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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Sep 2013 (6)

Dino Might

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
24 September 2013
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Comments (3)

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, I was absolutely mad for dinosaurs. Many hours were spent poring over my small stash of dinosaur books - I used to lie on our worn lounge room carpet, gawping at fantastical images of a vengeful Triceratops skewering a clearly outraged Tyrannosaurus in the thigh. To my young eyes, the image was evocative and powerful, albeit a little coy in the lack of blood.

By today’s standards, the picture is quite out-dated in the postures of the protagonists, but it was enough to get me hooked on these intriguing (and like me, clearly ill-tempered) animals. My chief interests wavered over the following teenage years – at times Dinosaur Jr. were more interesting than dinosaurs - but dinos were always there in one way or another, bubbling away as a topic of interest in the back of my mind.

Qantassaurus Melbourne Museum's animatronic reconstructions of the Victorian dinosaur Qantassaurus
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fast forward to today, and much has changed – my son sees CGI footage of dinosaurs that are so plausible that there’s genuine confusion over what is actually real. To his generation, it will likely seem ludicrous that our generation thought of Velociraptor as anything other than fully feathered, but to those of us of the “Jurassic Park” generation, the leathery-skinned versions will be long remembered. Disappointingly, it seems that despite scientific consensus on their feathers, the upcoming Jurassic Park film will feature the old-school, oversized, nude ‘raptors. But I digress...

Velociraptor skull A model of the skull of Velociraptor - feathers not shown....just like in Jurassic Park (I might need to get over this)
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Unlike Hollywood, the scientific world’s understanding of dinosaur behaviour, posture and lifestyles has changed over the years. There are numerous examples of dinosaur displays in Museums that required modification to keep them up-to-date with current research. One of the quirks of palaeontology - the active study of long-since-inactive animals - is that we can never really ‘get it right...finally’; the most we can hope for is to ‘get it right...for now’. New discoveries drive new interpretations, leading to new theories; forever edging us closer to the truth, but the goalposts are constantly moving.  With dinosaurs, you can never ‘know’ everything - and I find that quite reassuring.

Fossilised Champignons

Author
by Siobhan
Publish date
15 September 2013
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Comments (1)

Remember The X-Files? If you were a fan, you fell into one of two camps – you either liked the mythology arcs, or the Monster-of-the-Week episodes. I fell firmly into the latter camp. I liked one-off weirdness, lacking the attention span for conspiracy narratives. It is in this spirit that I present to you a short episode of "What on earth is THAT?!" from the Discovery Centre.

At the beginning of winter this year, a woman came into the Melbourne centre with some "mysterious objects". We get a lot of mystery items here, and they are normally fairly easy to identify – pieces of manufacturing slag, cicada cases, random pieces of urban archaeology that work their way up from old rubbish pits.

As she removed them from her bag, she said, "they look like fossilised champignons." An odd description, but entirely accurate. The items she unwrapped did indeed look like small mushrooms. They weren't fossils, as they were obviously made of a chalky substance; soft enough to flake and leave a slight powdery residue on one's fingertips. Our visitor said she had discovered them in the mud on the shores of a freshwater pond on Kangaroo Island, and mentioned, in an offhand manner, that they were amongst some crayfish carcasses, and perhaps they had something to do with local platypus? I was stumped. My colleague Wayne, a chap with a palaeontological background, was equally stumped.

Crayfish gastroliths Crayfish gastroliths, brought in to the Discovery Centre for identification.
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Found in platypus territory, and made of chalky material? We did some preliminary research: were they dehydrated platypus eggs? Some weird botanical thing? A fungus? Yes, I did google "fossilised champignons". Getting nowhere, we turned to our various departmental experts in Mammalogy, Marine Invertebrates and Geosciences; even our pet Entomologist. No luck.

On the off-chance that our Live Exhibits manager had seen something similar on fieldwork, I emailed through the photographs to him, and he shared them round the office. Victory! Gentleman-and-scholar Adam Elliot knew immediately what they were. It turned out that our enquirer's by-the-by remark about the crayfish was the salient information – these "fossilised champignons" are freshwater crayfish gastroliths. When preparing to shed, the crayfish forms these stones to store the calcium they will need to help form their new exoskeleton. After they've shed (a process called ecdysis – remember that one for word games), they reabsorb this calcium to help create their new shell. These particular examples are very, very large.

