It’s not very often that I get to visit the northern part of Tasmania but last week I was lucky enough to make two trips to Launceston with my sister. We spent a lot of that time visiting museums.
One that I had been wanting to visit for a long time was the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery which is housed in the old railway workshops at Inveresk just outside the CBD. When I first visited Tasmania in the late 1990’s the Inveresk Precinct as it is now known had not yet been developed. I was looking for the old railway station and when I found it I discovered that the abandoned workshop site was to be redeveloped but at that stage there was nothing there so I went for a walk around the outside of the buildings. The museum and art gallery were at that time housed in a lovely old building in Wellington St, Royal Park which is just a stone’s throw from the CBD. It has since been restored and since 2011 it houses the art collection while the museum collection including the Planeterium relocated to the Inveresk site.
The first thing that impressed me when we walked into the museum was that admission is free. You do have to pay for the Planetarium but I don’t think it was expensive. As we had a lot to pack into our day we didn’t stay for a show but I certainly intend to on a future visit. The museum is divided up into sections and the first one people usually visit is The Tasmanian Connection. This has the dinosaurs as seen above. There is a special section of animals only found in Tasmania and you can also see other parts of Tasmanian life including a display of old bicycles, bi planes and even an old caravan. The displays are interactive, press a button on the display panel for more information about different types of animals for example.
The next section we visited was The Phenomena Factory. This is really for kids but we big kids enjoyed it too. It has a lot of fun things to try. There is a visual perception test, a rocket launcher, a board game depicting the hazards faced by insects and various other things. Unfortunately a few of the exhibits were out of order which I suppose is unavoidable in an area frequented by kids large and small. I definitely recommend it though.
There is a theaterette in this part of the museum too showing films at various times of day. We didn’t stop for these but again I’ll check them out next time I’m there.
Also in the main building is the astronomy display which is free to visit and the Planetarium which isn’t. The astronomy display has information and photos about telescopes in Tasmania.
The rest of the main building is devoted to the railway display. This is not a display of locomotives although there are a couple. Most of those are in the Tasmanian Transport Museum at Glenorchy which I referred to in my Model Railway post.
This display is more about railways in Tasmania and the people who worked on them.
Outside in the courtyard you can walk around the rest of the buildings. Most of them are not open to the public but have interpretive panels to explain what was done in each of them, the age of the building and sometimes reminisces of former employees. As my sister and I both worked at the old railcar depot in Adelaide for some years this was a bit nostalgic for us as we recalled the good and bad times of our days as cleaners there. Inveresk is more like South Australia’s Islington Workshops than the railcar depot of course. I liked that no attempt had been made to improve or embellish the original buildings. They were mostly rusty corrugated iron. One shed was open to walk through on a boardwalk and had the sounds of the machinery playing in the background. You could imagine how it would have been on a hot day.
Now a few practical details if you are planning to visit and I recommend that you do. There is a website with all the information you need: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/qvmag/ but also keep in mind the following. You can take photographs but in some areas flash is not permitted. There is a museum shop which is quite good and not overly expensive.
Although there is a cafe on site when we visited it was empty and up for lease. I did see a drink vending machine. We asked where we could get lunch and a staff member recommended the Blue Bar Cafe which is nearby at 2 Invermay Road. http://www.bluecafebar.com.au/ however when we arrived on a Friday lunchtime it was very busy and as we hadn’t made a booking we were directed to picnic tables outside, alright with us as the noise was incredible but when we saw the menu we decided it was way too upmarket for us and left. My suggestion for a cheap lunch would be to go across Invermay Road and you will find the Gourmet Bakery who have very nice pies and pasties. I also saw a smallgoods place selling amongst other things Blackforest Cake and another place selling baked potatoes so you don’t have to go hungry.
Parking is very easy, it is metered but you can park all day for only $3. My suggestion would be to do that and use the free Tiger Bus to go to the CBD as it would be much cheaper than parking in the city carparks. We spent $13 parking for a similar amount of time at the car park in Paterson Street on another visit. In fact the CBD is within walking distance of the museum which is another option if you are not weighed down with gear. The Tiger Bus is operated by the council and runs Monday to Friday and weekends in December. http://www.launceston.tas.gov.au/lcc/index.php?c=284
In my next post I will talk about two other interesting Launceston Museums.