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38 Hidden Museums in Melbourne

Home > Melbourne > Antiques | Exhibitions | Family | Fun Things To Do | Museums | Lists
by Gayle Beveridge (subscribe)
Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer. Check out her short stories and nano fiction at www.ficklefiction.com/
Published September 13th 2016
More Museums Than You Imagined
Melbourne's Hidden Museums

Most of us are familiar with Museum Victoria's wonderful establishments, the Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks, The Immigration Museum and The Royal Exhibition Buildings and with the iconic National Gallery of Victoria. Perhaps you have visited them several times. They are however only a few of over 40 museums on offer to Melburnians and you will be surprised at the variety of topics covered. Many of the museums have limited opening hours so it pays to check the websites before visiting.

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At the Heide Museum of Modern Art (Photo by Brendanfox Copyrighted free use via Wikimedia Commons)

Aviation and Maritime

1. The Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin Airport houses a collection of aircraft, engines, models, uniforms and other historic aviation items. As it is at the airport children will enjoy watching the planes take off and land. The museum owns and is currently restoring the oldest surviving Beaufort Bomber.

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At the RAAF Museum at Point Cook (Photo copyright Roger Marien)

2. The RAAF Museum at Point Cook tells the story of the Australian Flying Corp and the Royal Australian Air Force, the second oldest air force in the world. Exhibitions cover heritage, training and technology. Interactive flying displays are presented three times a week. Please note the museum is closed between 29 August and 3rd October 2016 for construction works.

3. The Polly Woodside is a three-masted cargo vessel built in Belfast in 1885 and docked at South Wharf in Melbourne. The ship is decked out as it would have been in its heyday. There is a history gallery with interactive exhibits at the wharf where there are also picnic facilities. Guided tours are available and special events are often hosted. The Polly Woodside opening hours are seasonal and it is sometimes closed to the general public.

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The Polly Woodside (Photo by English Wikipedia user Mfunnell CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

4. The HMAS Castlemaine is a Bathurst Class WWII corvette at Gem Pier in Williamstown. The ship has been restored to its 1945 condition and visitors can see how the crew lived and worked during WWII. The mess deck has been converted to a museum and the original engines are again in working order.

Agriculture, Industry and Finance

5. The Shot Tower Museum is encompassed by the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre. The Shot Tower was built in 1889 for the manufacture of shot and was Melbourne's tallest building until the 1940's. The museum is on the second floor of the Shot Tower and focusses on the history of shot manufacture.

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Melbourne Central Coops Shot Tower (Photo by Jordan from Singapore CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

6. The ANZ Banking Museum is in the Gothic style building at 380 Collins Street. The displays detail Australia's banking history across 180 years and include bank notes, coins, moneyboxes, office machines, firearms, gold-mining equipment and uniforms.

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The Old Treasury Building (Photo by Gil Meydan CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

7. The Old Treasury Building is at the top end of Collins Street. The building which was constructed in the mid 1800's houses six permanent exhibitions including a 360 degree panoramic photo of Melbourne taken in 1862, public record archives, Built on Gold, Growing Up In The Old Treasury, architecture and governors. In addition there is a program of temporary exhibits.

Heritage

8. The Old Melbourne Gaol at 377 Russell Street, Melbourne operated from 1842 to 1929. Along with the Old Magistrates Court and Old City Watch House the gaol has been set up as a museum to the times.

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Old Melbourne Gaol (Photo by Hideki Saito from Bellevue, WA, USACC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

9. LaTrobe Cottage once the home of Victoria's first governor received the 2014 Victorian Community History Award. The house and gardens are displayed true to the times of Governor LaTrobe.

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La Trobe's Cottage (Photo by Tirin CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

10. Cooks Cottage is in the Fitzroy Gardens at Wellington Parade, East Melbourne. Captain Cook is thought to have lived in the cottage for a short time in his youth. It was dismantled in England and shipped to Victoria where it was rebuilt in 1934.

11. Heritage Hill Museum and historic gardens is at 66 McCrae Street, Dandenong. The historic precinct set in two acres of period gardens includes three heritage buildings, Laurel Lodge, Benga and St James Anglican Church.

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Gardens at Heritage Hill Museum (Photo from City of Greater Dandenong Facebook Page)

12. Melbourne's Living Museum of the West at Pipemakers Park, Van Ness Avenue, Maribyrnong has set about documenting and preserving the social, economic and environment history of Melbourne's western regions.

Entertainment, Sport and Communications

13. The National Sports Museum is at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Richmond. It displays over 2,500 items relating to Australia's sporting history and includes the Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, the Australian Football exhibition (including Australian Football Hall of Fame), and Champions - Thoroughbred Racing Gallery.

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Brabham BT19 on display at the National Sports Museum (Photo by Bahnfrend CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

14. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is at Federation Square. As the name suggests it focusses on the moving image including film, television, games, video and digital media.

15. The Victorian Telecommunications Museum is at the Telstra Hawthorn Telephone Exchange, 375 Burwood Road. The collection displays telecommunications equipment and archives dating back 50 years.

16. The Centre for Contemporary Photography in Fitzroy. It is dedicated to photo based arts. An exhibition program plays out over five galleries and there is a night projection window.

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'Kaps of Dresden' Percy Grainger's Childhood Piano (Photo by Accession number 00.0057 Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

17. The Michaels Camera Museum is on Level 1 of the Michaels Camera store at the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets. It is claimed to be the world's largest camera collection with more than 3,000 of its 10,000 items on display at any one time.

