Museum of the West Inc. is a community museum, with an ecomuseum
focus, operating in the western region of Melbourne in the state
of Victoria, Australia.
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
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.
The mix has created a unique cultural context that might even
seem surreal to those who live in a more homogenous culture. 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 avout 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
Living Museum's Committee of Management is made up of community
and museum industry representatives.
The Living Museum was set up with an experimental brief to use
innovative techniques in involving the local community in researching,
documenting and presenting the heritage and history of a previously
overlooked patchwork of sub-cultures.
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 receives a grant from Arts Victoria for core
funding and receives grants for other projects. It has also been
earning about 30% of its income from a range of consultancies.
It is an incorporated body with a Management Committee drawn from
the local community.
There is currently one full time staff,
one part-time, several associates
and consultants and a dedicated handful of volunteers.
This web site will be continually growing as we gradually learn
how to reproduce our material on the web appropriately and effectively
and as we introduce our community to the opportunities of the
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