A Night at the Museum

A Trip to “The Queen Victoria Museum” or QVMAG

While I was on holidays with my friend Phillip we decided that we would go to the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston to see the dinosaur display. We had seen a poster about it on a wall while we were shopping in Launceston one afternoon. When I told Vanda about our plans she mentioned that they were having some special night openings that we might enjoy. This appealed to us as we like going out at night and let’s face it there isn’t much to do anymore unless you like current movies or fine dining. Phillip and I are not into either so it’s a band if we are fortunate enough to find one or a pub meal and the pokies. We embraced the chance to do something out of the ordinary.

Years ago now we had wanted to see a display of dinosaurs and jumped into our car to go to one we thought was in a place called Mount Monster. It was a long drive and we did not see any signs pointed towards the dinosaur park we had heard about. We drove on several kilometres and no dinos to be seen anywhere. We would have been happy with just one in the end but we had to abandon the idea entirely. After driving what must have been close to one hundred kms from Adelaide it suddenly hit me that they had really meant Mount Monster was some ruddy great hill and not a dino park at all like Phillip had been told by some friends. Well we had a nice drive and a laugh about it at least. The day was not wasted. So fast forward nearly thirty years and we finally got to see some.

Well I have to say we were both very impressed. The dinos moved and roared and really looked authentic. They even blinked. They had done a wonderful job in creating them and making them move. Below is a slide show of the dinosaurs. I apologise for not knowing the correct names of the dinos. I did not write them down.

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There was a lot more going on at the museum apart from the dinosaur display. There were telescopes outside and we were able to view Jupiter and Saturn. I was amazed that I could actually see the rings around Saturn when it was billions of miles away. The astronomers said they were hobbyists and were only too happy to answer any questions put to them about their interest. It was a full moon too so we were treated to the beauty of the moon as well since it was a very clear night. It was freezing queueing for the telescopes so we went to the cafe inside the museum afterwards and treated ourselves to hot chocolate and cake.

Other things going on were lectures on the stars and science and planetarium shows. I would have loved to have seen the Apollo 11 display but it was not on that night and since Launceston was 113 km from my house I did not want to drive back again as we had already been there for shopping and the casino. I should say that all of this was for National Science Week and was well worth the long drive there and back. Below are some images of the program I saved from the event for anyone who would like to see what else was on at the museum during National Science Week last in August of this year. I think you can just about read the little writing on the program.

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A Visit to Cockatoo Island

I’ve been keen to visit some of the small islands in Sydney Harbour for many years. While we were there in March I was lucky enough to be able to visit Cockatoo Island.

Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has been many things ; a penal colony, a dockyard, World War II naval base, submarine repair facility and more recently, movie set and tourist attraction.

Getting to the island was pretty easy as it has a regular ferry service. As it turned out, the day I was there some areas were closed to public access because they were preparing for an upcoming event but as my ankle was sore from previous walking expeditions during the holiday and the weather was hot I decided to just see the things I was mostly interested in.

Camping, Cockatoo Island
Camping, Cockatoo Island

The first thing I could see from the ferry as we approached was rows of tents. You can stay on Cockatoo Island either camping in your own tent or one of theirs “glamping”which is a more fancy version of camping or staying in an apartment or heritage house. I would love to stay there myself but not in summer. I really don’t care for summer in Sydney.

Arriving at the island.
Arriving at the island.
Here is the entrance built during the naval era.
Here is the entrance built during the naval era.

When you arrive at the island there are several options for walks, you can  book a tour or follow a set route with a map or an audio tour. I preferred to wander about with the map.  I’ll describe the different features of the island chronologically even though geographically they are a bit more mixed up than that.

This is what the website has to say about the convict era remnants.

Convict trail:

For those interested in World Heritage and convict history and stories
A convict prison between 1839 and 1869, home at its peak to 550 men who built their barracks, forged their own prison bars and constructed Fitzroy Dock. Cockatoo Island, together with 10 other historic convict sites, is inscribed on the World Heritage List. This trail offers incredible evidence of human endeavour. Some attractions include:

  • Military Guardhouse – A garrison for British army ‘redcoat’ guards from which they could observe the prison block and if necessary fire their muskets through holes in the walls.

  • Mess Hall – Where convicts devoured their generous daily ration of one pound of fresh beef or mutton, twenty ounces of bread, and half a pound of vegetables.

  • Fitzroy Dock – Built for the Royal Navy from 1847-1857 mostly by convicts with their bare hands, often waist deep in water and in leg irons.

  • Convict Silos – Chiselled down by hand out of the island’s bedrock this series of silos are evidence of a remarkable colonial enterprise

     

One of the convict era buildings.
One of the convict era buildings.
Guardhouse Cockatoo Island Sydney
Ruins of the old Guardhouse
Convict built Fitzroy Dock
Convict built Fitzroy Dock

Maritime History

Although I am interested in our convict past I have to admit that on Cockatoo Island I was more interested in seeing the maritime relics. The first time that David and I visited Sydney soon after we were married I remember that we saw an Oberon Class submarine in the harbour. These vessels were maintained at Cockatoo Island which was still a working dockyard at that time.We were both quite excited about that.

One of the things I was rather intrigued by was the tunnels that crisscrossed the island. These would have been used for air raid shelters during the war years I think. This one, The Dog Leg Tunnel was not totally accessible but I did stop in to see the little theatrette showing historical films although I judged I would not have enough time to see them all.

One of the tunnels
One of the tunnels

Tunnel

 

This was taken at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour once a naval dockyard.
This was taken at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour once a naval dockyard.
An old rusting crane from the dockyard days.
An old rusting crane from the dockyard days.
Dockyard Cockatoo Island
Looking down onto the dockyard

Just look at that rock wall and imagine how hard it must have been for the convicts to cut into it to build the barracks and the docks with just hand tools.I thought the old rusting gantries and cranes made great subjects for photography. Although the stairs that lead down to the dockyard were rather scary to descend I enjoyed that part of the site the most.

rocks Cockatoo Island

My time on Cockatoo Island was too short. I hope on a future visit to go back and see more and who knows maybe even camp overnight. Oh, and the movie set I mentioned.  I didn’t see that particular area but part of the film “Wolverine” was made on Cockatoo Island.

Further Reading:

http://convictvoyages.org/expert-essays/cockatoo-island

http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au/home

QVMAG at Inveresk

Image QVMAG Inveresk entrance
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Inveresk, Launceston

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.

image Dinosaur display
Dinosaur Display

 

Tasmanian Connection

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.

image bicycle display
Old Bicycles

 

For Kids

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.

Astronomy

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.

Railways

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.

Narrow gauge steam locomotive
Narrow gauge steam locomotive
TGR "Y" Class diesel
TGR “Y” Class diesel

This display is more about railways in Tasmania and the people who worked on them.

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Signs from around the workshops
image display
The Paint Shop
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The Railway Workshops banner.

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.

image workshop
The old workshops
Image iron shed
Rusty Iron
image interior shed
Inside one of the workshops. Inveresk
A former worker returned to his old work site.
A former worker returned to his old work site.

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.

Food

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.

Transport

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

Lastly, the Inveresk Precinct is also home to a college and Aurora Stadium so it may get busy at times especially if there is an AFL football match on.

In my next post I will talk about two other interesting Launceston Museums.