I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published June 21st 2018
Historical Hidden Gems
Melbourne has about 25 museums that I know of and probably a few more that I don't. Some, though not mainstream, are very well known, others not so, but they all provide us with some fabulous insights into history, culture or the arts.
If you're ready to get off the beaten track and look into some of Melbourne's historical nooks & crannies, I've put together a list of 10 of the cities lesser-known museums. Read on ....
The Victoria Police Museum contains collections of artefacts dating from the 19th Century to the present day, including the largest collection of Ned Kelly armour in Australia – two full sets of original Kelly Gang armour.
There are Police uniforms & equipment, convict registers and prison records, confiscated weapons, a bomb disposal robot and forensic evidence from some of the States most notorious crimes. The museum provides an amazing insight into our Police and crime in Victoria.
Tel: (03) 9247 6354 Open Monday to Friday 10 AM to 4 PM Entry by gold coin donation.
The Victoria Police Museum covers all aspects of policing in our community including the Mounted Branch and the Police Pipe Band. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The Melbourne Tram Museum showcases the history of trams and the contribution they've made to life in Melbourne since 1885 in the most authentic tramway museum in Australia, the heritage-listed Hawthorn Tram Depot.
The depot was built for the Hawthorn Tramways Trust and opened in 1916 as a three storey building housing offices, amenities, a four road tram shed and the electrical substation that provided traction power to the tramway.
The museum is home to 21 trams ranging from a Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Company cable tram and trailer to a Yarra Trams Z1 Class #81 which entered service in 1978 and was finally retired in 2006.
Melbourne Tram Museum 8 Wallen Road, Hawthorn www.hawthorntramdepot.org.au
Tel: (03) 9819 6447
Open Saturday's 11 AM to 5 PM
Entry by gold coin donation.
You might be forgiven for thinking that Melbourne's City Circle trams are the oldest in existence but no, the Tram Museum at the old Hawthorn Depot has some seriously old trams on display. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The Fire Services Museum of Victoria is housed in perhaps its finest exhibit, the original headquarters of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) on the corner of Gisborne Street and Victoria Parade, East Melbourne, sometimes also referred to as the Eastern Hill Fire Station.
Home to one of the largest collections of fire-fighting artefacts and memorabilia in Australia, the museum aims to preserve and showcase fire-fighting equipment from Victoria, Australia and the world.
Fire Services Museum of Victoria 39 Gisborne Street, East Melbourne www.fsmv.net.au
Tel: (03) 9662 2907
Open Thursday & Friday 9 AM to 3 PM and Sunday 10 AM to 4PM. Group bookings are available.
Cost of entry is Adults $10, Children $8, Concession $8, Family $18 and National Trust Members $8.
The Immigration Museum opened in 1998 and set about asking questions of those Victorians who have migrated here from more than 200 countries, speak 260 different languages & dialects and follow 135 different religions. Why did you leave your homeland to come here? What has been your experience in this new country? How have Australian communities adapted to your arrival?
And what better place to house a museum filled with the stories of migrants who've come to Victoria than the Old Customs House, the States former centre for all things immigration and customs.
The Immigration Museum hosts a variety of temporary and permanent exhibitions and includes a Festival Courtyard, Immigration Discovery Centre and a Tribute Garden.
Immigration Museum 400 Flinders Street, Melbourne www.museumsvictoria.com.au/immigrationmuseum
Tel: 13 11 02
Open 7-Days 10 AM to 5 PM except for Good Friday and Christmas Day
Entry costs Adults $15, Concession & Children FREE.
The ideal spot for an Immigration Museum, the old Customs House at 400 Flinders Street, Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The National Opal Collection is more of a retail outlet than a museum but it does showcase magnificent Australian opals in a variety of applications at its Sydney and Melbourne outlets.
Said to be Australia's leading opal company, the Collection is involved in opal mining, cutting, jewellery design and manufacture so you'll see everything on display including souvenirs, fashion statements, romantic gifts, heirlooms and investment stones.
Entry is free but don't be surprised if you're approached by an eager salesperson.
National Opal Collection Lower Level, 119 Swanston Street, Melbourne www.nationalopal.com
Tel: (03) 9662 3524
Open Monday to Friday 9 Am to 5.30 PM. Saturday & Sunday 10 AM to 5.30 PM.
Entry is FREE.
The Ian Potter Museum of Art houses the University of Melbourne Art Collection, over 14,000 works making it the largest University collection in Australia.
An eclectic assortment of art in all media the collection includes classics, international indigenous works and European art dating from the early 19th Century to the present day.
Ian Potter Museum of Art University of Melbourne, Parkville www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au
Tel: (03) 8344 5148
Open Tuesday to Friday 10 AM to 5 PM. Saturday & Sunday Midday to 5 PM.
