by Kate C
Publish date
11 October 2013
Comments (1)

Excellent news for urban stickybeaks – we've just released the first three walking tours for the new MV TOURS app. If you’re the kind of person who likes to look up at the older bits of Melbourne, download these free, self-guided tours to your smartphone or device: Spotswood Industrial Heritage, Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, and Melbourne's Golden Mile. Think of the app as having a curator in your pocket, telling you stories on demand.

MV TOURS app This chap is on the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens walking tour, and learning about the Hochgurtel Fountain. This was a top spot for promenading in true 1880s society fashion.
Source: Museum Victoria

I had a chat to one of those pocket curators, Dr Charlotte Smith, about her favourite parts of each route. She led the curatorial team developing the three tours and she's proof that there is always more to learn about the city, even if you’re already an expert historian. She’s particularly smitten with the strange corrugated iron annex hung from the side of the Gothic Rialto Building in Flinders Lane – urinals from the 1890s. "They’re just beautiful! I had no idea they were there," says Charlotte. "In those times they didn't have internal plumbing, but an office building still needed to provide a place for men to relieve themselves."

Melbourne's Golden Mile tour app Screenshot from Melbourne's Golden Mile app showing the Rialto Building urinals.
Source: Museum Victoria

This urinals are a stop on the Melbourne's Golden Mile walking tour, which is based on Professor Graeme Davison's original booklet guide to accompany the path of circular metal disks embedded in city pavements. "We've neatened it a bit, but we follow the Golden Mile disks except where footpaths have been resurfaced and the disks are gone." This tour traces the boom era of Melbourne when the young city was flush with gold money and eager migrants.

Charlotte describes the Spotswood Industrial Heritage walking tour as "fabulous. I’ve really fallen in love with Spotswood." Among stories of manufacturing – fuses, agricultural equipment, glass bottles and more – is the sense of a place that evolved a distinctive character.

Says Charlotte, "we’ve tried to tell the story of it as a suburb with an old soul. There are stories about migration and changing manufacturing needs. The reason why the suburb is so important is its location – it is slightly lower than Melbourne, the river flows past it, and the first train line passed through Spotswood  to the main port at Williamstown." The walking tour also features items of notoriety produced in Spotswood: the glassworks made the suburb the 'Home of the Stubbie', while bushranger Ned Kelly's armour was fashioned from ploughs made by local firm Lennon and Company.

Stubbie Stubbie
Image: Laurie Richards
Source: Museum Victoria

All three tours are richly illustrated with hundreds of photographs and images drawn from MV's collections and other important sources, such as Wolfgang Sievers' photographs of industry and Mark Strizic’s beautiful photos of Melbourne in the 1950s. Charlotte particularly loves "a photograph we found for the Fuse Factory on Hall Street, of women working with their heads covered in scarves to protect themselves from flying bits and pieces." These and other images show how places have changed over the years, and in many cases, places that no longer exist.

While Charlotte expects that the Spotswood tour will be most used by local residents, international visitors are a big audience for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Garden tour, requiring certain concessions for those unfamiliar with the damage that possums can do. Those strange rings of metal around trunks of trees? Possum guards. (That grey furry mound in a tree hollow? Possum.)

The REB tour also includes exquisite drawings by builder David Mitchell of the Exhibition Building. "They’re at the University of Melbourne archive and not often seen. It's fascinating to look at one of the historical drawings then look up at the building and see how it has been realised." 

These three tours are the first instalment in what we hope will be a library of tours of Melbourne and regional places. Download one or all of the tours to your device through either the App Store or Google Play, and let us know what you think! 


Walk through History support page

View all Museum Victoria apps

Immigration Museum: Melbourne's Golden Mile

MV Blog: A golden morning

Comments (1)

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Bill Reynolds 21 April, 2017 16:48
Tried many times to download Spotswood industrial Walk App (and others) after taking the tour on Thursday 20th April without success. Would love to be able to do more self-walk tours but without knowing where to get information am unable. What a shame that it is so difficult when so much effort has been put in to provide the information.
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.