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This is a report about our recent educational trip to the Immigration Museum in Melbourne. The Immigration Museum is an exhibition center that was opened in 1998, with the aim of exhibiting the cultural diversity and the Indigenous history of Australia. The center is arguably one of the most popular museums in Australia today, probably owing to its diverse exhibitions on immigration history (Macintyre, Atkinson, Lake & Macintyre 2000).
The museum also offers important educational programs and resources to learners of different levels and disciplines from across the country. All these add up to the center’s great importance to all its visitors. This report features a description as well as an analysis of the key observations made at the center, particularly in regard to the museum’s role in exhibiting cultural aspects and their significance to the community. The main focus of this trip was to look at the history of cultural diversity in Australia. The Immigration Museum is well known for its rich presentation of culture, and this explains the reason why it was chosen for this assignment. Our main objective for this trip was to gain a firm understanding of the issue of cultural diversity in the country as one of the core topics covered in class. The Immigration Museum is a vibrant cultural center that explores every detail of the immigration history in Australia, thus comprehensively presenting the history of cultural diversity in the country.
Our journey to Flinders Street in Melbourne, where the popular exhibition center is located, took us three hours. The train is a convenient mode of transportation in this part of the country, and therefore, we found it preferable for our trip. The center stays open for seven hours daily, starting from ten in the morning to five in the evening when the doors are closed. In this regard, people intending to visit the museum for long hours should make an effort of being there by 10 am. Our visit was intended for both education and exhibition purposes, it was obvious that we would spend a great deal of time in the center. Equipped with this crucial information about the visiting hours, we tried our best to be at the center on time, and we managed to reach there some minutes to 10 o’clock. As we waited for the museum to open, we utilized the remaining minutes to prepare our notebooks and any other relevant materials required for the exercise. Apart from us, there were numerous other people waiting in small groups along the ramp that leads to the main Flinders Street entrance point. Based on their appearances, one could easily tell that majority of these people were learners from various higher education institutions across the country.
Our entry tickets to the Museum had been booked online a few days prior to the visit, and when finally the big doors opened up, we were let in after our tickets were confirmed at the reception. Once inside the Old Customs House, where the museum is situated, we were briefed on some key details about the manner in which we were supposed to behave while inside the center, and soon afterward, we embarked on our main activity in the museum. Our first visit was to the education sector where we were taken through useful educational programs and resources in regard to the Australian identity, immigration, and cultural diversity. There are teaching resources for all levels of education in the Immigration Museum, ranging from junior studies to adult studies. In that case, lessons are provided to visitors with respect to their level of education, thus making it easier for the people in charge of this crucial department to execute their daily duties in an effective manner. The museum features immigration history from as early as 1800 to the recent past, and in the education sector, we were taken through the main events within this timeline. Through these interactive lessons, it was interesting to learn how cultural diversity in Australia came to be.
Through the educational programs and resources provided at the exhibition center, people are able to learn more about the history of the indigenous people of Australia and their cultural identity (Blunt 2007). Using this approach, it was easy for us to establish and pinpoint the origins of the transformation of the wider Australian society through multiculturalism. This experience would feature some of the key events that were brought by the immigrants and their impacts on the entire Australian society. In the course of these important lessons about immigration history, we came to realize how cultural diversity would exclusively be viewed as the domain of ethnic minorities in the country. Despite the wider approaches by which immigration history can be observed, our experience at the center was mainly based on social history. Among other concepts, social history is usually viewed as a more democratic discipline in the study of cultures, since it paves way for the study of people’s history by scholars and historians (Lopez 2000).
After spending a great deal of time in the education sector, we proceeded to the Discovery Centre of the museum where unique historical experiences awaited us. Here, we did not only get to see wonderful historical aspects associated with the immigrants, but we were also able to search the histories of our families using family trees. We managed to research key aspects of immigration from a wide collection of books that featured information on cultural diversity in Australia. More importantly, there was also web access to supplement the manual search. In fact, all these platforms provide an engaging, interesting, and wonderful learning experience that enables people to have a better understanding of the history of immigrants in Australia (Ho & Alcorso 2004). Unlike the expectations of many people, the Immigration Discovery Centre does not possess archives and records in its collections, but instead, it offers assistance on research as well as responses to visitors’ inquiries on immigration history and other relevant issues (Castles & Miller 1998).
Apart from the above observations, there was also information about the ships that were used by the immigrants to access the Victorian ports in the 19th and 20th centuries. This information includes things such as shipping arrival and departure schedules, shipboard journals, letters, and diaries, among other voyage details, some as old as 300 years. In regard to the shipping matters, there was also important information on post-World War II immigrant ships. The latter information provided a clear picture of the war and its impacts on the Australians and the immigrants (Denoon & Mein-Smith 2000). As we came to observe from this department, immigration exhibitions attracted more visitors than any other aspect exhibited at the museum.
Our engaging, educative, and entertaining experience at the Immigration Museum came to an end at around 4 pm, just an hour before closing. This had been a successful trip through which we came to learn many things about immigrant history and how it contributed to the issue of multiculturalism in Australia. However, there was no way we could have left the exhibition center without enquiring about the reason why immigration history had become a popular theme for various museums in Australia. In regard to this concern, we came to learn that ‘attraction of new audiences was essential to the long-term success of many exhibition centers in Australia, and for that reason, it was a better idea for them to specialize in exhibitions of immigrants and their cultures, which seemed to attract large numbers of visitors from all over the world’ (Horn 2006, p. 24). More importantly, resources and other aspects of immigration history had proved to be much easier to exhibit compared to aspects of other more complex issues. According to Walker (2002, p. 36), the aspects and facts presented in the center are based on an inclusive history, and for that reason, they have the ability to touch people in many ways. This way, people, especially those who had always been silent about their cultures, are able to gain a deeper insight on the issue of multiculturalism in Australia, thus finding the voice to talk about their real identities.
This report shows how the Immigration Museum comprehensively presents the history of cultural diversity in Australia through various engaging levels as shown above. The history presented in the museum through educational and exhibition experiences offers a deeper insight into the history of immigrants in Australia (Bennett & Carter 2001). In this regard, the museum makes a significant contribution when it comes to the understanding of the entire Australian society. As a matter of fact, the immigration Museum has over the years become a major attraction to learners, historians, and other visitors, both domestic and foreign, who have the passion to discover Australian identity and immigration history.
Bennett, T & Carter, D 2001, Culture in Australia: policies, publics and programs, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Blunt, A 2007, ‘Cultural geographies of migration: mobility, transnationality and diaspora’, Progress in Human Geography, vol. 12, no. 7, pp. 72-76.
Castles, S & Miller, M 1998, The age of migration: International population movements in the modern world, Macmillan Publishers, London.
Denoon, D & Mein-Smith, P 2000, A history of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific: the formation of identities, Wiley-Blackwell, New York, US.
Ho, C & Alcorso, C 2004, ‘Migrants and Employment: Challenging the success story’, Journal of Sociology, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 27-32.
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Horn, B 2006, ‘Barriers and drivers: Building audience at the immigration museum in Melbourne, Australia’, Museum International, vol. 58, no. 3, pp. 78-84.
Lopez, M 2000, The origins of multiculturalism in Australian politics, 1945-1975, Melbourne University Publishing, Australia.
Macintyre, S., Atkinson, A., Lake, M & Macintyre, S 2000, A concise history of Australia, Taylor & Francis, United Kingdom.
Walker, D 2002, ‘Survivalist anxieties: Australian responses to Asia, 1890s to the present’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 15, no. 120, pp. 319-324.