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Step Back in Time

26 Nov 2018

For history lovers, Melbourne is the gift that keeps on giving. But if you’ve explored its more famous buildings, we’ve got some alternative attractions.

Everywhere you look around Melbourne’s CBD and suburbs, you can find a little bit of history. It’s there in some of the most famous buildings – the Royal Exhibition Building, Cooks’ Cottage and the Shrine of Remembrance, for example – and presented in institutions like the Melbourne Museum and Immigration Museum. Eagle eyes in the suburbs will also spot vestiges of times past. In Fitzroy, for instance, you’ll see old signage for MacRobertson’s (a local chocolate company) on warehouses that have been transformed into apartment buildings. But if you’ve seen them all, we’ve come up with a few places you may not have thought to look.

Victoria Police Museum

Those interested in the darker side of Melbourne’s past should visit the Victorian Police Museum [637 Flinders Street, Docklands]. Among its exhibits, dating from the 1800s to the present day, you’ll find Australia’s largest collection of Kelly gang armour and forensic evidence from some of the most notorious crimes ever committed in the state, including the bombing of the Russell Street Police Headquarters in 1986. The museum is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm.

State Library Victoria

Sure, a lot of people go there to do research or find a quiet place to sit and read, but the State Library Victoria [328 Swanston Street] is an excellent venue for amateur historians. Originally opened in 1856, it has been expanded many times in the years since. For anyone interested in finding out more about the building, free Welcome to the Library tours are held at 10.30am each Tuesday. Otherwise, find your way to some of its many galleries where an intriguing array of exhibitions can be viewed. ‘The Changing Face of Victoria’ tells of the people, places and events that have shaped the state, while ‘Writing the war: personal stories from WW1’ (until 25 June) offers different perspectives from the personal correspondence of ordinary Australians on the front lines.

Heide Museum of Modern Art

Long before it became part of the suburbs, Bulleen was farming land and, in 1934, patrons John and Sunday Reed moved there and opened their doors to like-minded individuals, including Sidney Nolan, Charles Blackman, Mirka Mora and Albert Tucker, who would become some of Australia’s most important modern artists. Now, the original farmhouse, the Reeds’ ‘gallery to be lived in’ designed by David McGlashan in 1964, and a contemporary building form the Heide Museum of Modern Art [7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen]. Enjoy the buildings, wander through the sculpture garden and around a re-creation of Sunday’s kitchen garden, have lunch at Cafe Vue and study the art in the exhibitions.

Meltours' Art Deco Walking Tour

Those with an interest in architecture should sign up for Meltours’ Art Deco Walking Tour. For two hours each Sunday morning, expert guides take interested guests around the city, encouraging them to look up and admire the grand facades. Melbourne experienced a boom in the early 1930s that led to some of its most distinctive buildings, including the Majorca Building and the Manchester Unity Building, being created. Find out how Melbourne changed during that time and what it is that makes these edifices unique.

Open House Melbourne

If design and architecture float your boat, it could be worth noting in your calendar that Open House Melbourne, a weekend when private and public buildings – historic and more modern – fling their doors wide for everyone to see, happens at the end of July every year. Some places can only be viewed by booking, so it pays to plan ahead.