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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Jul 2013 (9)

Premiere of Federation Handbells composition

Author
by Susan Bamford Caleo
Publish date
30 July 2013
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Susan is the Federation Handbells Officer at Museum Victoria.

On Thursday 11th July, Arts Centre Melbourne rang out to the sounds of the Federation Handbells in the world premiere of Welcome. The handbells were played by internationally acclaimed composer/percussionist Steve Falk with students from Blackburn High School. It launched the 2013 Sounds Great! Conference for the Association of Music Educators (aMuse) and was received with great enthusiasm and delight.

playing federation bells The world premiere of Welcome performed by Steve Falk and students from Blackburn High
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The Federation Handbells are a collection of beautifully crafted, tuned bells, originally commissioned by Arts Victoria for the 2001 Centenary of Federation. These bells are available on loan for public or private events, local festivals, school programs, commemorative occasions and performances. Earlier in 2013 Museum Victoria approached the organisers of the conference to have a Federation Handbells display or workshop as part of the program and was invited not only to take part but to open the event. The ‘Welcome’ project was born.

playing the federation bells The world premiere of Welcome performed by Steve Falk and students from Blackburn High School
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Museum Victoria commissioned Steve Falk to compose a piece for the Federation Handbells that could bring together performers of various levels of musical ability and provide a meaningful musical experience for musicians and non-musicians alike. Steve met this challenge beautifully and has created a piece that can be rehearsed and performed as a secondary school music project or by community groups at music festivals or other public events.

playing the federation bells Steve Falk and students from Blackburn High School rehearse Welcome
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

We are thrilled to say that the Welcome composition will be freely available as a resource on the MV Federation Handbells website from October 2013. As well as the score there will be notes about the composition and two short films, one that takes us behind the scenes with interviews and rehearsal footage, and the other that shows the premiere performance at Arts Centre Melbourne.

The Welcome project invites you to experience the wonderful potential to bring people together creatively with the Federation Handbells. It is an opportunity to be inspired!

The Federation Handbells are managed by Museum Victoria's Outreach Program on behalf of Arts Victoria. To make a booking request please follow this link to the Federation Handbells website.

Pale Blue Dot

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
27 July 2013
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I’ve often felt that one of the most amazing things about space exploration is that moment when we turn back and look at ourselves. The Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, has done just that.

The Earth from Saturn On 19th July 2013, NASA's Cassini spacecraft looked back at Earth to capture a view of our planet against Saturn's magnificent rings.
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
 

Carl Sagan was the first to impress on us just how powerful such an image would be and he was also able to capture the moment beautifully in words “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam".

 

Earth from Voyager The pale blue dot of Earth as seen from a distance of 6 billion km and captured by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990.
Source: NASA/JPL
 

What I hadn’t fully realized until last year, was just how hard Sagan had to work to convince officials to turn Voyager’s cameras back to Earth. This theme was explored through the play “Pale Blue Dot” by OpticNerve Performance Group and performed at the Malthouse last year – a perfect example of science meets art.

The new image from Cassini has such high resolution that it's possible to zoom in and see the Earth and Moon together, as tiny points of light. Now what might Sagan have thought of that?

Earth and Moon from Saturn The Earth and Moon from a distance of 1.5 billion km.
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
 

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

--Carl Sagan, from a Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Links

Discover the Night Sky - astronomy classes at the Melbourne Planetarium

 

Of wreckage, ships and dinosaur bits

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
26 July 2013
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I stare out to sea, a heaving blur of grey with white-capped breakers. Two thoughts occur to me – why didn’t I bring better wet weather gear, and how did this place get this odd name?

view of the ocean A lovely, clear Autumn day onsite at Eric the Red
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I am perched on a rock in a sheltered pocket of the beach and near some dune vegetation, the wind and rain intermittently reminding me of my inadequate clothing. Between myself and the sea is a small pile of grey rock which I have been progressively breaking open with my hammer and chisel, searching for fossils. A few metres beyond some of my fellow crew are swinging sledgehammers at a large section of this rock, working on extracting more material to be broken down in a search for more fossils.

Digging at Eric the Red site A group of volunteer diggers brave the elements onsite at the 'Eric the Red' fossil dig.
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We are sitting on a beach near the Cape Otway Lighthouse in late March, close to a location called “Eric the Red”. The grey rock we are processing were once sediments laid down in a streambed in a rift valley over 100 million years ago. Amongst the grey sediments are seams of fossilised plant material, and very occasionally, fossil bones of animals that lived and died nearby.

