Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West is a community Museum
which actively involves the people of Melbourne’s West and others in documenting, preserving and interpreting the richness and depth of the region’s social, industrial and environmental history.
About the Living Museum
Australia's first ecomuseum, Melboune's Living Museum of the West is a community museum, operating in the western region of Melbourne in the state of Victoria, Australia.
(An ecomuseum is a museum focused on the identity of a place, largely based on local participation and aiming to enhance the welfare and development of local communities.There are presently about 300 operating ecomuseums in the world; about 200 are in Europe - source: wikipedia)
The Living Museum, as it is more commonly known, was set up in 1984 to address what was then seen as a disadvantaged region, geographically flat and rocky, heavily industrialised with a high migrant population.The ecomuseum concept regards the area researched by a museum as part of the museum itself.
The western region covers a large geographical area (see map) west of Melbourne which includes industrial suburbs merging into rural areas. Geologically it sits on an extensive basalt plain with low rainfall. Its population is approximately 500,000 people from approximately 70 different countries.
More than 30 % of the population were born in another country. It has in fact given rise to a cultural dynamic that challenges more conventional forms of interpretation.The Living Museum is best known for its outreach programs and close involvement with the community it serves.
Community participation can take the form of involvement as a volunteer, as a participant in the Museum's research and oral history programs or through more informal contact.
For example, many local historical researchers regularly come to share information or talk about their own research. By depositing copies of their research and publications in the Living Museum's Resource Centre they provide help for other people doing connected research.
The first projects looked at the history of work, the contribution of women in the region's history and the role of migrants in the culture and heritage of the local region. These first projects focussed on oral history in a bid to involve the local community in the research and presentation of their own history.
The Museum has since explored the built heritage of the region, the environment, the Aboriginal Heritage and experimented with the involvement of artists in the presentation of culture and heritage. A book titled 'Your History Mate', describes the first decade of the Living Museum's program and outcomes.
The Living Museum is currently working to convert its extensive archives into digital form that can be downloaded and accessed by the public.Hundreds of people worked for thirty years researching, photographing and writing about a wide range of topics to do with the unique history and heritage of the western suburbs of Melbourne. They did this largely within the framework of a particular philosophy of collecting local history which will also be explained to some extent on this website. Over this thirty years the people involved with this museum dealt with a thousand specific projects and scores of special programs. The content of this work gives remarkable insights into the nature of this region and the evolution of Melbourne.
It will take some time to digitise this work so bear with us while we bring this story to you.
The publications chapter of this website will be regularly updated with new additions of information and downloads.
Telephone: 0419 154 265
Talks and tours are available by appointment.
Researchers please note:
Due to current funding cuts and subsequent staff shortages some advance notice is required to view or locate specific research material. Please call or email to arrange a time to access to reseach material.
The Living Museum's Resources includes the collection of documents, tapes and artefacts which form the
RESOURCE CENTRE, as well as the personnel and facilities at the Museum itself.
PUBLISHED BOOKS, REPORTS AND ARTICLES
photocopied documents and copies of unpublished reports. These items are of relevance to the Western Region's history and heritage, as well as dealing with issues relating to the region's environment, planning, cultural activities and art. Many publications are available for purchase via the museum bookshop or through the post see our publications list. It is also possible to borrow some publications from the museum Resource Centre Library.
MAPS, PLANS AND DRAWINGS
these are both copies of historic maps, including parish plans and early survyes, as well as contemporary mapping.
A photographic archive of approximately 1000 historical images and 50,000 contemporary images. These are primarily in the form of a negative archive with contact prints of all images and a selection of larger prints. The Archive contains Black and White, and colour negatives and prints and colour slides.
These include about 400 recorded interviews on cassette tape, as well as printed transcriptions and in some cases summaries. Major themes in the oral history collection include, the role of Women, migration, industry, - Munitions workers, Sunshine Harvester Works, Chaff mills, Life and times of George Seelaf, Lifeblood of Footscray - meat industry.
Many of the Living Museum's projects, exhibitions and events are documented on film. The Resouce Centre also houses historic film footage about the Newmarket Saleyards, the Maribyrnong River and made numerous documentary films in the 1980s and 90s. The Museum is currently in the process of transferring video tape to DVD. Many of these films are now available to view in the Visitor Centre by appointment.
include text and images prepared for past exhibitions and displays. They include both large mounted panels and individual sections. In some cases they may be available for loan or hire. These exhibitions include...
- Animals of the Maribyrnong River Estuary
- Munitions Industries in Melbourne's west
Hear Our Voices
-Stories by women in Melbourne's west
- Aboriginal history of Melbourne's west
Pipemakers Park, in which the Museum is set, contains other resources for interpretation and study of the region, including:
The History of the Land Discovery Trail, a series of landscaped gardens with different historical themes linket by mosaic artworks,
The Pioneer Women's Shelter, a memorial to irish women who first settled and farmed the Maribyrnong Valley.
The Top Factory, A conserved historic industrial building which formed part of the Hume Pipe Works and is undergoing restoration and interpretation.
The Pipestacks sculpture.
Wetlands and indigenous gardens, which recreate the landscape of the Basalt Plains and Maribyrnong Valley as it was before White Settlement.