After the bad news (see previous blog re. the contamination of the collection I would have been working with), I have seen an incredible variety of objects and collections. Firstly, I was tasked with collecting, labeling, and writing short descriptions for each new item by a recent donor. The donor in question was an owner of a LGBT bar in Melbourne in the Nineties, who donated lots of bar and popular culture memorabilia. What a collection! Ranging from pictures of pole dancers, to barmaid’s (extremely skimpy) outfits, to the more mundane objects such as photos of the donor with her wife and young daughter. Working with this collection, so far from the original collection I had been intended to work with, really showed me the variety and breadth of items that museums hold.
In order to get a fuller picture of what Museum Victoria does, I visited two different campus locations. Moreland, the off-site storage facility, mainly holds larger items that cannot be held in the museum’s main store on-site. This vast collection is hugely eclectic in nature; from housing a broken early Victorian telescope (currently being repaired by volunteers), to a huge collection of Indigenous spears (and an even larger Indigenous collection which I was unable to see as they have a special ‘secret sacred’ listing and only designated visitors are allowed to see the items), and huge cars and trams from early Melbourne history. It was an amazing experience to have a guided tour through a storage facility that the public has no access to, and reminded me of the central aim of a government-funded museum. Central to Museum Victoria’s values is the need to preserve cultural social and economic history of the region; this involves collecting items with historical provenance, yet may never be displayed. This was a realization that really stuck with me; the museum is so committed to documenting history that it collects items knowing they may never be put on display. For me, this moment of clarity confirmed for me even further that pursuing a career in museums is the career path for me.
On Friday of week 4, I visited another of Museum Victoria’s campus locations; Scienceworks. This is primarily a museum for children, focusing on the history of science with large interactive panels and displays. The highlight for me was going on a tour of the old sewage pumping station – complete with a machine from the 1800s that had been manufactured in West Yorkshire, just like me!
Life in Melbourne so far has been pretty good to me, lots of gallery events and live music, amazing food and drink (waistline and bank balance are not best pleased with me) – truly, this is the world’s most liveable city!