No trip to the Melbourne Museum is quite complete without touching the poo. Ever since I first came to the museum in 1986 when it was still on Swanston Street I needed to touch the poo. A man would eat an apple, it would travel through his digestive system and become a hard, brown plastic poo, ripples and all. It looked a good 3-4 on the Bristol Stool Scale but definitely had the texture of a 1.
Fast forward 30 years and not a great deal has changed in the human body section. Though with Melbourne's foodification, it's no longer an apple that gets eaten but a Masterchef quality dish of Chicken Maryland and bits.
A welcome addition is a pink oesophagus with the texture of a wetsuit which one can rub to move a lump of food from one end to the other. One cannot begin to describe the immense joy that patrons receive from doing this.
There has, however, been one disturbing alteration to the poo display and that is the plastic poo is now encased behind perspex and one can no longer touch the poo. How the next generation will ever know what poo is without being able to fondle a plastic replica of it is beyond me. Scores of toddlers will now go to the toilet, something will come out of their bum and they will COMPLETELY FREAK OUT. Museum custodians have attempted to assuage traditionalists like me with a clever fart button, which admittedly has some novelty factor, but in no way makes up for the fact that I NOW CANNOT TOUCH THE POO.
Anyone who's read my other posts will realise toileting features rather prominently. I had begun to think it was somewhat of a strange fixation but have now come to realise that it is our cultural institutions such as the museum that have conditioned me thus. Even Scienceworks, which I'm sure will rate a mention at a later date, is built on the site of the old pumping station which quite literally used to pump poo all around Melbourne.
Moving on from the topic of poo, one must say the dinosaur exhibit is always pretty cool. There are bones and stuff and a huge, great big fossilised poo. "Touch the poo, boys! Touch the poo." There literally is no getting away from the stuff at the museum and within minutes you'll no doubt be humming the wonderful Scrubs song "Everything Comes Down to Poo".
I am surprised there is not a replica of Phar Lap's poo as well. I'm sure it would have been mighty as well, at least twelve hands high. He's a pretty impressive horse, but what's more impressive really is the ornate parquetry he's standing on, which of course would be a whole lot more impressive if sitting on it were a huge, great big pile of ... nevermind.
My little men are always big fans of the museum and whenever we go there I think of T-Bone saying "now museum, now you don't", mimicking Greg Wiggle who had been dressed as a magician and finished a trick with the classic line, "now you see 'em, now you don't". Don't kids say the darndest things? We should revive the television show and get Bill Cosby out of retirement ... well, maybe not Bill Cosby.
The Children's Gallery is a fantastic place for kids to explore and parents to unwind. There's lots of stuff to touch, build, stack, insert etc. And there's even stuff for the kids as well. Within this section there are also those curved mirrors which make you look all out of proportion. Back when I was a kid these mirrors were a close second to touching the plastic poo as things you looked forward to doing at the museum, but the children of today seem less interested, having generally mastered photoshop by the age of three.
The boys and I enjoy seeing a watery Earth 100 million years from now and models of energy generating wind turbines, then I realise that within these halls there is clearly a leftist agenda aimed at imparting the truth so I quickly check myself and move us all along.
T-Bone and Sea Bass have a great time in the Melbourne Story gallery, gleefully exploring the old replica house from "Little Lon" (as in Little Lonsdale Street) and luckily I don't have to restrain either one of them from dropping their pants in the mock outhouse. Note to the curators: enough with the poo theme already, this is the Museum, not the Pooseum.
The Pasifika Gallery containing artefacts from our Pacific neighbours has virtually zero appeal for toddlers and children, however, and T-Bone and Sea Bass are keen to find something more exciting.
"Let's go to the cafe for icy poles", they say in virtual unison.
I tell them we haven't got time and T-Bone quips, "time doesn't mean anything when you're about to have water lapping at your door", and I am so proud that he has at least inherited my sense of humour, or perhaps Peter Dutton's.
Exiting the Museum, we are greeted by the grand vista of the Royal Exhibition Building, home of Australia's first Parliament, containing men who were fine nation-builders and even finer white supremacists. I'm sure they would be aghast at the First Peoples exhibition at the institution over the way and the mere thought of an Immigration Museum would have Edmund Barton turning in his grave.
In any case, do yourself a favour and purchase a Museum membership, which grants you access not only to a whole lotta poo, but also to Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum as well. Although two Wongs still don't make a white, two little boys sure had a great day out.