Melbourne Museum

The Melbourne Museum is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere. It is “Victoria’s state museum of natural sciences, indigenous cultures, Australian history and cultural heritage”. I was impressed with it, even though it has the usual museum habit of concentrating on educating children and not having enough details for educated, interested adults. There was the usual emphasis on dinosaur skeletons as soon as you go in the main entrance – including a cast of our very own Muttaburrasaurus – and inside there was a lot of Victorian and Australian material, as you’d expect.

Muttaburrasaurus skeleton at the Queensland Museum; photo by Casliber, Wikimedia Commons

A Discovery Centre staffer went out of his way to help when I asked a few tricky taxonomic questions. There’s a good reference library and web access for research there, too.

I don’t have space to mention everything so I’ll just concentrate on what particularly grabbed my attention. There was a large marine life exhibit but it was far too dark to take photos. A lot of the specimens were in jars, preserved in formaldehyde or alcohol, and such specimens, though interesting, always look ghastly in photos – pale shadows of their living counterparts.

The Bugs Alive! exhibit, including live spiders and beetles live and pinned, was particularly impressive. One wall had several large spirals of pinned beetles in graded sizes. The photo below is not of the spirals, but you can imagine them from this.

Beetle exhibit at the Melbourne Museum

Part of the large beetle exhibit at the Melbourne Museum; photo by Fir0002, Wikimedia Commons

Palaeontology is particularly active in Victoria, and the museum funds much research into this and has impressive exhibits covering it. Dr Tom Rich is a staffer and world-famous expert on Cretaceous fossils, dug from Dinosaur Cove on the Victorian Coast. Tim Flannery started his career at the museum.

This reticulated python skeleton (Python reticulatus live in South-East Asia) prompted a German tourist to ask me, “Is it real?” I assured her that, yes, they really are like that – up to 7 metres (23 feet) long, the world’s longest (but not heaviest – that goes to the anaconda).

Reticulated python skeleton Melbourne Museum

Reticulated python skeleton at the Melbourne Museum

Most museum these days have a cast of archaeopteryx, the ancient bird or dinosaur (depending what camp you are in), as it is such an important transitional fossil. The museum also has an artist’s impression of what it might have looked like.

Archaeopteryx cast

Archaeopteryx cast at the Melbourne Museum

Archaeopteryx artist impression

Artist impression of archaeopteryx in the Melbourne Museum

I’m always surprised to see live exhibits in museums, thinking they would normally go in a zoo, but I was happy to see these Queensland lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri). Each has a single lung – it can rise to the surface and take a gulp of air. The gills still work as usual.

Queensland lungfish Melbourne Museum

Live Queensland lungfish, Melbourne Museum

The museum houses CSIRAC, Australia’s first computer and one of the first in the world. Built between 1947 and 1949, and turned off in 1964, it is the only intact first-generation stored-program computer still in existence.

CSIRAC Melbourne Museum

You can’t escape art in Melbourne – in the foyer is this classic Aussie ute tricked out as a magpie …

Magpie ute

This magpie's not going to be swooping anybody any time soon

Definitely recommended if you like museums.

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