On our final day in Melbourne we visited the Melbourne Museum. Our intention was to see the exhibition Gut Feelings and spend a little bit of time in some of the permanent displays. In the end, we had enough time to also wander through the temporary exhibition Revolutions: Records and Rebels. With the latter, I was unsure what to expect, but was really glad we made the decision to upgrade our ticket.
I wanted to double check the name of the gallery where you can find this exhibition and stumbled across a link for booking dinner and cocktail parties in the Mind & Body Gallery. Now that the venue for my next function is already mentally booked, I was glad that I had remembered the name of the gallery correctly. As you can probably imagine, the Mind & Body Gallery is my absolute favourite in the Museum.
This is why I was particuarly excited to see a new exhibition opening in the space. I couldn’t find when Gut Feelings opened (I think February 2019), but I know it is on display until February 2020. This means there is plenty of time left to visit. It isn’t a big exhibition (only a few small rooms), but it is very interactive. Here is a quick summary of what’s inside.
On first entering the space you are told to quite literally follow your gut. Rather, the gut visual on the floor showing the comparative length of the small intestine, large intestine, etc. There is an interactive screen where you can place your hand and tiny microbes appear only to float away. The introduction panel contextualises all of this by stating some quick facts about the gut and how the gut and the mind are linked. To discover more, you have to step inside.
From here you have more choice over where to explore. I had two favourite rooms – one showing the gut network and one on superbugs and antiobiotics.
You can see from the photograph below the display looks exactly as it sounds – mapping the network of the gut. This includes delving into immunity, microbes, hormones and the mind.
What really struck me about this display is the seamless integration of objects allowing it to be quite inviting. The use of different colours connecting the various compenents is also a real draw card. One negative, and I will note this again for the next exhibition, is the use of white writing on a dark background. This absolutely does not sit well with me. Not only from an accessibility point of view, but also because it is harsh to read over even a short period of time. Despite this, the gut network was informative without providing an overload of information. I must also admit that as soon as I saw the sloth, I was captivated.
Antibiotics and Superbugs
My favourite room consists of a touch screen in the centre where you can drag different foods into a Petri dish-like shape to see what microorganisms they contain. Behind the screen, printed on the wall, are definitions for three words: prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics. It was really interesting to see exactly what each word means and get that clear in my head.
Also in this space was my favourite object, 3D printed bacterial molecule perforin. Essentially, a rainbow molecule. The object label highlights three therapies ‘beyond antiobiotics’ – molecular therapies, immunotherapies and phage therapies. The latter has an amazing story attached of a man who was saved by extractions of phages from sewage.
The final room in the exhibition is definitely tailored towards an instagrammable photo. Food wallpaper lines every surface and in the middle is a huge pink neon sign stating Love Your Guts. I don’t mind seeing something like this in an otherwise super informative exhibition. A great way to end – with a bit of fun. And yes, yes I did have my photo taken with the sign.
Revolutions: Records and Rebels
Unlike the previous exhibition, this large temporary exhibition has a more prescriptive path. Initially I was concerned that the only thing on display would be music from the five year period (1966-1970). I was happy to learn, quite soon after entering, that the exhibition does, in fact, cover so much more.
Similar to the Tatau exhibition at the Immigration Museum, this exhibition employs sound as a way of creating a strong atmosphere. All visitors are encouraged to take a device and headphones to listen to music as they walk through the space. Moving through the different themes, the music automatically changes to suit the surroundings. It is not as distracting as I thought and proved to be a really great way of engaging sound in the space without being a traditional audio guide tour.
I was equally shocked that it actually worked and automatically changed the music in each room. Usually I’m the person with a device that doesn’t work and I was half expecting to spend the entire exhibition on the same song.
I found something in almost every theme that really grabbed my attention, but my two favourite themes were Voices of Dissent and Expos and Consumerism.
Voices of Dissent
Within this space I really enjoyed the section on Second Wave Feminism including a display of notable books released during this period.
However, the contraceptive pill, Sequens, was my favourite object in the whole exhibition. The pill, for those unaware, was pivotal in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Not only did it give women control over their reproduction, but it also had flow on effects to views on relationships, higher education and careers. It could only be obtained by prescription meaning single women in particular had to find a sympathetic doctor in order to obtain. On top of that, there was a 27.5% luxury tax. Such a great object to have on display and an important story to tell.
Expos and Consumerism
There are almost too many highlight objects to mention in this section. I have to start with the Pan Am hostess uniform from 1965 that is on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
It was near impossible to take photographs in the rest of the space as extremely vibrant blue lights meant all images came out royal blue. I’ve tried my best with photo-editing software to normalise the following two images: one of expo material from 1967 and 1970, and one of the Souper Dress from 1966.
There are a couple of other things to mention about the exhibition. Not only is music utilised to create an atmosphere, but there is a real attempt to match the aesthetics and design to the theme as well. For example, in the section on music festivals, there is a room off the main exhibition space filled with beanbags on green carpet for visitors to sit and watch three huge screens showing performers. There are also benches for those who may find getting in and out of beanbags problematic. This helps to create the illusion that you are at a music festival.
Similar to Gut Feelings, my only major criticism of the exhibition is that the majority of labels are white writing on black backgrounds. I really hope this stops.
Melbourne Museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (excluding Christmas Day and Good Friday). Gut Feelings is in the Mind & Body Gallery and is on show until February 2020. Revolutions: Records and Rebels is in the temporary exhibition space only until 6 October 2019.
General museum entry is $15 for adults and free for museum members, children and concession. Please keep in mind if you want to see Revolutions, there are additional charges. The Museum is located at the top of Melbourne’s CBD grid meaning it’s easy to access via public transport. Apart from the labels which could be problematic for some visitors, the whole museum is accessible.