MV Blog

DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Jul 2011 (16)

Winning photo

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
18 July 2011
Comments
Comments (4)

A photograph by museum entomologist Dr Ken Walker has just won a coveted place in the annual international Leica calendar. In 2012, the company’s calendar will feature microscope photographs, and Leica put out a call for entries. Ken’s photograph of the head of a tiny, undescribed lichen moth in the genus Chamaita (family Arctiidae) was one of 12 selected.

male lichen moth The winning photograph of the head of a male lichen moth.
Image: Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The photograph, as well as being incredibly beautiful, is an important diagnostic tool.  This species is a pest in palm plantations in New West Britain, Papua New Guinea. To assist those who need to identify it, the species has its own page , featuring the winning photograph and others, on PaDIL (Pests and Diseases Image Library).

Says Ken, "It’s a great recognition for the photographic skills we have developed here over the past six years to have an image to be used in the high-quality calendar." The competition was open to anyone using Leica microscope and camera equipment; the prize is a Leica EZ4 dissecting microscope. This prize will go right back into PaDIL’s suite of specialist technical equipment to create more photographs like this one.

Links:

PaDIL

Speed mentoring

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
14 July 2011
Comments
Comments (3)

Astronomy is all about looking outward; discovering and piecing together exactly what makes up our Universe. And let's face it, there's a really big Universe out there and in cosmic terms it can make us feel pretty insignificant.

But this July, that changed a little. During the annual scientific meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA), held at the University of Adelaide, I organised a session that encouraged astronomers to turn their focus inwards.

  astronomers speed mentoring Astronomers spend time sharing their personal experiences and expertise.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Yes, something strange was going on in this lecture theatre - we called it "Speed Meet a Mentor". The idea was to shuffle through as many conversations as time allowed, so attendees were asked to just use the seats near each aisle for easy mobility.

As the organiser of the event, I was amazed that once people had taken a seat and were paired off, the conversations just started to flow. I had put together a list of conversation starters, which seemed to do the trick. There was no reason to fear that people wouldn't know where to begin - in the end, I didn't even need to explain how it was going to work!

"Speed Meet a Mentor" was an idea that came out of a highly successful workshop organised by the ASA's Women in Astronomy Chapter. The workshop was designed to highlight issues faced by women during their career. But in turn, it generated discussions and ideas that could benefit the whole astronomical community, like this one.

The event was very successful with around 70 people attending. Many of the mentors signed up early, while there was a flood of students at the last minute. The feedback was positive: it was fun and worthwhile. Many even said they would have liked it to have gone longer than the 45 minutes we had stolen from the day's lunch break.

I know the importance of mentoring and am passionate about providing opportunities for people to develop and further their careers by gaining insights from others. I hope that this little experiment may have sparked some new possibilities for learning from each other.

And I must say, many thanks to the Museum's own Dr Andi who has been running such events for many years and offered some much appreciated advice and expertise. It was fun to see my impromptu idea become a reality.

BHL launch

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
14 July 2011
Comments
Comments (8)

The Australian node of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is now live!

BHL is a project started by a consortium of American and English museums and herbaria that wanted to make historical biodiversity texts available online. These important books and journals are scanned, uploaded to the Internet Archive, and made available through the first BHL website. It's especially useful to scientists needing historical information about species, distributions and taxonomy, but it's also a fascinating site for anyone interested in natural history or rare books. Museum Victoria is managing the Australian part of the project in conjunction with the Atlas of Living Australia.

Since late last year, MV Online Developer Michael Mason has been creating a mirror site of the USA/UK original, ready to receive scans of Australian books later this year. At present, the Australian site provides everything the original site provides but with a different interface. "We started with the US model and changed the appearance and some parts of the functionality," says Michael.

Michael Mason Online developer Michael Mason.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The first difference you'll notice is the local influence; the page is adorned with beautiful illustrations of Australian wildlife by Gould and Australian books are featured. Michael has also worked with designer Simon O'Shea to overhaul the way the book viewer looks and works to make it more user-friendly.