Crayfish gastroliths Crayfish gastroliths, brought into the Discovery Centre for identification.
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This blog post from the WA Museum gives a great rundown on how the process works, and includes a photo of some smaller gastroliths from a similar identification request.

So there you have it, mystery solved. We'll keep an eye out for more oddities – I've always liked them best.

Making of the First Peoples ad

Author
by Jareen
Publish date
11 September 2013
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Comments (5)

One cold August morning at 5am, a team of us were outside along Birrarung Marr ‘on set’ shooting a commercial for the new First Peoples exhibition. Here are just a few behind the scenes photos of the shoot.

Aunty Fay Carter and Dharna on set. "... Hear our stories, know the joy in our hearts..." Aunty Fay Carter and Dharna on set.
Image: Matthew McCarthy
Source: Clear Design
 

Everyone on set. Final touch up before we begin shooting. Aunty Fay Carter (slightly hidden), Uncle Jack Charles, Dharna Nicholson-Bux and Marbee Williams with the make up artist.
Image: Matthew McCarthy
Source: Clear Design

Marbee and Uncle Jack Charles on set Marbee Williams and Uncle Jack Charles on set with the Melbourne skyline in the background.
Image: Matthew McCarthy
Source: Clear Design
 

The advertising for the First Peoples exhibition is centred around the word Wominjeka. The word means welcome in the local Koorie languages for Melbourne, Boonwurrung and Woi wurrung. You can find out about Victorian Aboriginal languages in the exhibition or our online map.

In the campaign, we feature four Victorian Aboriginal people: Aunty Fay Carter (Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung), Uncle Jack Charles (Boonwurrung and Wiradjeri), Marbee Williams (Boonwurrung and Wiradjuri) and Dharna Nicholson-Bux (Wurundjeri and Yorta Yorta).

Dharna with Aunty Fay Dharna with Aunty Fay onset during the First Peoples commercial shoot at Birrarung Marr. August 2013.
Image: Scottie Cameron
Source: Museum Victoria

Uncle Jack Charles Uncle Jack Charles onset during the First Peoples commercial shoot.
Image: Scottie Cameron
Source: Museum Victoria

Marbee Williams. Marbee Williams onset for the First Peoples commercial shoot.
Image: Scottie Cameron
Source: Museum Victoria.
 

If you live in Melbourne, hopefully you will have started seeing the word Wominjeka around town. If you see our posters, ads, brochures, flags or video, snap a photo and use #wominjeka if you're sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We'd love to see it!

Example of advertising for First Peoples. Examples of the advertising featuring Marbee Williams and Dharna Nicholson-Bux.
Image: Clear Design
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The campaign development was highly collaborative, taking inspiration from the First Peoples Yulendj (knowledge) Group of Elders and representatives of Aboriginal communities from across Victoria, the First Peoples exhibition and Bunjilaka teams, and taking into consideration the feedback from recent focus group sessions with non-Aboriginal museum visitors.

Huge thanks to everyone who has helped with the development of the campaign!

 

Guide to Victorian butterflies

Author
by Simon
Publish date
10 September 2013
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Dr Ross Field, a former head of Sciences at Museum Victoria, has compiled a spectacular book on one of his passions: butterflies of Victoria. Butterflies: Identification and life history is the result of many years of painstaking work on Ross’s part and covers all aspects of the lifecycle of these eternally popular insects.

Egg Tailed Emperor Butterfly Lateral view of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly egg
Image: Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Incredible images take readers through the lifecycle of each species from egg, through caterpillar and the food plant it eats, pupa and finally adult. The magnified images of the eggs are stunning and allow us to view and admire objects usually too small to notice. The eggs can be ornamented, ribbed, round or cigar shaped and come in a range of colours. Depending on the viewer some people see a range of jellies or blancmanges when they look at some of these images, (or maybe that’s just me). In fact a selection of these egg shots is touring selected Victorian cultural venues as part of The Art of Science exhibition.

  Caterpillar larva Tailed Emperor Caterpillar of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Collecting the eggs of numerous species for photographing was a big undertaking; Ross has spent many hours in a host of locations watching butterflies circle until they land to lay their eggs. A sample of the eggs were collected and brought back to Melbourne Museum to be photographed using our camera/microscope set up. Prior to this book, anyone other than an expert who collected an egg would have to wait until the egg hatched and the caterpillar had reached one of its later instars before being able to hazard a guess at the species. With this new guide, the ability for the general public to undertake identifications in the field is greatly expanded.    

