With 15,438 items the Transport Collection is one of the Museum's largest collections in terms of both physical object size and storage footprint. It records the technology and social history of all forms of land, water and air transport, with the exception of pedestrian travel. The artefacts, images and documents in the collection mostly record transport technology. However there are a smaller number of objects and documents relating to the social history of transport such as tickets, timetables, promotional brochures and other ephemera. Only a small proportion of the overall collection comprises full-size vehicles, watercraft and aircraft.
Developed largely from World War I onwards, the collection initially had an international scope, reflecting major overseas technological developments. Over the past three decades has been developed with a Victorian focus on local innovations, local adaptations of overseas-derived technologies, and the development of Victoria's transport infrastructure.
The origins of the Transport Collection date back to the early years of the Museum with objects acquired following the 1880-1881 Melbourne International Exhibition. The most important early period of collecting was by curator Richard Henry Walcott around 1915 and included the acquisition of full-size vehicles and items relating to the electrification of Melbourne's tramways. Following World War I military aviation artefacts were acquired, along with John Duigan's pioneering 1910 biplane. In the 1920s the commissioning of aircraft models from Harold Wood established the scale model collection. Collecting slowed during the 1940s and 1950s, resuming in the late 1960s in the lead-up to the opening of the Museum's first dedicated road transport gallery, with development of the collection continuing through to the present day.
The collection is of national significance, largely because of its diversity and the importance of some key items, although overall the collection is selective rather than comprehensive in its coverage of key transport innovations over the past two centuries.