Victorians & Native Birds: An evolving relationship
The people of Victoria have had a constantly changing relationship with their native birdlife.
Ever-present and iconic, we’ve put Australian birds on official state heraldry and on tomato sauce bottles and biscuit packets. There has always been an immense fondness and respect for our unique birds. However, attitudes towards wildlife generally and birds specifically have undergone seismic paradigm shifts over the last few hundred years.
Looking at objects catalogued here on Victorian Collections, we can map this change and trace the ways that Victorians have interacted with birds, from Indigenous spirituality to citizen science programs.
Science Gallery Melbourne
As a powerful symbol of life and death, the alluring mystery of blood has fascinated scientists and artists for centuries.
From biological fluid to artistic medium, this four-part series of stories explore blood through a diversity of Victoria’s museums and collections. Inspired by Science Gallery Melbourne’s inaugural exhibition Blood: Attract & Repel, these stories offer a diverse understanding of blood through objects, art, and innovative new research.
Wind & Sky Productions
Many Roads: Stories of the Chinese on the goldfields
In the 1850s tens of thousands of Chinese people flocked to Victoria, joining people from nations around the world who came here chasing the lure of gold.
Fleeing violence, famine and poverty in their homeland Chinese goldseekers sought fortune for their families in the place they called ‘New Gold Mountain’. Chinese gold miners were discriminated against and often shunned by Europeans. Despite this they carved out lives in this strange new land.
The Chinese took many roads to the goldfields. They left markers, gardens, wells and place names, some which still remain in the landscape today. After a punitive tax was laid on ships to Victoria carrying Chinese passengers, ship captains dropped their passengers off in far away ports, leaving Chinese voyagers to walk the long way hundreds of kilometres overland to the goldfields. After 1857 the sea port of Robe in South Australia became the most popular landing point. It’s estimated 17,000 Chinese, mostly men, predominantly from Southern China, walked to Victoria from Robe following over 400kms of tracks.
At the peak migration point of the late 1850s the Chinese made up one in five of the male population in fabled gold mining towns of Victoria such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Beechworth and Ararat. It was not just miners who took the perilous journey. Doctors, gardeners, artisans and business people voyaged here and contributed to Victoria’s economy, health and cultural life. As the nineteenth century wore on and successful miners and entrepreneurs returned home, the Chinese Victorian population dwindled. However some chose to settle here and Chinese culture, family life, ceremony and work ethic became a distinctive feature of many regional Victorian towns well into the twentieth century.
By the later twentieth century many of the Chinese relics, landscapes and legacy of the goldrush era were hidden or forgotten. Today we are beginning to unearth and celebrate the extent of the Chinese influence in the making of Victoria, which reaches farther back than many have realised.
Breaking the Mould: The First Police Women in Victoria
The story of Victoria’s Police Women begins in 1917 when Madge Connor and Elizabeth Beers were appointed as police agents. They had no uniform and were unarmed. Their work was to be similar to that of a social worker; looking after neglected children and protecting vulnerable women.
By 12 November 1924 the number of agents had increased to four; they were sworn into the force as police members. Police women now had powers of arrest and equal pay. However, there were still many challenges ahead for them, including battles for equal opportunities and training.
The onset of World War II saw the role of women change in the work force in Australia. Record numbers of women filled jobs traditionally held by men. Victoria Police faced a shortage of staff due to men enlisting in the war. As a result the Women’s Auxiliary Force was formed in 1942.
Since then, Victorian police women have gone on to many great achievements including: Anne Wregg (nee Cursio) being the first police woman in Australia to be awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for bravery; and Christine Nixon being appointed the first female Chief Commissioner.
In 2017 Victoria Police celebrates 100 years of women in policing. Today women make up a quarter of Victoria’s Police employees. Their struggles and achievements over the last century are acknowledged and celebrated through a new exhibition ‘Agents of Change’ and by the objects and photographs collected and shared by the Victoria Police Museum.
Victorian Collections Team
Celebrations are underway for the remarkable landmark digitisation of 100,000 objects accessible through Victorian Collections.
We are taking this opportunity to reflect back on the early days of the program; reminiscing about how it began, the milestones along the way and all the incredible achievements of the Victorian Collections community.
We are thrilled with the success and interest in Victorian Collections and excited to see the next 100,000 objects.
The McIntyre Family
The First World War was an event that involved the whole world.
Thousands of Australian troops were sent into battle in support of Britain and France. Among them were two brothers, John and Jim McIntyre. John McIntyre's experiences are particularly well documented because he brought back many objects from all the places he visited. He also sent many postcards home to his family during the war.
John Lachlan McIntyre was born at Beeac, Victoria in December 1890. He enlisted in the 1st AIF in July 1915. John fought on the Western Front, taking part in the battles of Fromelles and the 2nd Battle of the Somme. He was severely wounded at Fromelles and spent 12 months in hospital in England before returning to the front.
Threads: Quilts & waggas
Quilting is often thought of as a pastime more than an art form.
A domestic craft practiced mainly by women, we think of quilt-makers working individually or in intimate circles, sharing stitches and scraps of fabric along with gossip and hushed conversation. In truth, quilts are complex objects.
Both utilitarian and artistic, quilts not only testify to the industriousness and ambition of their makers, but they also enclose generations of economic, cultural and social change.
Quilts tell stories and are objects of inference, through which multiple histories can be glimpsed, imagined, covered over: threads gathered and dropped. Few objects are as riven with the small and large shocks, fears, desires and dreams of everyday life.
Open House Melbourne
Modern Melbourne is a series of filmed interviews and rich archival material that documents the extraordinary lives and careers of some of our most important architects and designers including Peter McIntyre, Mary Featherston, Daryl Jackson, Graeme Gunn, Phyllis Murphy and Allan Powell.
Melbourne’s modernist architects and designers are moving into the later stages of their careers. Their influence on the city is strong and the public appreciation of their early work is growing – they have made an indelible mark on Melbourne. Much of their mid-century modernist work and latter projects are now represented on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Many of the Modern Melbourne subjects enjoyed a working relationship and a friendship with Robin Boyd, the influential architect who championed the international modernist movement in Melbourne.
The Dreamer & the Cheerful Thing
Some months after my grandfather Bob Snape’s death in 1977 I collected two old trunks full of memorabilia from his last home, in Sandringham.
What a treasure it turned out to be: jammed full of papers, comprising correspondence, diaries, short stories, a poem or two, much of it typed, some of it hand-written, some official-looking documents and some music scores roughly sorted into manila folders, and a variety of souvenirs and ephemera. There were also half a dozen ordnance maps, aerial photographs of some Western Front battlefields and some battered old albums containing postcards, of WW1 France and Belgium, but also of England and Wales. These have since been catalogued on the Warrnambool RSL Victorian Collections page.
Bob’s treasure trove tells the story of his experiences during the war, and that of his younger brother Harold who also fought. Bob was a prolific correspondent and diarist, whilst Harold’s own tiny pocket diary alone ran to approximately 40,000 words. Near the end of his life, Bob told me, “You can burn the lot for all I care. You decide when I’m gone....”
Walter J.R. Barber