Pupa Tailed Emperor Pupa of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The egg images might also raise questions such as why do butterflies from the Pieridae family tend to lay cigar shaped eggs? Why do the eggs of some species have a series of lateral ribs running around the surface? Is there an evolutionary advantage to laying sculptured eggs? In short, this comprehensive field guide gives a new vision into the fascinating world of Victorian butterflies and helps to educate and provoke our interest into further research and conservation. 

Adult Tailed Emperor butterfly Adult Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Butterflies: Identification and life history. A Museum Victoria field guide by Ross Field. Available in paperback from MV shops or as an eBook from  iTunes or Booktopia.

Melbourne Zoo: 10 steps to a butterfly garden

Drawing class in the Discovery Centre

Author
by Max
Publish date
5 September 2013
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Comments (0)

We recently had a request from Debbie Mourtzios, a teacher at Box Hill Institute, to hold a drawing class for Graphic Design students at the Discovery Centre using natural science specimens.

Discovery Centre Drawing class Discovery Centre Drawing class
Image: Debbie Mourtzios
Source: Debbie Mourtzios
 

As the theme of the class was texture, Debbie asked if we could supply examples of fur, feathers, scales, claws, wings, or anything that can illustrate textures.

  Discovery Centre Drawing class Discovery Centre Drawing class
Image: Debbie Mourtzios
Source: Debbie Mourtzios
 

We contacted our Vertebrates Collection Manager who gladly loaned us specimens from the Mammal, Bird and Herpetology collections. We also used specimens in the DC’s interpretive collection. We had bird wings, an echidna, a glass sponge skeleton, a bird of paradise, various bones, reptiles, shark egg cases, all on tables in the Seminar Room, plus all the interpretive collection objects in the Discovery Centre itself. They were not wont for variety.

  Discovery Centre Drawing class Discovery Centre Drawing class
Image: Max Strating
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The eighteen students spent two hours drawing the various specimens. It was very rewarding to watch the students using the centre and its resources; it was also unusually quiet for such a large group. I guess that’s what focused attention sounds like.

Discovery Centre Drawing class Discovery Centre Drawing class
Image: Debbie Mourtzios
Source: Debbie Mourtzios
 

Links

Victoria & Albert Museum

Greek journeys at Bonegilla Heritage Park

Author
by Alex
Publish date
1 September 2013
Comments
Comments (0)

Alex Dellios, one of our Immigration Museum volunteers, recently re-visited Bonegilla as part of her ongoing research for her thesis 'Bonegilla Migrant Camp: Constructing Public History, Negotiating Collective Memories' at the University of Melbourne.

Bonegilla Heritage Park's newest exhibition From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla touches on more than just the Bonegilla experience of Greek migrants—it subtly explores issues of Greek migrant identity and adjustment in post-war Australia. Open since December 2011, but neglected by this researcher until now, this exhibit is small but surprising. A combination of images, text and objects fill one of the larger rooms in one of Block 19's huts. Information is offered (in both Greek and English) on themes like 'The Greek Farmers Project', 'Building a Greek Community', and 'Sponsorship vs Assisted Migrant Scheme'.

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla
Image: Alex Dellios
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Uniquely, the exhibition does not shy away from an exploration of the scheme and government policy that shaped post-war migrants' settlement experiences. The personalised voice is provided through the testimony of migrants themselves—short and snappy quotes appear on blocks throughout the room. The objects alone seem incongruous, items that often come to mind when building Greek stereotypes in Australia: namely, the bouzouki. Other items also appear behind glass cabinets, presumably donated by Greeks ex-residents.

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla
Image: Alex Dellios
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The second, smaller room contains an unexpected gem—a collection of remarkable miniatures by Tasos Kolokotronis of his village in northern Greece. All of them are created from his memory. They're very detailed miniatures, of village houses, a church, a school, and even the White Tower of Thessaloniki.

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla
Image: Alex Dellios
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Overall, Bonegilla's newest addition is small but enjoyable exhibition that cleverly explores the story of Greek post-war migration. And it appears at a site for which the Melbourne Greek community, especially through the Bonegilla Ex-Residents Association, have displayed unparalleled fondness.

The exhibition, like the rest of the Heritage Park is free and open seven days a week.

Links

Bonegilla Migrant Experience

The Bonegilla Story

Destination Australia

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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