When you walk through the doors of the museum here in Melbourne, there is a gigantic entrance hall which contains the entire skeleton of a blue whale. Walking throughout the Museum, there are dinosaurs and insects, there are gemstones of translucent purple, milky blue, and a thousand other colours. There is an entire native rainforest in a room, with actual plants and trees and a pond full of fish. There is an extraordinary kids play room, with rope ladders going up a series of tunnels to a succession of rooms which go over your head and then back down again to the ground. It takes 20 minutes for a child to crawl from one end to the other, so if you see your kids up there halfway through it, there is nothing to do but watch them and hope they don’t get stuck.
One of my favourite exhibits is the giant extinct wombat, diprotodon.
They were the size of a delivery van, and in life would have weighed over two tons. I like to think about herds of these giants, gently grazing over the western grasslands of Victoria. Imagine golden fields of grass at the end of summer, the long stems waving in the breeze, the sandstone hills of Arapiles in the background, and giant diprotodon thoughtfully chewing on the grass. Several artists have tried to draw what they might have looked like – which is basically a giant wombat, albeit with longer legs (in proportion) than modern day wombats. My favourite illustration is this one by Peter Trusler for the happy smile the artist gave the diprotodon. Trusler also made a beautiful illustration of a palorchestes, another extinct Australian mammal with a long,flexible nose. Here is a interesting video where he talks about the illustration at the Museum’s website here.