Research Guide

Small iron tea kettle (tetsubin), part of a traditional Japanese 'hibati' tea-ceremony set brought to Melbourne in 1985.
Small iron tea kettle (tetsubin), part of a traditional Japanese 'hibati' tea-ceremony set brought to Melbourne in 1985.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria, HT 14240

Once you have an object to investigate you can begin to research it.

The first step is to seek permission to interview anyone connected with the object. Use the Participation agreement (PDF, 25KB) supplied. Write a list of questions you want to ask the person. Take a tape recorder if possible. Complete the Interview guide (PDF, 27KB). For more tips on how to conduct a successful interview, see Preparing an oral history (PDF, 36KB).

Once you have conducted this interview, document your findings. What have you found out? What further questions does this information raise? What else do you need to know?

Background research

It’s always good to understand a little bit about the period of time you are looking at. Some general research is always useful.

Undertake research about the period of history with which this object connects. Creating a timeline is a good way of documenting key events. The Immigration to Victoria timeline may help you.
When you have a better idea about the period you are studying, think about what else you want to research.

Research questions

  • What do you need to know to be able to tell your story?
  • What was going on at this time in Australia?
  • What big events were going on elsewhere in the world?
  • What was going on in your family or the community where your object was located?
  • Create a list of questions to guide your research.

Example of questions you might research if you are creating a migration story:

  • Did many people come to Australia during this period? 
  • Where did they come from? 
  • Why did they come? 
  • What did they do when they arrived? 
  • Are there any links to your object's story?
  • What was it like to come to a new country?

Example of questions you might ask if you are creating a story about an Aboriginal person:

  • What happened when Europeans first came to Australia?
  • What did Aboriginal people do?
  • What was the attitude of the Europeans towards the Aboriginal people?
  • Where did European people settle? Where did Aboriginal people settle.
  • What sorts of objects did Aboriginal people use?

The research questions you develop will guide your investigations. Each question will probably raise other interesting questions.

Places to start your research might include:

  • The people you are discussing your object with, especially the owner and his/her family,
  • The school/local library,
  • The Internet,
  • Your teacher,
  • Your family,
  • Your friends and neighbours,
  • Someone of a similar age to the person who owns the object,
  • Someone of a similar age to the object,
  • Someone from the place your object is linked to.

Museum Victoria's Discovery Centre may be able to help you with general research questions and the identification of manufactured or handcrafted objects.

A librarian from your local library or the State Library of Victoria may also be able to assist you with enquiries.

Museum Victoria’s website provides access to a wealth of images and information about many thousands of collection objects. The following links may give you ideas about research and help you to place your object in context:

Migration to Victoria since the 1830s

The 2009 Victorian bushfires 

Domestic and community life 

Childhood and youth 

Origins: Immigrant communities in Victoria

The websites of government authorities often provide access to useful background information about Australian communities:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – A Diverse People

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies 

Australian Bureau of Statistics – Indigenous themes 

The National Archives of Australia has several online guides:

The Public Records Office of Victoria has a Koorie Records Unit. It also holds passenger lists for voyages to and from Victoria up to 1923.

Image Gallery

Neck clippers used in a Lygon Street barber shop from around 1949, Carlton Children dressed in a street parade for Gala Day, Ballarat, 1935 Yellow ceramic electric jug made in Brighton, Melbourne, by Haigh Resistances Pty Ltd, in 1949 Girls walking to the beach in St Kilda, circa 1963 Man receiving Naturalisation Certificate, Ringwood Town Hall, 1961 Plaster figure of Phar Lap, produced during the early 1930s by an Italian migrant