The 150th anniversary of Museums Victoria in 2004 was an opportunity to reflect upon the wondrous and diverse array of objects of which it is custodian. The pathways below offer encounters with some of our most loved treasures. Their themes are also an opportunity to explore the sometimes surprising relationships between objects and the stories that they have to tell.
Museums preserve the mementos of our heroes and heroines, celebrating those who made a difference. They may have championed a cause, braved the unknown, pioneered new knowledge or who, in their lives, were simply inspirational.
For many objects, the museum is the final destination in an incredible journey. Some have travelled great distances: across continents or from the bottom of the seas. The significance of others lies in the difficulty of the journey undertaken.
The museum is a treasure trove of rare, iconic and irreplaceable specimens from nature and human cultures. In truth, all its contents are precious. The value or significance of a single object to future generations can never be fully estimated or predicted.
How tall is it? How wide is it? How old is it? How heavy is it? How many are there in Australia? In the world? Walking around the museum, you see a wide range of objects; behind each and every one there are all kinds of numbers.
Think of the museum as a giant container. Hundreds of thousands of objects are amassed within its walls. Some objects are themselves containers. There are containers to hold things, to trap things, to keep precious belongings in, and some that even contained life. Messages Living creatures communicate every day in a multitude of ways. Many objects in the museum that once carried messages now lie silent. Other objects continue to communicate - in writing, maps or symbols - carrying messages from the past into the present.
Museum objects are witnesses to history. They help us to interpret history's triumphs and achievements, its tragedies and misfortunes, its scandals and controversies. Every object has a story to tell, many themselves are the story.
The world in miniature is a source of endless fascination. Models and miniatures can show us how things work. Miniatures can give us views of things we cannot physically see. They can dramatise times and recreate places that no longer exist.
The hunting, gathering, cultivation and preparation of food have been central to human life throughout time. Museum objects can educate us about food and its sources, and give us insight into the resourcefulness of generations past.
Every museum object is a survivor. Some have survived on their own for millions of years. For others, the museum provides a place beyond the usual ravages of time, where even the most fleeting and ephemeral of objects are given new lives.