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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Sep 2012 (8)

Blog about a blob

Author
by Blair
Publish date
24 September 2012
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Comments (12)

Under the marine lab microscope today was a curious specimen. It was so curious that everyone passing through the lab stopped to offer their 'expert' opinion to help identify it.

marine organism What is this? The mystery specimen has been cut in half; the left piece was originally on top of the right piece bit.
Image: Blair Patullo
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Here are some of the comments made by various non-expert 'expert' staff.

"Got no room for guts so it's not a sea cucumber." Followed by: "No longitudinal muscles either."

"Oh, it's not one of those things that squirts out water is it?" I think in reference to a sea squirt or cunjevoi.

"It's got no legs so I can't identify this."

"It's from Antarctica so could be anything. Who knows what stuff we haven't found there yet!"

"I've seen more radial symmetry in a horse than in that thing." Okay, so without radial symmetry it is not an echinoderm.

"Is that a small pink tongue poking out from the base of the tree stump?" Then pointing to the crack in the middle of the tree stump shaped half, "nah, it would need cirri in there." 

Dissected marine organism Half of the animal looked like a little tree stump when it was dissected.
Image: Blair Patullo
Source: Museum Victoria
 

And then with some promise and authority: "I reckon that's the anus and those are anal tentacles." Now we're getting somewhere.

"But where's the siphon?"

"Looks like a peduncle on the bottom of a goose barnacle." A what on the bottom of a what?

"It's not a mammal." I can also add with some conviction that it is not a whale or a penguin.

"It's marine." Yep, it says so on the label in the specimen bag.

"Pretty sure it's that rare species Toohard basketii."

"It must be a remnant of Cthulu."

"Maybe it's not even an animal, but it doesn't look planty either." So that only leaves mineral. If only one of the museum geologists were around to confirm it... my guess is they would say it is a mini volcano.

"Marine fungus. But I doubt that, it's too soft."

"You'd think it would have a big empty cavity inside."

"That might be its mouth, not its butt." And boom, there we go back to the start again. It's looking like these 'experts' may never resolve a name for this animal!

top of marine organism The top of the mystery organism: mouth, anus or volcano?
Image: Blair Patullo
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Later I summarised for the work experience student in the lab who overheard the comments. "That's what we do here, get excited about stuff that looks like a blob with tentacles."

"Aha," he said.

These non-expert comments are always fun to hear, but they rarely produce a conclusive identification of a specimen. That process is a meticulously careful one that will extend beyond this afternoon. The animal may be further dissected, examined at different magnifications and possibly sent to associates outside the museum. Keys, descriptions and pictures from various publications may also be consulted.

And now that all the 'experts' have returned to their desks, the real expert Michela can begin her investigation. The end point will be a name written on a label that is placed in the jar alongside this specimen. We'll let you know what it is as soon as she's worked it out!

First Peoples' Cultural Workshops

Author
by John Patten
Publish date
20 September 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

John Patten is a Bundjalung / Yorta Yorta man on his father's side, and a descendant of First Fleet convicts via his mother. An educator and artist, he takes great joy in sharing knowledge with visitors to Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

In preparation for an upcoming series of cultural workshops to be held at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum, I recently ventured into the field with John Duggan to collect a range of materials required to run the workshops.

Man on a beach John Duggan searching the beach for suitable rocks.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

John is a Gamilaroi man and the Assistant Collections Manager for Australian Collections in MV's Humanities Department. Together we travelled to south western Victoria to collect flint for making traditional stone knapped spear points and blades, Pomaderris shafts for the production of spears, Xanthorrhoea (Grass Tree) resin for making a traditional glue, and several varieties of timber for carving traditional tools and weapons, including shields, digging sticks, clubs and boomerangs.

John Patten with rocks John Patten selecting beach rocks for the workshops
Image: John Duggan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Man holding rock John Duggan selecting rocks suitable for making traditional knapped spear points and blades.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

During our journey we encountered a wide variety of flora and fauna, ranging from herds of emus and large mobs of kangaroos, to wombats and echidna. We also facilitated a special intervention, where John Duggan removed a dozen or more bush ticks from the body of a Shingleback lizard. Traditional food and medicinal plants that we encountered included Pig Face, Kangaroo Apple, Salt Bush and Red Fruit Saw Sedge.

wombat A baby wombat among bracken encountered during the trip.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Stars in the night sky The night sky above south western Victoria during the trip.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The First Peoples' Cultural Workshops, which will become a regular part of Bunjilaka's programming, are part of an aim to build a central knowledge base for Koorie artists, to equip them with the necessary resources to pass along a range of traditional skills and knowledge to their own communities across Victoria and beyond.

The first workshop will be delivered by John Duggan, who is acknowledged as a skilled artist and creator of traditional stone tools.

