Background to the Early Collections

Museum Victoria holds a modest but significant collection of material relating to the policies, processes and personal experiences of migration to Australia, and particularly Victoria, from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Artefacts include letters, diaries, promotional publications, photographs and personal artefacts which can provide researchers interested in this subject with a rich and well-documented resource - and with the layer of personal connections not often associated with similar items in libraries and archives.

There are stories from English, Scottish, Irish, Italian and German nineteenth century migrants, and Chinese and Japanese narratives from the late nineteenth century which help to trace generations of subsequent family stories, despite the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act. There are also stories of English, Italian, Greek, German, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Scottish migrants from the early twentieth century which collective demonstrate the cultural diversity of Australia's migration history well before the post-World War II migration boom.

These varied narratives represent urban and rural settlement, assisted and non-assisted migrants, people of multi-faith backgrounds, solitary migrants and families, chain migration, return migration, prisoners-of-war and internees. The material also relates to the processes of migration from application to departure and includes details of voyages by ship and plane; personal belongings brought, created and purchased; luggage; items of work, domesticity and artistry; objects for maintaining connections to homelands; documentaries of migrant life through writings, film and photographs and community and organisational experiences.

It is essential that these stories are understood within the context of colonisation, which resulted in the dispossession, death, child removal and systematic disruption of language, culture and connections to Country for First Peoples.

For more information about the Museum's nineteenth and early twentieth century collections, refer to the curatorial essay: 'Collecting Narratives of Migration: Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Collections at Museum Victoria, Melbourne' which can be accessed under the Associated Downloads section.

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