SmartBar at Melbourne Museum

The team at Way Back When has been hard at work these past few weeks, getting stuck into some new and exciting projects. Like many of our history colleagues, we’re spending a lot of time this year researching World War I and digging up new and exciting ways of interpreting this momentous period in our national and global history. We’re also working on a number of digital history projects linking students and heritage sites using iPads, and connecting kids with sport through audio tours. And speaking of kids, we’ve also been spending time exploring the archives of the Royal Children’s Hospital as we begin an exciting project on the history and heritage of this iconic institution in the lead up to the hospital’s 150th anniversary in 2020.

 But that’s what we’ve been doing in our work time; what about in our spare time? Well on 1 May we let down our hair at Melbourne Museum’s SmartBar. The theme of this SmartBar was ‘Stuffed’, an exploration of the fascinating world of taxidermy! With the biggest collection of taxidermy mounts in Victoria, the preparatory team at Museum Victoria are well placed to explain the ins and outs (pun intended) of this fascinating job.

During the evening we learnt about the history of taxidermy at the museum from our PHA (Vic) colleague Bec Carland. Her insightful talk revealed how techniques have changed (you’ll be pleased to know that arsenic is no longer used to preserve hides) and what access to refrigeration has meant to the staff (and specimens!). We also saw the detailed work that went into preparing our nation’s favourite racehorse, Phar Lap, as well as some live demonstrations from expert staff preparing, cleaning and stuffing animals. There were pre-stuffed animals you could get up close and personal with, as well as access to the Wild gallery where you can see just how much taxidermy techniques have changed over time (note the poor tan and white zebra).

 It was a really fun night out, where we not only learnt all about a skill and a history we were not familiar with, but also got to experience the museum at night, with music and a glass of wine. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Lucy Bracey