Archaeology at the REB

14 June, 2009

Aerial shot of REB and surrounding gardens, with Museum roof at bottom edge of shot.
Aerial shot of REB and surrounding gardens, with Museum roof at bottom edge of shot.
Source: Newmark Aerial Photography/Museum Victoria

Question: I read somewhere recently that there was going to be an archaeological dig in the Carlton Gardens next to the Royal Exhibition Building – do you have any more information about this?

Answer: Yes – there will be an archaeological dig, anticipated to commence in October of this year, in the western forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building, and it represents the first of three stages of wider sustainable conservation project for the building and surrounding Carlton Gardens.

Since the 1950s, the western forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building has been an unsightly asphalt carpark, a modern blemish on the otherwise beautiful 19th century Carlton Gardens. Furthermore, the health of the gardens is waning due to current Victorian water restrictions, and the historic fountains have been forced out of operation.

In an effort to improve this situation, Museum Victoria is undertaking a sustainable conservation project whereby, firstly, underground water tanks will be installed beneath the forecourt in order to capture rainwater run-off from the substantial roof of the Royal Exhibition Building, and secondly, the German Garden that originally occupied the site of the western forecourt will be reconstructed according to the original 19th century design.

The rainwater run-off captured and stored in the underground water storage tanks will provide a constant source for the heritage fountains and lakes of the Carlton Gardens and will irrigate the newly reconstructed German Garden, while the new garden will replace the undesirable carpark, thereby restoring and completing the ‘palace gardens’ of the most significant extant 19th century building in Australia.

However, before the installation of the water tanks and the reconstruction of the German Garden can occur, an archaeological investigation of the site will be undertaken to search for traces of historic garden beds and other landscape features that might provide a basis for the garden’s reconstruction. This archaeological dig will be managed by Museum Victoria, in conjunction with Heritage Victoria.

The dig will be able to be viewed by members of the public – viewing platforms will be constructed around the perimeter of the dig site, and ramps will be included for accessibility. The dig is anticipated to run for approximately 6 weeks, depending on the quantity and nature of the material uncovered. Any material that is recovered by the dig will be analysed and recorded, and will either become part of the Museum Victoria collections, or will be distributed to appropriate institutions, such as local universities.

Comments (7)

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NEIL OLERHEAD 8 July, 2009 13:59
i would like to volunteer in the dig i am not studying archeology and i have not previous experience.
Discovery Centre 9 July, 2009 16:40

While the dig will be open to the public, we need to check if there will be a volunteer program associated with the event. Watch this space!

Discovery Centre 24 July, 2009 15:35

Museum Victoria is currently finalising arrangements for the management of the excavation of the REB western forecourt. Once finalised, any events or activities related to the dig, will be advertised on the REB website.

You may also be interested in participating in our annual Dinosaur Dreaming dig at Inverloch. Further information can be found in our Dinosaur Dreaming infosheet.

Kerryn 4 October, 2009 23:27
Any news on this dig?
Discovery Centre 6 October, 2009 13:24

Hi Kerryn, the dig is about to start! The hoarding will go up around 12 October and the dig begins in about the last week of October. We are currently preparing an MV news story about the dig and will soon have a web page up as well. 

Jacqui 8 November, 2009 19:17
I was wondering we need to book to come to the "viewing" on 14/11/09 and what hours it will be operating?
Discovery Centre 9 November, 2009 13:29

Hi there Jacqui. The 'World Heritage: World Futures' Open Day is not a bookable event as such, more a day of informal talk and lectures which will be occuring at the site of the archaeological dig occuring in the Royal Exhibition Building forecourt. If you are interested in coming along to the Open Day all you need to do is turn up on the day between 11am-3pm!

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