Permanent Exhibitions

Discovering Melbourne’s Chinatown: our history and heritage

This unique permanent exhibition features four diverse sections that allow visitors to gain an insight into the fascinating history of Melbourne’s Chinatown. This history is told through the history of the buildings, personal stories and communities following the fervour of the gold rushes. Historical photographs and archaeological remains help the visitor to interpret the changing streetscape and the personal stories of those who worked and inhabited the area. Objects and photographs featured in the exhibition were drawn from a number of sources including the Museum’s collection, private collections, the State and National Libraries and Heritage Victoria. To allow for greater accessibility for the community, the exhibition is fully bilingual.

This exhibition received a commendation in the 2011 Victorian Community History Awards in the Best Exhibit or Multimedia Category

Finding Gold

On the lower level of the Museum, Finding Gold replicates the experience of the Chinese in Australia’s 19th century goldfields. During your visit you can retrace the journey from Canton on a steamer and become immersed in the adventures of Chinese gold seekers through displays that include a winding mine and an elaborate goldfields diorama. Afterwards you can consult your fortune in the temple of Guan Gong (a famous Chinese general and deity), be entertained by Cantonese opera in a tent theatre, and see diggers double their winnings on the Chinese lottery.

Melbourne’s Dragons

The Melbourne Dai Loong Association’s Millennium Dragon winds its way from the ground floor to the lower ground hibernating in readiness to be awakened for the Chinese Spring Festival (Jan-Feb) and the Moomba Festival (March) each year. The Museum displays the last three processional Chinese Dragons which have paraded the city streets over the last century as part of Melbourne’s 100-year-old tradition celebrating the presence of Melbourne’s long-standing Chinese community. Standing over three metres high, the Millennium dragon is the largest in the world requiring eight people just to carry the head. Flanked by ceremonial regalia, banners, lanterns and lions, the dragon procession is a spectacle not to be missed! Watch the video to discover the importance of the Dragon in Chinese-Australian communities.

Chinese History and Culture

This gallery showcases the Museum’s rich collection of Chinese textiles and artefacts to highlight the ongoing relationships which have existed between all Australians and Chinese culture. A highlight of the gallery is a Qing dynasty canopy with an Australian story.

Also on the level, The Exploratorium provides a multi-media environment for learning more about Chinese history and culture. Topics include Chinese scenery, musical instrument, philosophy, inventions, and paper cut craft.

Chinese Australians

The history and culture of the Chinese in Australia is presented in this gallery through objects from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition tells the stories of Chinese Australians from the first migrants in the 19th century and their descendants in Australia, to recent arrivals.

The exhibition examines the integral place Chinese have had in Australian life through stories about the work they did, their social and family lives and the community associations they formed – from the earliest mutual brotherhood groups through to the social and sporting clubs of the 20th century.

This gallery also includes the Bridge of Memories exhibition, which explores the complexities of identity through the personal experiences of Chinese-Australians who have migrated to Australia in the last 50 years from China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, East Timor and Vietnam.

The exhibition also highlights the changing world economic, social and political circumstances over the past 50 years, during which time over 500,000 Chinese have migrated to Australia, impacting on the make-up of Australia’s multicultural society.