Back of House at Melbourne Museum’s Pacific Collection

Why is it such a buzz to go ‘back of house’ at a museum? Because museums can typically only display like 2 or 3% of all the objects they’ve collected. Imagine the treasures that every day visitors don’t get to see!

Melbourne Museum’s Pacific exhibition was a little bit… disappointing. I liked the overall concept – you walk into the space and hoisted high above your head are these canoes. It’s like you’re at the bottom of a pristine ocean, looking up at… unrecognizable sails. And then you notice display cases of islander-looking things scattered around the ‘ocean floor’ near you.


Liz Bonshek, head of the MM’s Pacific Collections, explained that the exhibit was designed by architects, actually, to align with the structure of the innovative building. She was hired two years ago to re-imagine this space, to create an actual celebration of Pacific culture, but it’s taken all this time to just get the collection in order, etc.

She’s getting there, though, and is excited about finally drafting a proposal soon.

In the meantime, she graciously invited me to visit Melbourne Museum’s home for objects from Pasifika. Amazing!

One thing I learned: when you’re in New Zealand and you think of Pacific people, you automatically think of Polynesia. When you’re in Australia, Pacific people means Papua New Guinea and Melanesian cultures. Liz’s collection from that part of Oceania far outnumbers the objects she has from Polynesia (and Micronesia)… but what she does have is pretty impressive.

If I wasn’t sworn to secrecy I would post those images up for you (I’m soooo tempted!)…

I guess we’re all going to have to wait a bit longer to see Melbourne Museum’s Pacific collection on proper display.

I can’t wait.

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