Melbourne's  Living Museum
of the West

Annual Report 2002

Directors Report

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.

The process of exploring a sense of identity within a sense of place continued intensely for the Living Museum in the year 2002. We began the year working with environmental restoration that also involved active participation by several ethnic groups and cultural input from Aboriginal Cultural advisers. We closed the year with the launch of a new large community space, the partly renovated bluestone building at Pipemakers Park.

After Stage 2 of the renovations in 2003, funded by Heritage Victoria, this new community space will prove to be a catalyst that will change and expand the Museum’s capacity to operate as a significant cultural centre in the western region of Melbourne and the metropolitan area generally.

Two major exhibitions focussing on significant national heritage were a highlight of the exhibition program. ‘Australia’s Arsenal’, an exhibition about the munitions industry in Melbourne’s west was kept on well after its planned closing date because of constant interest in the exhibition throughout the whole year.

A new 24 panel exhibition about dry stone walls, ‘A Stone Upon A Stone’, was launched in May set to tour all year and next year around Victoria and New South Wales. This comprehensive exhibition, which involved the participation of several hundred people sharing their knowledge and experience, has led to the formation of a Dry Stone Wall Association aiming to preserve this unique Victorian heritage.

Around these major exhibitions and events are hundreds of other activities going on at the Museum, varying in scale and audience, to do with documenting, preserving and interpreting. With communities.

The Museum supported a new group, ‘Friends of the Black Powder Mill, trying to save the last remnant of a large industrial complex in the City of Brimbank, by helping them to produce a professional flyer to market the group’s cause. The Black Powder Mill is saved.

On a completely different theme the Museum, in partnership with the Inner Western Region Migrant Resource Centre, is working with the local Aboriginal community and the Karen people from Burma, exploring new ways for ethnic groups to be invited to the land.

All through the year, work experience students, tertiary and secondary, were placed and involved in products that were presented in public. The previous Annual Report was put in the Museum’s web site by Chris and Jehad of Kealba College. Fu-Seng Tsom, from Debney Park College, designed the Museum’s Christmas cards. Visitors came by boat, bus, bicycle and taxi from near and far, including the University of Hanoi in Vietnam, to be given official talks, to do research, to discuss cultural ideas, to ask advice and to participate in park events.

The presentation of local cultural heritage through the medium of mosaic continued. Mosaic artwork projects were undertaken with a variety of communities at scattered locations involving the presentation of local history and cultural heritage through the production of a story told in mosaic form. This has become a very successful community model through the long term involvement of artist Libby McKinnon with the Living Museum. Mosaic was also the medium for involving two groups of people with disabilities in creating a giant chessboard and backgamon table in the project, ‘Recreation by the river’, funded by Vic Health.

This report is an outline of the Living Museum’s complex program which actively involves local people in the ‘process’ of defining their own identity and sense of place within the framework of the interpretation of local history and heritage. Community participation and diverse engagement with cultural issues continues to create innovative projects with significant contribution to the ongoing cultural debate about our ‘own’ history and heritage.

Peter Haffenden


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