Many Melbourne Museums

06 September, 2009

Front of State Library of Victoria when the National Museum was still housed in the same building.
Front of State Library of Victoria when the National Museum was still housed in the same building.
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: There are a number of museums in Victoria. Which one is Museum Victoria?

Answer: Museum Victoria is not one museum, rather it is an institution that is responsible for the state’s scientific and cultural collections. These collections are displayed across three venues: Melbourne Museum in Carlton Gardens, Scienceworks at Spotswood and Immigration Museum on Flinders Street.

Museum Victoria’s predecessor, the National Museum of Victoria, opened in 1854 at the Government Assay Office in La Trobe Street. In the intervening 155 years the Museum’s collections, now estimated to be 16.6 million objects, have been displayed at a number of different venues.

The National Museum’s collection was transferred to the University of Melbourne in 1856. Two years later, Professor Fredrick McCoy was formally appointed the museum’s first director.

In 1870 the Victorian government established the Industrial and Technological Museum. Housed in a timber building at the rear of the Public Library on Swanston Street, the collection, which opened to the public in 1871, comprised objects exhibited at the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition, and mining and agricultural collections from the National Museum.

McCoy died in 1899. The National Museum collections were then transferred to the Industrial and Technological Museum at Swanston Street. The Industrial and Technological Museum was closed, and its main hall renamed McCoy Hall.

In 1915 the Industrial and Technological Museum reopened in Queen’s Hall, the oldest part of the Public Library building on Swanston Street. The Industrial and Technological Museum became known as the Museum of Applied Science of Victoria in 1945, the Institute of Applied Science of Victoria in 1961, and then the Science Museum of Victoria in 1971.

In 1983 the National Museum and the Science Museum merged to become the Museum of Victoria. Both museums were still housed alongside the Public Library at Swanston Street; the National Gallery, that used to share the building with the library and museums, moved to St Kilda road in 1968. Following the amalgamation of the National Museum and Science Museum, a new future was envisaged in which different Museum campuses would showcase different aspects of the State’s collections. In 1992, the first of these new campuses, Scienceworks, was opened to display the science and technology collections. In 1998 the Immigration Museum opened in the former Customs House; it highlights Victoria’s cultural diversity collections. Finally, in 2000 Melbourne Museum opened on its new site in Carlton Gardens, adjacent to the Royal Exhibition Building.

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