Entry is FREE
One of 60 'BATHURST' Class vessels constructed in Australia HMAS CASTLEMAINE was built at Williamstown and launched on 7th August 1941.
Built primarily as minesweepers, the BATHURST Class ships performed armed escort duties, troop landings & resupply and engaged in anti-submarine warfare. Armed with anti-aircraft guns, depth charges and a QF-4 Inch deck gun CASTLEMAINE operated with a crew ranging from 70 to 100 and was officially designated an "Australian Mine Sweeper".
HMAS CASTLEMAINE saw service in the Pacific & Indian Oceans, the China Sea and northern Australian waters. She sustained minor damage in numerous enemy actions and at the end of the war was dispatched to Hong Kong to participate in the Japanese surrender.
HMAS CASTLEMAINE saw plenty of active service during WW2 and was on hand for the Japanese surrender at Hong Kong in 1945. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Lovingly restored and cared for by dedicated volunteers CASTLEMAINE is a monument to the courage of hundreds of young men who served on her and many other vessels of her type in the defence of the nation during World War 2.
HMAS CASTLEMAINE Gem Pier, Williamstown www.hmascastlemaine.org.au
Tel: (03) 9397 2363
Open Weekends and Public Holidays (except on days of extreme heat – over 36°C)
Entry costs Adults $8, Children 4 – 16 years $4, Families 2A2C $20, Children under 4 FREE.
Visitors to HMAS CASTLEMAINE can access all areas including the ships 4-Inch deck gun. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The Australian National Aviation Museum was founded in 1962 by a group of dedicated volunteers and today houses a unique collection of Australian made aircraft, including the oldest surviving Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation built aeroplane, a Wirraway A20-10. There's a Mk21 Beaufighter, one of only two surviving Australian made variants of the type and the oldest surviving Beaufort Bomber, currently undergoing restoration.
The museum has 34 aircraft on display, everything from a Victa Airtourer, to a Fairey Gannet and Dassault Mirage jet fighter.
The Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin is home to the oldest surviving example of the locally built Wirraway fighter. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Australian National Aviation Museum 12 First Street, Moorabbin Airport www.aarg.com.au
Tel: (03) 9580 7752
Open Monday to Friday 10 AM to 4 PM, Saturday & Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM, ANZAC Day 1 PM to 5 PM. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day
Entry costs Adults $10, Concession/Pensioner $7, Children $5, Under 5 years FREE, Family $20.
The Polly Woodside Melbourne Maritime Museum is centred on the restored 1885 clipper ship the Polly Woodside which is displayed floating in Melbourne's original dry-dock dating back to the 1870's. Exhibits are housed in historical wharf sheds and include 3000 maritime artefacts and 10,000 photographs.
Polly Woodside Melbourne Maritime Museum Lorimer Street East, Southbank www.pollywoodside.com.au
Tel: (03) 9699 9760
Open 10 Am to 4 PM Daily except Good Friday and Christmas Day
Entry costs Adults $16, Concession$3, Child $9.50 Family (2A2C) $43 Family (1A2C) $30.
A grand old lady of the sea the POLLY WOODSIDE is displayed floating in the Port Of Melbourne's original drydock. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The RAAF Museum, Point Cook is the birthplace of the Australian Flying Corps and the Royal Australian Air Force, the second oldest Air Force in the world.
The museum includes special exhibitions, a Heritage Gallery, Training Hangar, Technology Hangar, external displays, restoration projects and interactive flying displays.
The RAAF Museum collection at Point Cook includes the Australian designed and built Winjeel training aircraft .....
..... and the iconic 'Huey', the Bell UH1 Iroquois. Photos: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Then there's Hangar 180 an absolute must-see for any plane tragic. Hanger 180 is home to a CAC Boomerang, Catalina, GAF Pika, GAF Jindivik, Hawker Demon, Avro Cadet, DH84 Dragon, CAC Sabre, Dassault Mirage 111 an Iroquois UH1 helicopter and a Cessna Bird Dog.
This truly is a great museum.
RAAF Museum RAAF Base Williams, Point Cook Road, Point Cook www.airforce.gov.au/raafmuseum
Tel: (03) 8348 6040
Open Tuesday to Friday 10 AM to 3 PM. Saturday & Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed Monday's. Interactive flying displays are conducted at 1 PM on Tuesday's, Thursday's & Sunday's.
Entry is FREE but any donations are very much appreciated.
Visitors over 16 years of age will need photographic ID to enter the RAAF Base.
So, when it comes to museums Melbourne has plenty to choose from, so many in fact that it might be difficult to know where to start - but not with my Top-10 list of lesser-known museums to guide you.
Visitors can take the tram to many of Melbourne's lesser known museums - including the Melbourne Tram Museum at Hawthorn. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank