Thursday, November 1, 2012

melbourne’s museum

In the 1960s in Melbourne, when there was no money for swimming or the zoo, at least the Museum was free.

The place I knew as "The Museum" was in the State Library building in Swanston Street

Many of the door mats were emblazoned with the legend GR VI and, considering King George the VIth had been dead since 1952, I suppose they were where they belonged.

Today’s museums are serious places of learning, with bright interactive displays, guided activities and stuff like that. In the 1960s, the museum was just a collection of stuff. Old stuff.
A great deal of it seemed to be there just because it was old, or even because someone had collected it and had nowhere else to put it.

There were 2 or 3 things that were interesting because we had heard about such things, like this

and this

while this 

– and a million other old guns and rifles - were mildly interesting but not really memorable.

This chap was a must-see:

Like many Australians who have made a big name for themselves and then moved on to conquer the US, Pharlap was born in New Zealand.
Popular legend had it that when he died in the US in1932 it was because he had been poisoned by “The Americans” because they couldn’t handle the competition.
Having been poisoned, he was then stuffed a second time before coming home.

His heart is in Canberra, his hide in Melbourne, and his skeleton in NewZealand.

In the 1980s, forensic scientists finally concluded acute bacterial gastroenteritis was the cause of his death.

Apart from the mummy and the horsey, there were heaps of other stuffed critters about the place, many of them looking decidedly moth-eaten.

A whole heap of display cases similar to these 

were full of moth and butterfly specimens. Perhaps the moths had indigestion from nibbling dead animals at night, or they were just old: Perhaps there were so many of them that it was too much information, but I barely gave them a glance.

There were also cases full of rocks. How could there be so many different types of rocks and, more importantly, what was so fascinating about them that someone would spend their life collecting and classifying so many different types? Even if I were Gina Rinehart I could not see the point as I would have enough money to hire someone else with rocks in their head to tell me what I need to know.

In the 1950s, someone had gone mad creating heaps of dioramas like this one.

Just inside the front entrance, if memory serves, there were two things which were “different”. Both of them were from E W Coles famous Book Arcade.


I later heard [and became fascinated by] the story of Coles Book Arcade, but have only just made the connection.

After nearly 100 years in the same building, “The Museum” was moved to The Carlton Gardens in 1997.


  1. The dioramas were the most interesting thing there and even then, hardly fascinating. It's hard to believe it wasn't that long ago.

    1. The dioramas were fairly tragic, weren't they?
      From where I sit it wasn't that long ago at all :)

  2. An interesting perspective on a trip down memory lane. Museums are much more fun these days.

    1. More interesting Diane, but now we have to pay to get in!