Preparing The Melbourne Story

The redevelopment of Melbourne Museum’s Australia Gallery

Over past few months, visitors to Melbourne Museum have been intrigued by a number of exciting changes taking place in the Museum’s exhibition spaces.  Most recently, extensive redevelopments have been underway in the Museum’s Australia Gallery, where staff are busy installing the largest exhibition ever produced by Museum Victoria, The Melbourne Story.

Scheduled to open to the public March 2008, after more than three years in development, The Melbourne Story will be the most comprehensive exhibition ever created about the city of Melbourne.  According to Museum Victoria CEO, Dr Patrick Greene, “this exhibition will be essential viewing for every Victorian and will also reveal the extraordinary riches of our city to hundreds of thousands of international tourists.”

Melbourne, 1858. Hand coloured lithograph by George Rowe.

Melbourne, 1858. Hand coloured lithograph by George Rowe.
Source: State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Picture Collection

The redevelopment of the Australia Gallery reflects Museum Victoria’s commitment to producing new and engaging experiences for its visitors. As staff complete preparations over the coming months, public access to the Australia Gallery will remain restricted. To ensure continuing access to Australia’s greatest racehorse, Phar Lap has been temporarily relocated to the Science and Life Gallery.

About the Exhibition

The Melbourne Story will reveal key moments and major changes in Melbourne’s history and will explore some of the city’s defining characteristics. The exhibition looks at Melbourne through key time periods, from the early 1800s through to the present day, enabling visitors to explore the social, cultural and physical character of the city over time.

The exhibition has been created by Melbourne’s most eminent historians, expert curators, conservation staff, preparators and collection management staff, with access to Museum Victoria’s collection of rare and priceless state heritage objects. A re-creation of a working class cottage from the late 1800s, a cinema playing Melbourne film footage from the 1920s to the 1940s and treasures from Melbourne’s Great Exhibitions will all feature in the $3.8 million development.

Museum staff restoring a carriage from Luna Park’s ‘Big Dipper.’
Source: Museum Victoria, Photographer: David Crotty

Dr Patrick Greene outlines the scope of the exhibition by declaring that, “Melbourne is a dynamic and diverse city founded by opportunists and rising to fame during the gold rush.  Our history ranges from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the familiar to the unusual and surprising. The Melbourne Story will promote a sense of place and belonging and challenges visitors to see Melbourne with fresh eyes.”

Objects on Display

The Melbourne Story features more than 1200 collection objects from Museum Victoria’s collection. As a result it will be the most complete and object-rich exhibition about Melbourne ever staged. The exhibition will feature iconic objects from Melbourne’s history such as a historic bark canoe from the Yarra River, an early Cobb & Co coach, a fully-restored carriage from the Luna Park Big Dipper and the much-loved ‘Little Men’ from Coles’ Book Arcade.

Crowd favourite and one of Melbourne’s most famous residents, Phar Lap, will have a new, specially developed home in the exhibition featuring never-before-seen memorabilia, such as the last saddle he wore and an original catalogue for the sale at which Phar Lap was bought, with the hand-written note “Good Walker, Great Shoulder, Very Strong Made Colt”.

Another exciting collection object to feature in The Melbourne Story will be Museum Victoria’s newly acquired Cobb & Co coach. This rare 19th century coach is believed to have been built in Geelong in about 1880 for the Western Stage Company, which ran coaches throughout western Victoria under the famous ‘Cobb & Co.’ banner. Founded in 1854 to carry passengers from Melbourne to the goldfields, the Cobb & Co name was later adopted by coach operators throughout eastern Australia.

Dickinson Cobb & Co Coach
Source: Museum Victoria, Photographer: Matthew Churchward

Last used on the Casterton to Mount Gambier route in 1916, this particular coach was designed to be pulled by four or five horses and could carry up to seventeen passengers. It is believed to be the last horse-drawn coach to operate commercially in Victoria.

Visitor Information

The Melbourne Story opened in the Melbourne Gallery at Melbourne Museum in March 2008. If you have any further questions relating to this exhibition, please feel free to drop into the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre.

Comments (3)

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Tyson 25 May, 2010 15:18
this is awesome
tenisha blemish 31 March, 2013 18:21
this is a good site
Ms Kindred 6 November, 2014 11:28
We enjoyed learning about how. Other people used to live.
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