Yesterday we went to the museum.
I love that place. I think it is one of the nicest things Melbourne has to offer.
We went to see the dinosaurs, but I was captured fully by something much closer to home.
The Little Lonsdale street exhibit, which I think is new.
Little Lonsdale street was an inner-city slum. When another new development was being planned, an archeological dig was begun before the detritus and evidence was lost further. Footings of buildings and artefacts were discovered that have allowed us to see how these people lived. The reconstruction within the museum is staggeringly poignant, and the visitor is allowed to wander through several houses in a row. Complete with holes in the ceiling, washing on the line, cramped sleeping conditions and displays on mantlepieces of treasures that must have warmed the heart.
There is not much room for anything much, which is probably just as well because, one gathers there wouldn’t have been much to have.
Low ceilings, small tables. It must have been cold. And hot. And cramped, and cosy, claustrophobic.
A haven. A prison. A community.
The exhibit is housed within the Melbourne Story. There is a marvellous virtual tour here. This exhibit is in the back right hand corner – past the ‘Cole’s Funny Picture Arcade’ (which I also adored). You’ll see the big rainbow, which was on the front of all their books (how I loved my copy – I wonder where it is now). Go through and look for the old buildings. Not quite as good as seeing it yourself but you’ll get a feel for it.
For so many reasons this exhibition captured me. A glimpse into the past, and the stark comparison returning home to our sweeping ceilings and airy space in a home that is probably the same age and still here. A home that is not so big by today’s standards, but a mansion compared to these little structures.
I drew a sharp intake of breath, of emotion, of ideas for paintings. A sharp intake of ideas and the solidifying of one that I have been trying to find a way to express visually. I am fascinated by light and colour and the way an absence of light intensifies colour and makes it glow and vibrate. The harsh and complete illumination at nighttime in our homes and cities makes us see the dark less as a beautiful thing and more of a threat. The dark can be a very tender and lovely thing.
I’m looking forward to exploring it more.