Screenshot of BHL Biodiversity Heritage Library Australia website.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

At present, the 34,596,227 pages in the BHL-Australian node come from libraries in US institutions so there is plenty of Australian content yet to be added. First off the rank in this national project are some of the in-house journals that have already been scanned by other museums including those of the Queensland Museum and the Western Australian Museum. Museum Victoria, with new book-scanning equipment, will be leading the development of new scanning projects starting with the complete archive of Memoirs of Museum Victoria containing the first scientific descriptions of many Victorian animal species. This will be very handy for biologists worldwide who don't have ready access to hard copies of this journal. Later on, rare books from MV and the libraries of other Australian institutions will be scanned and uploaded.

The high-quality scans are not just useful, but often quite beautiful. You get the whole book – covers, library labels, marbled endpapers and marks of age – not just the text within. Michael's favourites are the 1600s books in Latin with fantastical illustrations. "You'd never get to see these in a library, they're too fragile and valuable," he says. BHL puts these wonderful books in the hands of anyone.

Links

Biodiversity Heritage Library Australia

Biodiversity Heritage Library

MV News: BHL visitors

School holiday programs

Author
by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
13 July 2011
Comments
Comments (3)

Adrienne is a Senior Programs Officer at Melbourne Museum. Adrienne, David, Bernard, Tim, Beth, Alexandra, Lisa and Sonia can be found in the Mysteries of the Nile room these winter school holidays. Come visit!

Where do you find six kilometres of antique gold thread? 9,000 fake jewels? A printing company that embosses gold onto paper and is affordable? Egyptian palm trees? How do you make ancient Egyptian costumes when they really wore very little?

Being a materials expert and quantity surveyor should be on the job description for Programs Officers who develop and deliver the school holiday programs at Melbourne Museum. Once the team has done the fun bit of thinking up what will be educational and fun, it’s a nail biting time searching for materials, doing lots of calculations, working with designers, talking to suppliers, writing requisitions, praying for timely arrivals of the orders, training our wonderful volunteers and communicating to everyone else what’s coming up. And that’s before the holidays begin.

D-day arrives. Or is that H-day? From the start of the holiday period, there are day-by-day questions – will we run out of anything? Should we reorder and when? Can we afford it? Why are so many people turning up? Why is that little girl back again – wasn’t she in just yesterday? (How many pendants has she actually made so far?)

Sonia's pendants Beautifully coloured and bejewelled pharaoh pectoral pendants made by holiday program participants.
Image: David Perkins
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Last holidays our visitors made 7,000 postcards. In summer, 11,650 earth capsules. We’re planning on 9,000 pharaoh pectoral pendants being made these holidays. And for every 3 – 12 year old that makes a pendant, there will also be grandparents, prams and babies, mums and dads, big sisters and brothers, all  in the school holiday program space. The Mysteries of the Nile room is packed, with kids busy writing hieroglyphs and creating their pendants, donning costumes and posing Egyptian style, reading books and playing games, watching a mummification show and even wrestling Nile crocodiles.

Kids in holiday program Kids enjoying the school holiday program.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Is it worth it? Do we love it? More importantly, do they love it? We’ve been asking people what they think. “We come here every school holidays at least once because the kids love doing these activities. They are just great”.  They can reel off all of the things they’ve made in the past few years and it’s satisfying to hear. “What you’ve done is provide people with something to do, somewhere to sit if you need to be quiet, a fun corner for costumes and an educational show”. The parents 'get it’ and the kids love it.

Links:

Melbourne Museum school holiday programs

Immigration Museum school holiday programs

Scienceworks school holiday programs

Tut's mask or canopic coffinette?

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
8 July 2011
Comments
Comments (43)

A common question about the Tutankhamun exhibition is whether King Tut's funerary mask and mummy are on display.

Tutankhamun’s funerary mask and mummy are two of the most valuable artefacts in the world and the Egyptian Government has ruled that neither can travel outside Egypt because they are too fragile. The object pictured on promotional material for the exhibition is actually Tutankhamun’s canopic coffinette, an exquisite miniature replica of King Tut’s sarcophogus. Four of them were discovered in his tomb, each holding vital organs. The canopic coffinette that is on display in the exhibition at Melbourne Museum held his liver. Like the funerary mask, it too displays the face of the Boy King.

