Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Melways Ref. 1B, M6
behind Her Majesty's Theatre
During one of my regular walks through Chinatown
I noticed the sign for the Chinese Museum and I decided
to go have a look at it. The entrance fee was quite reasonable
for a museum, but it took a while for the attendant to notice I was
standing at the counter (the museum is a bit understaffed it seems.)
One of the first things I noticed were the school projects by primary
school students on their favourite Asian Foods. It's always interesting
to read these projects. Most of the projects seemed to be on Japanese food
with Hello Kitty and Pokemon stickers on them. Some of the projects had attempts
to make them look more Asian by using the 'Wonton' font or attempts at Chinese
Caligraphy style headings. The best one I saw had none of these - It just had
the text as a plain computer printout on a black background with a picture of
a bowl of stir-fry and two chilli peppers at the top and bottom of the text.
Also on the ground floor I noticed the head of the ceremonial dragon 'Dai Loong'
and the body which curled away down a ramp into the basement, it's meant to be
one of the longest ceremonial dragons in the world and is bought out each year
for Chinese New Year.
The museum is five stories high with exhibition spaces in the basement, ground,
second and third floors. The basement was my first destination as it had an 'sound-and-light show' on the Chinese gold miners in Australia during the 19th century. The entrance to this exhibition is through a mock hold of a ship with what I thought were storage shelves, but actually were bunks and the story of a young Chinese man going out to Australia was told while you sat on the bench.
The rest of this exhibit showed dioramas of the Chinese gold miners in the diggings and a reconstruction of a Chinese settlement (including a temple) in the gold fields. At the end of
this exhibit I saw the end of the dragon that had it's head on the first floor. It looked a bit dirty, but I'm sure 'dragon dusting' is not a job that people would volunteer for especially since it's so freaking long.
On the first floor their was a audio/visual theatrette (which was closed when I was there), but the second floor
had some artefacts from an archaeological dig from the building site across the road from
the museum and a special exhibit showing the history of the Chinn family in Australia.
(I liked the photo of 'Alma Quan and her Joybelles')
The top floor had another permanent exhibition space that had several exhibits including
the impact of the 'White Australia Policy' on the Chinese population in Australia, Chinese Workers in Australia's Defence During World War II, cabinet makers and market gardeners and others. My favourite exhibit was 'The Young Chinese League' as they had a collection of
Debutante (Prom) photos from the 1940's to the 1980's.
I thought it was excellent for such a small museum to have such a wide array of exhibits. I bought their booklet on the 10th anniversary of the museum which looks pretty good.