18. The Grainger Museum at the University of Melbourne in Parkville is dedicated to the life and times of composer Percy Grainger.

Essential Services and Medicine

19. The Victorian Police Museum at 637 Flinders Street focusses on the social history of policing and crime and contains artefacts dating back to the 1800's. Along with Kelly Gang armour the museum has uniforms, medals, confiscated weapons, crime scene photos, a bomb disposal robot and much more. Permanent collections are supplemented with a program of temporary exhibitions.

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Kelly Gang member, Steve Hart's armour at the Victoria Police Museum (Photo by Peterdownunder CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

20. The Fire Services Museum is at 39 Gisborne Street, East Melbourne in the old head office of the Melbourne Fire Brigade. A collection of over 10,000 items covering the MFB, CFA and international fire services include fire appliances, personnel histories, vintage vehicles, helmets, badges, uniforms, models, historic photos and more.

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Fire Services Museum of Victoria (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

21. The St John's Ambulance Museum is at the corner of The Esplanade and Garden Street, Williamstown. The museum tells the story of the St John Ambulance Service from 1900 to the present day.

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St John Ambulance Museum (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

22. The Medical History Museum is a University of Melbourne museum in Parkville. The museum has a re-creation of a nineteenth century pharmacy, medical and scientific equipment, documents and photographs as well as a changing exhibition program.

Motor and Rail

23. The Australian Railway and Historical Museum in Newport has a large range of rolling stock on display ranging from nineteenth century steam locomotives to suburban electric carriages. There are also railway cranes and other railway equipment.

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The walking dragline at the National Steam Centre (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

24. The National Steam Centre in Scoresby houses a collection of restored working steam engines, tractors, earth moving machinery, a walking dragline, steam traction engines and a blacksmith's shop with a steam driven hammer.

25. Charlie's Arthurs Seat Auto Museum has more than 80 vehicles along with signs, motorcycles, petrol bowsers, models and assorted memorabilia.

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Fox Classic Car Collection (Photo by Bahnfrend CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

26. The Fox Collections (Classic Cars) at Docklands displays more than 50 meticulously restored luxury vehicles including Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche and Mercedes Benz.

Military Museums

27. The Running Rabbits Military Museum is at the Upwey-Belgrave RSL. There are over 2,500 items on display representing conflicts from the Boer War to the current day. Amongst both the inside and outside displays are weaponry, equipment, photographs, artefacts, books and magazines.

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Shrine of Remembrance (Photo by MusikAnimal CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

28. The Shrine of Remembrance is in Birdwood Avenue in Melbourne. The Galleries of Remembrance house both permanent and temporary exhibitions dedicated to Australian service and sacrifice. Permanent displays include artefacts and personal effects from pre federation to the current day. Guided tours are run twice daily.

Art and Music

29. The Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen showcases a diverse range of art, architecture and landscape across three galleries and a 15 acre garden and sculpture park.

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Ian Potter Museum of Art (Photo by Elekhh (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

30. The Ian Potter Museum of Art is at the University of Melbourne in Parkville. It houses the 14,000 works in the University collection and encompasses Australian art from the early 19th century, indigenous art and archaeology.

31. The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is at Southbank commissions rather than collects. It is a leading space for contemporary art in Melbourne and even its building has architectural significance.

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The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Photo by Donaldytong CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

32. McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park at in Langwarrin displays over 100 sculptures in its 16 hectare outdoor space. Inside the gallery there is a program of changing exhibitions.

Multi-Cultural

33. The Hellenic Museum at 280 William Street is dedicated to an appreciation of ancient and modern Greece. In addition to permanent photographic and cast ancient Greek statue exhibits there is a program of temporary exhibitions.

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(Photo from the Jewish Museum of Australia Facebook Page)

34. The Jewish Museum of Australia in St Kilda strives to engage people with Jewish culture and heritage. The museum contains over 20,000 items telling the stories of Jewish life and its place in Australia.

35. The Jewish Holocaust Museum in Elsternwick is dedicated to the memory of the Jews who lost their lives in the holocaust. Permanent displays include documents, photographs, artworks and a model of the concentration camp Treblinka.

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(Photo from Chinese Museum Facebook Page)

36. The Melbourne Chinese Museum is in Chinatown. The permanent galleries, Finding Gold, Dragon Gallery, Chinese History and Culture, and Chinese Australians are supplemented with a program of temporary exhibitions.

37. The Islamic Museum of Australia in Thornbury displays the artistic and cultural heritage of Muslims in Australia. The permanent galleries Islamic Art, Islamic Architecture, Australian Muslim History, Islamic Faith and Islamic Contribution to Civilisation are supplemented with temporary exhibitions.

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(Photo from Islamic Museum of Australia Facebook Page)

38. The Museo Italiano in Carlton focusses on Italian migration to Australia and its cultural impact through multi-media presentations, artefacts, memorabilia and a program of changing exhibitions.
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Your Comment
Wow, what a great list. This must have taken a lot of time to research. Thanks Gayle.
by Roger (score: 2|576) 452 days ago
I hadn't thought of the Polly Woodside as a museum but I guess it is. I reckon the kids would like this and the police museum.
by betty (score: 2|475) 452 days ago
Congratulations winning second place.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11556) 438 days ago
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