  Tutankhamun's golden canopic coffinette Tutankhamun's golden canopic coffinette, which held his mummified liver. A cropped image of this exhibition artefact features on promotional posters.
Source: Egyptian Museum, Cairo
 

The funerary mask is display in Cairo at the Egyptian Museum and has not left Egypt since the 1970s. It is quite different to the coffinette and sarcophagi not only in size, but because it portrays his head and shoulders only and does not show his hands holding a ceremonial flail and crook.

Tuthankamun's famous burial mask Tuthankamun's famous funerary mask, on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Image: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Source: Used under CC BY-SA 3.0 courtesy of Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
 

As for his mummy and sarcophagi, these could never be displayed in the exhibition because they have never left the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Nevertheless, a replica of his mummy and a multimedia projection of the many layers of sarcophagi can be seen at Melbourne Museum in the National Geographic gallery, which is located outside the exhibition entrance.

GIVEAWAY

We have two tickets to Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs to give away to a blog reader. To enter, leave a comment on this post by noon (local time) on Friday 16 July with your answer to this question:

What would you ask Howard Carter if he were still alive?

Bill's matchboxes

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
7 July 2011
Comments
Comments (3)

Photographer David Paul sent me some proof sheets of several hundred Redheads matchbox lids that he photographed recently as part of the ongoing documentation of the museum's objects. They were collected during the 1950s to 1970s by Bill Boyd and form part of the William Boyd Childhood Collection, which includes most of the Bill's childhood possessions. Bill was an avid collector, and fortunately for us, his mother Lillian kept his collections long after Bill had grown up.

Like David, I think the illustrations on the matchboxes are beautiful and fascinating snapshots of the time. There are several sets – marine creatures, native animals, famous explorers, Queensland's centenary (1959), history of transport and flags of the world, mythology and more. Redheads are now made in Sweden but back then were made by Bryant and May (or Brymay). Brymay was an English company that began manufacturing locally in 1909 in a factory in Cremorne, Richmond.

Redheads matchboxes - marine animals Six Redheads matchbox lids featuring marine animals, circa 1966. Top L-R: California Sandhopper, Bushy-backed Sea Slug, Long-finned Squid. Bottom L-R: Portuguese Man-of-war, Sandworm, Gooseneck Barnacles.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Special packaging, swapcards and bonus toys are a marketing idea that has proved successful for years. Pester power is nothing new; children badger their parents to buy a certain brand of tea, breakfast cereal or matches so that they can complete the set. In the pre-war mania of cigarette card collecting, there are stories of kids who would wait outside shops and pounce on emerging adults to beg for the cards from their newly-purchased pack of smokes.

Bill Boyd's matchboxes started me thinking about the nature of children's collections. Lots of kids collect things – stamps, coins, swapcards – but why? I know a family where each child was charged with nominating something to collect so they'd have something to keep themselves amused on road trips. Another colleague collected stamps and reckons his mother introduced him to the hobby so he'd learn about geography and organisation. And why do some people continue their collections while others abandon them? I collect entirely different things now than I did as a kid, but that probably reflects financial independence.

Six Redheads matchbox lids Six Redheads matchbox lids from the 1970 series featuring icons from each Australian state. Top L-R: The legend of Ned Kelly, Australian Rules Football, Cultural Centre (NGV). Bottom L-R: Myer Music Bowl, Native Lyrebird, The Golden Past, Bendigo.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I wonder how Bill got so many matchboxes? Perhaps he swapped them at school or family friends saved them for him. I imagine he didn't have much money to buy what he wanted and matchboxes were free and readily available. When smoking was more popular and before the invention of disposable cigarette lighters, there were probably matches in every pocket.

For Bill, perhaps they were important because they were objects that no one else controlled – no one else chose them on his behalf, or could tell him how to arrange or store or preserve them. These sorts of things are very important when you're a powerless kid and grown-ups dictate almost everything about your world.

What did you collect when you were a kid? How did your collection start? Do you still have it? Perhaps you'd like to upload it to Collectish?

Links:

William Boyd Childhood Collection

Tom Smith's complete Redheads matchbox collection 

History of Redheads matches

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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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