A rock onsite at Eric the Red A rock ready for breaking onsite at Eric the Red - who knows what fossils it might yeild? As it turns out - none.
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I am here as part of a Museum Victoria field trip to collect these fossils; amongst me is a wonderfully diverse group of people; Palaeontology students and academics, Museum staff, amateur enthusiasts and assorted interested folk. Together, our aim is to process this Cretaceous rock, search for fossil bone, record our finds and package them carefully for their voyage to the Museum Victoria Palaeontology collections, housed in the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens.

But...’Eric the Red’? What’s that name all about?

Weeks later, in the decidedly more dry and comfortable setting of the Museum, I decide to research why the site is called “Eric the Red”. It turns out that ‘Eric the Red’ was a vessel that was shipwrecked close to the shoreline of where we were digging; it ran aground in 1880 on a reef composed of the very same unit of rock we were excavating. The vessel was wrecked on the final leg of its otherwise uneventful voyage from New York to Melbourne, carrying a cargo of exhibits for the USA pavilion at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition – silverware, toys and pianos were among its diverse manifest. An interesting coincidence was that the ultimate destination for the Cargo of the Eric the Red was the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens in Melbourne – this is also the destination for the fossils we were extracting from the site, as Museum Victoria’s Palaeontology Collections and laboratory are in the basement of the Exhibition Building.

Royal Exhibition Building The Royal Exhibition Building - the intended destination of the cargo of Eric the Red, and in part, home to Museum Victoria's Geoscience collections
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
  

Thankfully the fate of our diggers and our precious cargo was less tragic than that of the crew and cargo of the ‘Eric the Red’; the wreck resulted in the loss of life of some crew. You can read a full account of the wreck of “Eric the Red” on Heritage Victoria’s website, and also a the reportage of the tragedy in “The Argus” via Trove.

The Earth Wins at IMAX

Author
by Jerry Grayson
Publish date
25 July 2013
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Writer/Director Jerry Grayson is a helicopter pilot-turned-filmmaker. He spent eight years flying for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, a role that culminated in him being awarded the Air Force Cross by Her Majesty the Queen for outstanding gallantry in Search and Rescue. He talks about flying back over the scorched land he filmed for THE EARTH WINS, a unique Australian-made documentary which opens at IMAX Melbourne Museum on 29 August. 

A core premise of our film THE EARTH WINS is that if you view any given subject from a different perspective (in this case from the air) then there is the potential to form entirely new opinions.

Flying over the forests between Kinglake and Marysville was a sobering experience in the week following Black Saturday. However high we flew, the lifeless brown woodlands still stretched to the horizon. There was still a form of beauty to be found in the way that the hillsides resembled the rough hide of an elephant head, and we still refer to this shot as the "hairy hill".

Burnt landscape 'The hairy hill' - a view from the air of the forest between Marysville and Kinglake in the week after the Black Saturday fires.
Source: Helifilms
 

But if there was ever a scene that justified the phrase "a dreadful and terrifying beauty", this was it.

Four years later, almost to the day, I couldn't resist the opportunity to fly over the same hills once more and to record the way that the landscape had changed in the interim. As we crested the ridge at Kinglake I was horrified to see that the only change had been a change in colour. Vast forests of dead brown trunks were now vast forests of dead grey trunks. The hamlet of Kinglake West was almost unrecognizable to me in the way that new roads had been carved and new buildings erected. I gave up trying to find the remains of the house from which the chimney had been so lovingly preserved and transported to Melbourne Museum.

But for tens of kilometres beyond the human footprint the forests were as dead as they had been when we were shooting for our film in February 2009. Only an odd stand of trees here and there gave any clue as to what had once been.

Hills with dead trees The forests between Kinglake and Marysville four years after Black Saturday.
Source: Helifilms
 

But then a wonderful thing happened as we simply altered our perspective from the oblique to the vertical. Almost hidden at the base of the towering grey trunks was a carpet of new green life; huge and luxuriant ferns providing shade and water catchment for the young trees that would soon overtake their deceased parents.

Tree ferns under burnt trees Tree ferns springing back to life after bushfire.
Source: Helifilms
 

The experience gave me pause to consider the very essence of what THE EARTH WINS was always designed to convey, that just a tiny variation in one’s perspective or viewpoint can result in an overwhelmingly different conclusion.

