Display case at Immigration Museum featuring the personal story of Karl Muffler, German immigrant.
Image: Philip Thiel
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: I have heard that permanent exhibitions at Immigration Museum feature the personal stories of individual migrants. Is this true?
Answer: Yes, it’s true. The permanent exhibitions on the Immigration Museum’s first floor cover a range of topics connected to immigration and cultural diversity. While some of these exhibitions appeal to quite universal themes and issues, all depend on personal stories to enhance their content and to provide points of connection between visitors and migrant experiences.
A great example of this is the gallery called “Immigrant Stories and Timeline.” Here, a chronological overview of immigration history to Victoria is presented around the perimeter wall, while exhibition cases feature stories and objects connected to individual migrants representing different time periods, cultural backgrounds and motivations for migrating. Furthermore, these individual stories are linked back to the broader narrative via particular themes.
For example, the story of German immigrant Karl Muffler is not only a description of a cake-maker’s life in wartime Melbourne, but gives the opportunity to explore the wider topic of civilian internment during World War II. Similarly, Masumi Hiraga Jackson’s personal story of immigration to Victoria from Japan allows for an exploration of the maintenance of cultural traditions in adoptive homelands. The objects on display are linked to Masumi’s involvement in traditional Japanese theatre, doll-making and Ikebana. These two stories as well as other current and past stories presented at the Immigration Museum can also be found online.
Museum staff regularly rotate the content of these cases to allow for a diverse range of immigrant stories to be exhibited; this has the added advantage of exposing visitors to a variety of objects from both the Museum’s collection and community collections. The most recent inclusion is the story of Yasser Al-Alyawi, an Iraqi refugee, musician and photographer, which includes an exploration of families geographically divided by migration.
The Immigration Museum’s focus on the stories of individuals is evident across the whole building, not only in the permanent collection but also in the Community Gallery and the temporary exhibition “Station Pier: Gateway to a New Life.” Furthermore, the “Share a Story” database is an opportunity for visitors to not only read about individual experiences of migration, but to submit their own using computers located in the Immigration Discovery Centre.