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Arts Flashback

To celebrate Arts Victoria's 40th anniversary we've hit the archives
and uncovered some choice moments in the development of
Victoria's arts sector.

Click on the images below to view the stories and photo galleries, share them with others, and find out how Victoria grew to be the arts and cultural powerhouse it is today.


Bell-bottoms, handlebar moustaches, platform shoes, our daring approach to fashion (and facial hair) belied an era of serious social change and political drama in 1970s Australia.

We scrapped the White Australia Policy and welcomed an era of multiculturalism. Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.

We had more leisure time that ever before. Norm coaxed us off the couch with Life. Be in it and we got fit. But when we weren't out BMXing, ten-pin bowling or roller-skating, we were listening to Skyhooks and Sherbet, tuning into the new world of FM radio, and watching Number 96 on our brand new colour TVs.

Here in Victoria, a creative community of artists, craftspeople, theatre-makers and musicians were laying the foundation of the mighty independent arts sector we enjoy today.

Premier Rupert Hamer put the arts firmly on the Government's agenda with the creation of Australia's first state Ministry for the Arts. Its first priorities? Getting the construction of Southbank's Arts Centre complex moving, creating a chain of regional performing arts centres, and bringing art out into the public.

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Premier John Cain and Museum Director, Dr Barry Wilson viewing the Dinosaurs from China exhibition, National Museum of Victoria, 1982
Premier John Cain and Museum Director, Dr Barry Wilson viewing the Dinosaurs from China exhibition, National Museum of Victoria, 1982


Dinosaurs from China

In the 1980s, the Museum was the most popular of all of the organisations and activities supported by the Ministry for the Arts. A standout event was the Dinosaurs from China exhibition, which opened at what was then called the National Museum of Victoria, in October 1982. The exhibition attracted more than 300,000 visitors – a record in its day, and still one of the most successful exhibitions ever held by an Australian museum.


Two large dinosaurs were loaned to the Museum by the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, Beijing, People's Republic of China, following negotiations by Museum staff, the President of the Council, representatives of the Institute and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In addition to having the opportunity to exhibit the dinosaurs, the Museum was given permission to cast both specimens to make plastic replicas, one set of which was sent to China and the second set retained for permanent exhibition at the Museum. The casting and moulding operations, which were also carried out in view of the public during the exhibition period, was a major undertaking and was the biggest of its kind ever carried out in Australia.

Since this exhibition, only a handful of exhibitions in Victoria have attracted bigger audiences, including: The Impressionists (NGV 2004) which attracted 371,000 visitors; A Day in Pompeii (Melbourne Museum 2009) and Salvador Dali (NGV 2009) which each attracted 333,000 visitors; Titanic, The Artefact Exhibition (Melbourne Museum 2010), with around 480,000 visitors; and Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs (Melbourne Museum 2011) with an audience of more than 796,000.

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