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.