - some may adapt, others may search for new habitats, while others may disappear. New arrivals of some species, especially recreational fishes, may actually benefit some communities. Understanding the movement of other species of marine pests may help minimise the risks to ecosystems or fisheries. In Victoria, fishers and divers have already been telling us about rare or uncommon fishes they've seen - including Blue Groper, Cobia, Rock Blackfish and Spotted Grubfish. Gathering sightings over time will show if these species are simply seasonal migrants, one-off visitors, or are here to stay.

Blue Groper Victorian diver and Redmap member Mary Malloy has been seeing more Western Blue Groper (Achoerodus gouldii) over the past decade around Queenscliff and Barwon Heads.
Image: Mary Malloy
Source: Mary Malloy

I'm the coordinator of Redmap VIC and the MV team includes Martin Gomon, Julian Finn, Erich Fitzgerald and Kate Charlton-Robb. Although we'll officially be tracking some 35 species in Victoria through the Redmap project - such as octopus, Greynurse Sharks, Harlequin Fish, Striped Marlin, whales and dolphins - we're very keen to hear of sightings of other rare or uncommon species seen along our coast. You can get involved by becoming a Redmap member, signing up for the quarterly newsletter, liking Redmap on Facebook, and logging unusual marine life at

Twelve twelve twelve

by Blair
Publish date
12 December 2012
Comments (12)

Everyone’s talking today about it being the 12th of December 2012. Or in brief, 12/12/12. You don’t have to be a mathematician, statistician or biometrician to like it when dates align into cool patterns.

pair of silver sandals Shoes for a 12/12 party! The donor, Christabel Mattingley, wore these at her wedding on 12 December 1953. (SH 940382)
Source: Museum Victoria

I discovered that we have a staff member with a birthday today. That probably doesn’t sound too special because if you remember anything from first year statistics at uni, you'll know it only takes a room of 20 or 30 people to have a pretty high chance of two of them having the same birthday (see the birthday problem on Wikipedia if you like probability theory).

Postcard showing men with telescope Gents from the Royal Society of Victoria setting up their 12" reflectro telescope at Cape York to observe the solar eclipse of 12 December 1871. This is one of ten postcards printed to mark the occasion. (MM 98903)
Source: Museum Victoria

But it gets better. The person whose birthday it is today here, is turning 12 plus 12 plus 12 years old. Now that is cool: turning 12+12+12 on the 12/12/12! I’m not sure whether or not this means the person will self-destruct with all those twelves. Whatever it means, today is the last time this century that the day, month and year will align in numbers, which seemed reason enough to write a blog post celebrating this auspicious date, and to publish it at exactly 12:12 PM. 

Cover of menu with picture of ancient ruin Cover of the lunch menu served on 12 December 1951 on board the MN Neptunia. The passengers feasted on soups, hot and cold mains, side dishes, dessert, fruit, cheese and coffee. (HT 1556)
Source: Museum Victoria

The luck of the Irish

by Jo
Publish date
8 December 2012
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November 18th 2012 saw the Irish come together once again at the Immigration Museum. The Immigration Museum festivals are always well received by the community involved and the community at large, and the Irish festival was certainly no exception.

Doors opened at 10am, and the queue began shortly after! There was a formal welcome and opening from Mr Leo Varadkar TD, Ireland's Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and HE Noel White, Ambassador of Ireland.

The view outside the Immigration Mueusem The queue patiently waiting outside the Immigration Museum for the Irish Festival
Image: Tatiana Mauri
Source: Tatiana Mauri

There was singing and there was dancing, and there was more singing! The Irish Language Association Choir hypnotised us with their amazing sound and the Lake School of Celtic Music, Song and Dance performed to a packed courtyard. No Irish festival is complete without an Irish jig, and Christine Ayers School for Irish Dancing performed the honours.

Irish dancers Some of the Irish dancers who performed for the crowds at the Irish Festival
Image: Tatiana Mauri
Source: Tatiana Mauri

Inside, there were tea and biscuits made by Comhaltas and the Lake School of Celtic Music, Song and Dance (they certainly were busy!). Upstairs there were craft activities for the children, making family trees or glittery Claddagh crowns. There were various representatives from the Irish community throughout the museum giving out information about organisations and associations celebrating all things Irish.

The crowd enjoying the performance on the Main Stage The crowd outside enjoying one of the many performances at the Irish Festival
Image: Tatiana Mauri
Source: Tatiana Mauri

The Immigration Discovery Centre hosted a family history workshop with Phillip Moore from the Celtic Club's Cultural Heritage Committee and the Immigration Museum shop was selling Irish treats to our visitors.

Of course P J O'Brien's made an appearance - Although they didn't bring the Guinness, they did bring the some delicious treats for our visitors, as did Paddy's Meats. All of this was complemented with the amazing and moving exhibition, Leaving Dublin.

One of the performances for the Irish Festival Crowds enjoying one of the many performaces for the Irish Festival at the Immigration Museum
Image: Tatiana Mauri
Source: Tatiana Mauri

The success of a festival day can be seen in the faces of our visitors and the crowds patiently waiting on Flinders Street to come in and enjoy the festivities. We had so much fun that we thought we'd do it again. KidsFest in January 2013 will have an Irish theme, so if you missed the Irish Festival, check out KidsFest! More details can be found here.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
7 December 2012
Comments (2)

Yesterday we heard the sad news of the death of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, an enthusiastic supporter of Museum Victoria who always took a keen interest in the Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum and Scienceworks. As recently as September this year I received a letter on her behalf thanking me for sending her the Museum's magazine, Six Months, and commenting on the wide range of activities and projects described in it.

  Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Dame Elisabeth at the launch of Ancient Hampi at the Immigration Museum in 2008.
Source: Museum Victoria

I first met Dame Elisabeth shortly after I took up my post as CEO of Museum Victoria in 2002. Harold Mitchell, then President of the Museums Board of Victoria, had written to inform her of my appointment. She asked to see me and we met in my office. It was immediately apparent that I was in the presence of a formidable but charming woman, who immediately put me at ease by saying how much she wanted to meet "another Greene". She revealed that her maiden name was Greene, and told me about her grandfather who had arrived from Ireland to work as an engineer for Victorian Railways. One of his many projects was the construction of the viaduct that carries the lines into Flinders Street Station. She gleefully told me that The Age had at the time described it as 'Greene's Folly' and her pride that more than a century later it was still performing its task so well – some 'folly!'

A notable occasion was the celebration of the museum's 150th anniversary in 2004 which took place in the Royal Exhibition Building with Dame Elisabeth as the guest of honour. Harold Mitchell discovered that her birthday was just a few days away and spontaneously asked the army trumpeter to play Happy Birthday, which all the guests joined in singing.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Dame Elisabeth arriving at Harold Mitchell's farewell party in 2008.
Source: Museum Victoria

Dame Elisabeth was renowned for her warmth, her ability to remember names and of course her philanthropy. I spoke at a Philanthropy Australia event held in her honour about her contribution to Museum Victoria's activities and was amazed at the range of other causes that she supported. She was a very special person who made a considerable contribution to Victoria.

About this blog

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