Stone Knapping Workshop
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Friday 5 October, 10:30am – 3:00pm
For further information or to book your place in the Cultural Workshop series, please contact John Patten on 03 8341 7352

Sunshine Harvester employees

Author
by Nicole D
Publish date
19 September 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

Your Question: Do you have information on the employees at Sunshine Harvester? My grandfather travelled from Victoria to South America and then Europe in their employ. He was scheduled to go to Russia when WWI began and went to the USA instead, where our family remain today.

The legend fostered by the company is still alive in the images and memories of those who were linked by land, work, city, or machine to this enterprise.

Group portrait of employees at H.V. McKay Massey Harris Group portrait of employees at H.V. McKay Massey Harris
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The stories of the people who worked for Sunshine Harvester are captured in the Workers pages of the Sunshine Harvester Works website. These pages include information about the lives of generations of company employees and images of the staff and their families at both work and leisure. You may even see images of your grandfather and his family there.

H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, circa 1920s H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, circa 1920s
Source: Museum Victoria
 

As your enquiry hints, the company had a diverse export market, eventually supplying over 160 countries, including North America, South America and Russia and Sunshine Employees were sent to these countries from Australia to assist in running the business.

Museum Victoria holds a large collection of objects, documents and images relating to the history of HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester in which you can explore information about the company's history, products and glimpse the lives of its employees.

H.V. McKay Massey Harris, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, Jul 1950 H.V. McKay Massey Harris, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, Jul 1950
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Although the museum holds a wealth of information, including some company records, the employee and personnel files are in Australian Trade Union Archives at the University of Melbourne, which also holds a large collection pertaining to HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester.

  A corner of the foundry pouring molten metal A corner of the foundry pouring molten metal
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The article 'Resurrecting the Sunshine Harvester Works: Re-presenting and Reinterpreting the Experience of Industrial Work in Twentieth-Century Australia' tells the fascinating story of how the HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester collection came to the museum and how, along with the University of Melbourne Archives collection, it is used to tell the story of the company and its employees.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Sunshine Harvester Works

Nicky Winmar's jumper

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
18 September 2012
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Comments (2)

Throughout the 17 April 1993 St Kilda vs Collingwood match at Victoria Park, Collingwood supporters hurled racist taunts at two Aboriginal St Kilda players. At the end of the game, with St Kilda victorious, midfielder Nicky Winmar lifted his guernsey and pointed proudly at his skin. 

Nicky Winmar's AFL jumper Nicky Winmar's 1993 AFL season jumper, which he was wearing when he made his famous stand against racism in sport.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Photographs of this spontaneous gesture became a powerful symbol of Aboriginal pride and a statement about the problem of racism in sport. Historian Joy Damousi was in the audience at the match and reflected upon that moment on a May episode of ABC Radio National's 'Life Matters'.

This particular moment is really one of the most significant events in Australian cultural history...A simple material object that can encapsulate an era, a mood, a period, a turning point and Nicky Winmar's jumper does that beautifully...

Museum Victoria held a celebratory event at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum this morning to announce our acquisition of Winmar's jumper. The year after the famous gesture, Winmar traded the jumper with his friend Tim O'Brien, a former basketballer for the NBL. O'Brien put the jumper up for sale in May this year with the proceeds planned to fund a documentary film about racism in sport. MV purchased it for display in Bunjilaka's forthcoming First Peoples exhibition, using funds reserved for acquiring important objects for the museum's collections.

After reflecting on Nicky's brave action on that momentous day in 1993, Bunjilaka Manager Caroline Martin, Museum Victoria CEO Dr Patrick Greene and Tim O'Brien unveiled the jumper together at the event this morning, much to the excitement of those gathered around.

People with St Kilda football jumper L-R: Dr Patrick Greene, Tim O'Brien and Caroline Martin with Nicky Winmar's jumper this morning.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

"This jumper represents a proud moment in history for Australia's First Peoples," said Caroline Martin. "It symbolises pride and strength in our culture and we are delighted that future visitors to Bunjilaka will be able to commemorate the inspirational story behind this jumper, as we did today." 

Links:

'The day the game changed' by Nabila Ahmed, The Age19 April 2003

Bill Bailey, birdwatcher

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
13 September 2012
Comments
Comments (4)

UK comedian, musician and birdwatcher Bill Bailey is in Melbourne this week as part of his Qualmpeddler tour of Australia and New Zealand. Yesterday he, and fellow comedian and ornithology buff Jeff Green, visited collection stores and exhibitions at Melbourne Museum.

