Creating knowledge and entertaining visitors for 170 years

This year, Museums Victoria celebrates its 170th anniversary, with plenty to offer visitors of all ages and interests.
in a gallery, huge mural of a colourful flying bird with big black tipped wings.

Museums Victoria’s three cultural institutions, Immigration Museum, Scienceworks and Melbourne Museum, have a variety of exhibitions and programs curated for all audiences. Regardless of their differences, the trio share a common goal: to tell stories that connect the past and the present, and help us imagine the future.

Since its foundation in 1854, Museums Victoria has grown and developed from two small rooms set aside in a government office on La Trobe Street to become a multi-campus, multidisciplinary institution providing research, exhibitions and educational and public programs.

The Immigration Museum is presently hosting two temporary exhibitions in addition to the permanent collections: Joy and Re-Orient: Reclaiming Spaces, Redefining Stories. The former, Joy, features seven newly commissioned works by artists (Elyas Alavi with Sher Ali, Spencer Harrison, Nadia Hernández, Nixi Killick, Jazz Money, Beci Orpin and Callum Preston) who showcase their creations in colourful, full room installations as they explore the concept and manifestations of joy. If you’ve ever wanted to revisit your past, there’s a lovingly detailed and full-scale replica of a 1990s video store (complete with real VHS tapes), as well as an enormous toy rabbit, inspired by 1970s childhoods.

Meanwhile, Re-Orient: Reclaiming Spaces, Redefining Stories is a photography exhibition by Chinese-Italian Australian Pia Johnson that surveys the colonial history of the building itself as a site of migration administration. Did you know that the 19th century Customs House was where new arrivals had their baggage and papers checked, and where the notorious Dictation Test was performed on these new settlers? 

For a family-friendly experience for young minds and science nerds alike, Scienceworks’ Air Playground offers an investigation into the mysterious properties of air. In a space where education meets entertainment highlights include grappling with a gigantic, tentacled inflatable sculpture. You can even make and launch your own paper planes to compare and contrast their aerodynamic potential.

Melbourne Museum is in the heart of Carlton Gardens and offers a variety of programs for all ages including Nocturnal, Top Designs and Tiny Tours

As its name suggests, Nocturnal takes place after dark on the second Thursday of each month. It encompasses an adults-only evening of food, drinks and entertainment. Top Designs is a partnership with the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) to display some of the state’s most outstanding creations from VCE and VCE VET Design and technology students. Examples include a functional prosthetic arm and multi-use lightweight garments that take up minimal storage space.

Those with little ones in tow, (specifically 3-5 years of age) should consider booking a Tiny Tours walk that’s facilitated by learning experts and themed around museum objects. Don’t leave without a visit to the permanent exhibition Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs featuring Horridus: Melbourne Museum’s 67-million-year-old Triceratops fossil. Horridus holds the impressive title of being the most complete real dinosaur fossil in any Australian museum.

If you can’t make up your mind which museums to visit, why not try all three? Museums Victoria members enjoy a year of free general entry to Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and Immigration Museum, plus much more – all in one membership! Invitations to exclusive events and tours, discounts on parking and in museums shops are just a few other member benefits.

Discover more via Membership – Museums Victoria

Thuy On is the Reviews and Literary Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her debut, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was released by University of Western Australia Publishing (UWAP). Her second collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Her third book, Essence, will be published in 2025. Twitter: @thuy_on Instagram: poemsbythuy