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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Mar 2011 (17)

Changing film at IMAX

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
20 March 2011
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So you've bought your ticket and popcorn, picked up your 3D glasses and chosen your seat at IMAX Melbourne. For you, it's a time to sit back and relax. However, in the projection booth at the back of the cinema, it's a highly-skilled dash to prepare the next film for screening.

David Booty, Senior Technical Advisor for IMAX Melbourne Museum, might be the projectionist setting up your film. He's been in the IMAX business since 1988 and sometimes has just seven minutes between shows to change over the huge reels of IMAX film. In this video he tells us about the unique projection system while he's rushing around to set up the next show.

St Patrick's Day, then and now

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
17 March 2011
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17 March is St Patrick's Day, a national holiday for the Irish and widely celebrated by communities of Irish descent worldwide. A quick search on Collections Online turned up a photograph of a St Patrick's Day parade along Spring Street, Melbourne, in 1925.

There was certainly no parade through town today when I visited the site. In fact, the only events I can find celebrating St Patrick's Day this year involve Melbourne's many Irish pubs. Still, it gave me an interesting chance to compare how the three buildings in the 1925 photograph have changed.

  Spring St buildings comparison Two photos of the same site in Melbourne taken 86 years apart. Top: St Patrick 's Day parade passing the Windsor Hotel and Spencer's Old White Hart Hotel, 1925. Photo taken by The Allen Studio. (MM 6348) Bottom: The same Spring St site in 2011.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the top photo, the White Hart Hotel still stands on the corner of Bourke and Spring Streets. This was demolished in 1960 and replaced with the Windsor Hotel's north wing. The Imperial Hotel in the right of the frame dates back to the 1860s - and before this site was occupied by buildings, apparently it was used by a circus!

Links:

MV Blog: Benalla, then and now

2005 Irish Festival at the Immigration Museum

Origins: History of immigration from Ireland and Northern Ireland

Dear Antarctican

Author
by Leonie
Publish date
16 March 2011
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Comments (1)

This post comes from Leonie Cash, a librarian at the Museum Victoria library.

The MV Library received one of 150 invitations sent for a worldwide gathering of book collectors, librarians, archivists, and historians known as The Antarctic Circle. This group is united by their interest in the art and history of Antarctic studies.

The meeting in New Hampshire is organised by Robert Stephenson, a retired Harvard professor and founder of The Antarctic Circle. Unfortunately we can't attend the meeting, but Robert visited us recently to inspect MV's copy of Aurora Australis. This book is one of 90 copies printed under harsh conditions in Antarctica in 1907-08 during Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod expedition.

Robert and Leonie Founder of The Antarctic Circle, Robert Stephenson, and MV librarian, Leonie Cash, with MV's copy of Aurora Australis.
Source: The Antarctic Circle
 

Robert has visited libraries and personal collectors around the world comparing copies of Aurora Australis and the individual features of each copy are painstakingly recorded on The Antarctic Circle website. Each Aurora Australis is unique; the book was bound with covers made from wooden packing-cases which contained the expedition's provisions. The MV copy is stencilled CHICKEN and is signed by Ernest Shackleton and George Marston. We also have the 1988 facsimile edition in the Rare Books Collection of the library.

Details of Aurora Australia Details of MV's copy of Aurora Australia. Left: signatures of Ernest Shackleton and George Marston. Right: the inside back cover reads 'CHICKEN' from the original packing crate.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Pages from Aurora Australis Two pages of MV's copy of Aurora Australis.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

The Antarctic Circle

Details of MV's copy on The Antactic Circle

MV News: Library Week rare book viewing

Queen Cakes

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
15 March 2011
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Last week, just in time for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Eliza Duckmanton's Recipe & Remedy book was added to Collections Online. This blog post pays tribute to her in the most delicious way.

Eliza Duckmanton was a bush nurse and mother of 12 who lived in Dunkeld, Victoria. She created the book in 1870 and its contents - recipes for cakes, pickles, jams, jellies and biscuits - reveal what pioneer women cooked for their families. Eliza's book of clippings and handwritten recipes is also dotted with the odd sketch.This treasure was passed down the generations of the Duckmanton family until it was donated to Museum Victoria in 2002.

While the food section in any bookshop today is spilling over with cookbooks about every kind of edible, published cookbooks were relatively uncommon in Victorian times. The English & Australian Cookery Book written by Walter Abbott in 1864 is considered the first Australian cookbook. Recipes were handed around between friends and family members, or torn from newspapers, and compiled in books like Eliza's. Hers is particularly interesting for its remedies, too - her cure for cancer is a concoction containing saltpetre, sulphur and molasses!

I quite liked the idea of reviving one of Eliza's cake recipes, so on the weekend I baked her Queen Cakes. I assume these are named for Queen Victoria but would love to know the full story if there are any food historians reading. Although Eliza didn't specify that Queen Cakes are baked in individual cases, my copy of the CWA cookbook did. The recipe is transcribed below along with a few changes I made to the order of operations.

As I cooked, I thought about the 140-odd years between Eliza and I. My ingredients came in neat supermarket packages and an electric mixer saved me a lot of elbow grease. Eliza might have made her own butter and hauled home sacks of drygoods. She probably collected and chopped the wood that fuelled her oven and it certainly didn't have a thermostat. Despite this, I'm sure her cakes were just as buttery, dense and delicious as the modern remake. 

Queen Cakes Queen Cakes made from Eliza Duckmanton's 1870 recipe.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Queen Cakes

1 lb flour

½ lb butter

½ lb pounded loaf sugar

3 eggs

1 teacupful of cream

½ lb currants

1 teaspoonfull of soda

Work the butter to a cream. Dredge in the flour and add the sugar and currants. Mix the ingredients well together. Whisk the eggs, when fluffy, mix the cream and flavouring and stir these to the flour, add the soda, beat the paste well for 10 minutes, bake from ¼ to ½ hour.

*Changes made: I creamed butter and sugar together, then added eggs and cream, mixed lightly, and cooked about 15 minutes at 180ºC. This made about 20 small cakes.

Field guide app out now

Author
by Blair
Publish date
10 March 2011
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There are no angry birds in Field Guide to Victorian Fauna, the museum’s new free app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Instead, crazy-coloured snakes, critically endangered species, state faunal emblems, stinging jellies and a Baggy Pants Frog are among the animals included in the first release.

Museum Victoria’s Field Guide to Victorian Fauna A screenshot from MV's Field Guide to Victorian Fauna.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The app lets you explore useful and interesting information about each species including: identification, biology, distribution, diet, habitat, scientific classification and endangered status. Wherever you are – a forest, a desert, a rocky shore, at Ararat or Apollo Bay – you’ll be able to find information on more than 700 animals at the swipe of your finger.

And, in a first for the museum, the code for the app is being released as open source. This means that museums and organisations worldwide can take their own data and build their own local field guide, too.

Developer Simon Sherrin and designer Simon O’Shea have built the app based on the Biodiversity Snapshots field guide, which was created for schools by museum sciences staff. In doing so, they’ve made this excellent resource available to anyone with an iDevice, not just school students. And this is just the beginning. We’re preparing more animals every day so that the app will span more of Victoria’s rich biodiversity.

Simon & Simon with the Field Guide app Simon and Simon. These guys are developers, so we can't show their faces on the web.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Field Guide to Victorian Fauna can be downloaded free from the iTunes App Store. Simon Sherrin will also present the app at several conferences and meetings in the USA in coming weeks. It’s the second in the museum’s developing portfolio of apps which began in 2010 with Please touch the exhibit.

Is your favorite Victorian animal included in the app? If not, let us know what it is in the comments, and why it should be included in a future update of the field guide.

UPDATE: The Android version is now available from Google Play. Hooray!

Links:

Field Guide to Victorian Fauna support page

Please touch the exhibit

Dragonflies abound

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
9 March 2011
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Last weekend's balmy evenings brought out a squadron of deadly aerial hunters in my backyard. I saw about ten dragonflies zooming around, plucking flying insects from the sky. It was an amazing sight – I’ve never seen so many in action in such a small area. From the half-eaten bodies I saw on the ground, it seems they were feasting on a swarm of young ant queens and males on their nuptial flights.

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the 300-million-year-old insect order Odonata. You can tell the difference between the adults easily; damselflies are generally smaller, more delicate, and hold their wings together above their body when resting. Dragonflies are their beefy relatives and most rest with their wings held out to each side. As juveniles, odonates – known as nymphs – mostly lurk in freshwater ponds and streams eating smaller creatures such as mosquito larvae and small crustaceans.

Dragonfly eyes Compound eyes of a dragonfly.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Adult dragonflies have incredible eyesight thanks to large compound eyes that wrap almost all the way around their heads. Combined with extraordinary agility, they are skilled hunters and snatch gnats, moths and flies from the air, eating them on the wing with their powerful jaws. They even mate on the wing; the male guards the female while she lays eggs in the water, grasping just behind her head with the claspers at the end of his abdomen.

dragonflies laying eggs in a pond A pair of dragonflies laying eggs in a pond. The male is holding on to the female just behind her head as she dips her tail into the water to lay eggs.
Image: Susan McBratney
Source: Susan McBratney
 

I love watching these animals and their amazing behaviour, which is reflected in the common names for some dragonfly families – hawkers, cruisers, skimmers and perchers. Another common name, darner, harks back to a medieval folk tale that they were the devil’s darning needles that would sew shut the mouths of unruly children!

Male scarlet darter (Crocothemis erythraea) male. Male scarlet darter (Crocothemis erythraea) male on the island of Crete. The thorax of the dragonfly is packed with powerful muscles that drive their wings. Unlike most other insects, dragonflies and damselflies can move each pair of wings independently of the other.
Image: Stavros Markopoulos
Source: Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC 2.0 from macropoulos
 

A lot of people have mentioned seeing more dragonflies than usual this season so I had a chat to MV’s aquatic insect expert, Richard Marchant, to find out more. He says that knowledge of Australian dragonfly biology is patchy, but they’re quite long-lived – nymphs might take one or two years to reach adulthood, and adults probably live a month or more and travel many kilometres. He believes that all the rain Victoria has received this summer means the increased areas of standing water has attracted dragonflies in huge numbers to many parts of the state, including the greater Melbourne area. So look up, and enjoy the stuntwork of these acrobats in the summer sky!

Links:

Infosheet: Dragonflies and damselfies

Australian Museum: Order Odonata

Devil's Darning Needle

600 Million Years: Giant invertebrates in the Carboniferous

Herald Sun: 'Bugs galore as Vic gets steamy'

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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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