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M
elbourne's Living Museum of the West Inc. is a community museum, with an ecomuseum focus, operating in the western region of Melbourne in the state of Victoria, Australia.

The Living Museum, as it is more commonly known, was set up in 1984 to address what was then seen as a disadvantaged region, geographically flat and rocky, heavily industrialised with a high migrant population.

The ecomuseum concept regards the area researched by a museum as part of the museum itself. The western region covers a large geographical area (see map) west of Melbourne which includes industrial suburbs merging into rural areas. Geologically it sits on an extensive basalt plain with low rainfall. Its population is approximately 500,000 people from approximately 70 different countries. More than 30 % of the population were born in another country.

The mix has created a unique cultural context that might even seem surreal to those who live in a more homogenous culture. It has in fact given rise to a cultural dynamic that challenges more conventional forms of interpretation.

The Living Museum is best known for its outreach programs and close involvement with the community it serves. Community participation can take the form of involvement as a volunteer, as a participant in the Museum's research and oral history programs or through more informal contact. For example, many local historical researchers regularly come to share information or talk avout their own research. By depositing copies of their research and publications in the Living Museum's Resource Centre they provide help for other people doing connected research. The Living Museum's Committee of Management is made up of community and museum industry representatives.

The Living Museum was set up with an experimental brief to use innovative techniques in involving the local community in researching, documenting and presenting the heritage and history of a previously overlooked patchwork of sub-cultures.

The first projects looked at the history of work, the contribution of women in the region's history and the role of migrants in the culture and heritage of the local region. These first projects focussed on oral history in a bid to involve the local community in the research and presentation of their own history.

The Museum has since explored the built heritage of the region, the environment, the Aboriginal Heritage and experimented with the involvement of artists in the presentation of culture and heritage. A book titled 'Your History Mate', describes the first decade of the Living Museum's program and outcomes.

The Living Museum receives a grant from Arts Victoria for core funding and receives grants for other projects. It has also been earning about 30% of its income from a range of consultancies. It is an incorporated body with a Management Committee drawn from the local community.

There is currently one full time staff, one part-time, several associates and consultants and a dedicated handful of volunteers.

This web site will be continually growing as we gradually learn how to reproduce our material on the web appropriately and effectively and as we introduce our community to the opportunities of the internet.



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