Bill and Jeff in collection store Bill Bailey and Jeff Green in the Ornithology collection store at Melbourne Museum.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It’s all thanks to a timely radio broadcast: PhD student Darren Hastie heard an interview in which Bill talked about being a fan of Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator (with Charles Darwin) of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Learning this, collection manager Rolf Schmidt sent a message to Bill via his website to tell him that Museum Victoria holds a number of specimens collected by AR Wallace, and to invite him to come and see them.

Bill is not just a fan of Wallace; he is the patron of the Wallace Fund which works to give the great naturalist due credit for his contributions to our understanding of evolution. Bill has spent five years researching Wallace’s life and work, which will culminate in a BBC documentary in 2013. Next year marks a century since Wallace’s death and, if all goes to plan, will also see a portrait and statue of Wallace erected in the Natural History Museum in London to equal its famous marble statue of Darwin.

Bill Bailey in collection store Bill Bailey opening the cabinet filled with bird specimens collected by AR Wallace, saying, “This is why I love museums. You think, what’s in here? Then OH MY GOD…”
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Having recently returned from filming the Wallace documentary in Indonesia, Bill swapped tales with ornithologist and collection manager Wayne Longmore about the bizarre fauna found in Sulawesi, Indonesia, due to what is now called the Wallace Line. To the west of the line, Asiatic species predominate, while to the east, Australian lineages appear. Sulawesi is right in the thick of it and its animals are an amazing assortment of both origins. For eight years, Wallace travelled through Malaysia and Indonesia collecting birds, insects and more, and it was his astute observations of the patterns of species distribution that spawned the science of biogeography, and helped him develop his theory of evolution.

Poor Wallace, however, has been obscured by time and the greater profile of Darwin. Said Bill, “Wallace was an extraordinary field naturalist, probably one of the greatest. And he hasn’t got the recognition he deserves. He needs to be mentioned in the same breath as Darwin, or at very least get equal billing.” Darwin had been working on his theory of natural selection for many years but it wasn’t until 1858, when Wallace sent him his own fully-articulated theory, that Darwin was prompted to stop thinking and get down to the business of publishing. The two presented their theory together at a meeting of the Linnaean Society. As Bill said, “at the time it known as the Darwin-Wallace theory, but when it was revived in the 30s, Wallace’s name was gone.” Jeff in turn suggested that the Australian city of Darwin switch its name to Darwin-Wallace for 2013 for the centenary.

After viewing the Wallace specimens in the ornithology store, Bill and Jeff visited the Science and Life Gallery where the Darwin to DNA exhibition has Wallace-collected skins and mounts on display, complete with his original hand-written tags. Next Rolf took them to down to the palaeontology collections and labs. Rolf reports, “Bill was quite interested in the size and scope of our collection, as well as the stories around the objects (like the Janjucetus skull). He was also rather excited when I let him have a hold of our Darwin barnacle holotype.”

Visiting the palaeontology collections L-R: Darren Hastie (PhD student and fellow AR Wallace fan), Rolf Schmidt, Jeff Green (kneeling), Bill Bailey and Dave Pickering amid the Palaeontology collection.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Bill’s fascination with Wallace is infectious - and he certainly loves museums. He says he always tries to visit the natural history museums of the cities where he performs. We’re very glad he dropped in to visit us, and will watch with interest as the Wallace100 plans unfold.

Links:

The Wallace Fund

Stories from the filming of the Wallace documentary on the Wallace100 blog (via Natural History Museum)

MV Blog: Wonderful Wallacea

MV Blog: Happy birthday A.R. Wallace

Reed necklace

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
11 September 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

173 years ago today, on 11 September 1839, a reed necklace held in the MV Collection was collected in the Melbourne area by George Augustus Robinson. The necklace is one of five he collected during his tenure as Chief Protector of Aborigines for Port Phillip (1839-1849).

reed necklace Reed necklace collected by GA Robinson in 1839. It is made from 162 hollow reed segments strung on vegetable string. (X84452)
Image: Photograph: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The necklace belonged to a man from Port Phillip whose name was recorded as Po.un.deet (elsewhere spelled Wo.un.deek or Porrundeet). In his later journals, Robinson recorded the name for the reed necklace as teer.er.rer.gone.burt, and observed the local custom of presenting necklaces as a greeting to friends. In an entry from 6 June 1841 he described what happened when a family visited his station:

Mar.ke, the native woman at Tulloh's [property], after some mutual exploration appeared highly pleased at meeting with my native attendants. She recognized an old acquaintance and, without ceremony, took the kangaroo teeth ornaments that adorned his hair and reed necklace that adorned his neck and decorated her child therewith. This I observed to be the custom of the natives when meeting with friends.

The wonderful story of Porrundeet's teer.er.rer.gone.burt will feature in the Many Nations section of the new First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

Links:

GA Robinson, Protector of Aborigines (State Library of NSW)

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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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