If you find yourself in Melbourne and are not familiar with Australian cultural and natural history a trip to the Melbourne Museum is definitely worth a visit. The museum is located just north of the city’s center in the middle of the Carlton Gardens and adjacent to the Royal Exhibition Building you see pictured below:
It is a bit of a long walk by foot to get there from the city’s center but accessible by tram or if you have a car there is plenty of parking in the underground parking garage below the museum.
The museum is not as good as the National Museum in Canberra, but still a good place to learn a bit of Australia 101 for first time visitors to the country. There is plenty of historical displays on the first settlers and the plight of the Aborigines. However, I found the displays on the native Australian wildlife to be the most interesting. The museum has a stuffed animals of all the native Australian wildlife for visitors to see. Below you can see the various types of marsupials including the kangaroo that inhabit Australia:
A really interesting animal that I want to see when my wife and I eventually take a trip to Queensland is the cassowary:
This bird is the second largest bird in Australia, only beaten in size by the emu. However, what makes this bird so much different from the rather timid emus is that they have a large knife like protrusion on each of their feet that they are known to have attacked and killed people with before:
That is definitely one deadly looking claw. Fortunately Australia has plenty of other colorful birds that won’t kill you that are on display as well:
The museum even has displays of native animals that are now extinct. Probably the most famous extinct native Australian animal is the Tasmanian Tiger:
The Tasmanian Tiger is in fact not a tiger or even a cat for that matter. It is just like most of Australia’s native wildlife a marsupial that gives birth to it’s young in a pouch and its closest relative is in fact the Tasmanian Devil. The tiger’s scientific name is a thylacine. It is also known that the thylacine once roamed all of main land Australia because of aboriginal rock art as far north as Kakadu National Park in the Top End depicting the thylacine.
It is thought that the dingo which was introduced to Australia by traders from Indonesia 5,000 years ago is responsible for the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger on the main land. When the first British colonists arrived in Australia the Tasmanian Tiger was only found on the island of Tasmania which had no dingoes. However, the tiger liked to hunt and eat sheep and the early colonists quickly hunted this animal to extinction. It is to bad because the thylacine is a beautiful animal but sightings of the animal in remote parts of Tasmania have been reported so maybe the animal lives on.
Besides animals the museum also maintains a small outdoor park in the middle of the museum which show cases many examples of native Australian plants, snakes, frogs, bugs, etc.:
Additionally the museum also has different scientific displays throughout the year. Currently they have a large display about the human body and another one about dinosaur fossils complete with huge examples of dinosaur skeletons:
Another big display that the museum currently have is on the Great Wall of China which runs through July 22nd. This display is actually quite good and features many ancient Chinese artifacts used during the building of the various walls in China:
There are also a number of examples of Chinese armor, clothes, and statues on display as well:
Some of these artifacts on display are over 2,000 years old which is really incredible when you think about it. Additionally the display has a number of short historical documentaries you can watch that demonstrate quite well how the walls were built. If you are interested in ancient East Asian history this display shouldn’t be missed.
Like I said before if you haven’t been to the National Museum in Canberra yet this museum is an adequate substitute to introduce you to the general natural and cultural history of Australia. Additionally the special displays such as the current one on the Great Wall of China also makes visiting the museum worthwhile.