If our film succeeds in illustrating how different some things can seem when viewed from a different angle then I will be very happy. See the film, share your thoughts with me at www.theearthwins.com. Did it move you, your partner, your mate, your parents or your offspring to view anything from a slightly altered perspective? Go on, make my day!

Rare Book Discovery Day

Author
by Hayley
Publish date
23 July 2013
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On Saturday 20 July, four antiquarian booksellers and the museum's paper conservator joined forces to provide a free valuation and conservation service to the public as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week 2013. Peter Arnold (Peter Arnold Antiquarian Booksellers), Justin Healy (Grub Street Bookshop), Stuart Kells (Books of Kells) and Douglas Stewart (Douglas Stewart Fine Books) spent three hours assessing inherited or collected items for their market value. Paper Conservator Belinda Gourley spoke to visitors about appropriate storage and care of old or rare books.

It was interesting to see the variety of material that visitors brought along, which ranged from a Walter Scott novel to an early nineteenth century musical notation book.

Three women looking at a book Conservator Belinda Gourley provides some storage and care advice for a musical notation book dating from 1804.
Image: Hayley Webster
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The find of the day was a 1907 exhibition catalogue of women's work held at the Royal Exhibition Building.

Women's Work catalogue 1907 catalogue of women's work
Source: Kay Craddock
 

This was of particular interest to library staff, as our Rare Book Collection includes a range of exhibition catalogues relating to exhibitions held at the Royal Exhibition Building. We also took the chance to show off a couple of items from our own rare book collection, including the very rare A Monograph of the Psittacidae or Parrot Family of Australia, which is held by only two libraries worldwide.

Three people looking at rare book Library Manager Leonie Cash displaying Monograph of the Psittacidae or Parrot Family of Australia by Rev. J. J. Halley to booksellers Peter Arnold and Justin Healy.
Image: Hayley Webster
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The event was great fun, and it was fantastic to participate in the second Melbourne Rare Book Week. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Links:

Follow Melbourne Rare Book Week on Facebook

View digitised plates from A Monograph of the Psittacidae or Parrot Family of Australia on the Google Art Project

The art of the bowerbird

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
17 July 2013
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You might spy an unusual new installation in the Forest Gallery as part of The Red Queen exhibition showing at MONA, the Museum of New and Old Art in Tasmania. The installation by English artist Toby Ziegler, entitled My vegetable love; Cultural exchange, is in the shape of a Utah teapot fashioned from the same material used by male Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) to make their bowers.

Bowerbird with blue objects Jack, the older male bowerbird, interacting with the teapot bower.
Image: Jon Augier / Toby Ziegler
Source: Museum Victoria and MONA
 

The theme of My Vegetable Love is the interaction between the natural world (the Forest Gallery’s bowerbirds) and the artificial world (a computer-generated teapot), with the object itself being a hybrid between the two. The main theme of The Red Queen is ‘Why do human beings make art?’, and this component investigates natural animal behaviours that appear, to us, artistic.

Two juvenile bowerbirds Juvenile bowerbirds are also intrigued by Toby Ziegler's teapot.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It references a 3D mathematical model of a teapot created in 1975 at the University of Utah which has become a standard reference object in computer-generated imaging (CGI), and also as a regular in-joke in animated Hollywood movies. It appears somewhere in all Pixar movies and in the ‘Third Dimension’ episode of The Simpsons.

Utah teapot A modern render of the original CGI teapot created at the University of Utah by Martin Newell.
Image: Dhatfield
Source:  CC BY-SA 3.0
 

Juvenile and female Satin Bowerbirds are olive green, but males turn a deep blue upon maturity at about seven years of age. Jack, the oldest male Bowerbird, has lived in the Forest Gallery as an adult for 13 years. Errol turned completely blue earlier this year, after more than 12 months in transition from his juvenile plumage.

Errol the Satin Bowerbird Errol during his transformation from juvenile to adult plumage. His unusual patterning prompted many queries from puzzled visitors.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A new webcam streams live video of activity around the teapot into MONA and our website. One of Jack’s old bowers is also takes pride of place in the gallery at MONA. The teapot will remain in the Forest Gallery as part of the exhibition until 21 April 2014.

 

 

You'll need Windows Media Player to view this video feed. Get Media Player

Links:

MONA

Bowerbird Cam

'Birds face off for balance of bower in exhibit' in The Age, 19 Jun 2013

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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