Museums Victoria Research Institute

Changing the way we see the world

For more than 165 years, Museums Victoria’s research and collections have inspired inquiry and discovery, creating new knowledge that shapes our understanding of our place, our past, our society and the relationship between this region and the world. 

Today, Museums Victoria is a globally leading museum research organisation with an international reputation as a trusted source of insight, evidence and information. Through our network of museums, via our education programs and outreach into communities, and across our digital channels that reach millions of people each year, we bring ground-breaking research to communities across Victoria and around the world.

Shield on a supported by a archival cushion
Research and repatriation may lead to First Peoples’ cultural heritage such as this shield from south-eastern Australia being returned to Traditional Owners and Country

Our vision

Our vision is to maximise our unique strengths to create a world-leading multidisciplinary and collaborative research program. Launched in 2022, the Museums Victoria Research Institute will re-imagine how we do research, creating knowledge that changes the way we see the world and how we act to shape our future.

Our aspirations:

  • Museums Victoria will be a global leader in proactively connecting First Peoples’ cultural heritage, in our care, with the people and Country it belongs to, and addressing the legacies of colonisation
  • Museums Victoria will be the primary source of knowledge in south-eastern Australia on species, their distribution and abundance, and will actively work to remove species from the endangered list
  • Museums Victoria will make crucial new discoveries of species in biosciences and geosciences
  • Museums Victoria will expand its areas of research expertise to include archaeology, design and technology, land use and contemporary employment
  • Museums Victoria will amplify community engagement with the State collection connecting knowledge across the communities of Victoria.

Based at Melbourne Museum, the Research Institute will amplify our strengths as Australasia’s leading museum organisation to address some of the biggest and most complex challenges of our era. 

With First Peoples’ knowledge, history, and culture at the core of our research practice, we will expand our work with diverse communities – creating and sharing knowledge and experiences as only a museum in our part of the world can do. This vital work will position the Research Institute as an exemplary leader among museum research organisations.

Seeing the world through the lens of change

Triceratops skeleton
Horridus the Triceratops is showing in ‘Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs’ at Melbourne Museum, and research on this iconic specimen is revealing new knowledge about the species.

In our time of complex challenges and rapid and unprecedented change, Museums Victoria is a trusted source of information with the ability to influence outcomes on urgent local and global areas – from climate emergencies and biodiversity crises to migration, inequality and conflict.

The Museums Victoria Research Institute will explore these issues through a lens of change, drawing on multiple knowledge systems and perspectives to enrich understanding. First Peoples’ histories and knowledge will be central to the program, reflecting Museums Victoria’s core commitment to placing First Peoples’ living cultures at the core of our practice.

Centres of knowledge

Research will be conducted in four new, multidisciplinary centres of knowledge, each combining research expertise from across Museums Victoria with external strategic partners:

Centre for First Peoples’ knowledge: Focus on placing First Peoples’ knowledge, learning and voices at the heart of our research. Expanding our knowledge and perspectives, so they address repatriation, community priorities and the issues of colonisation in museum practices.

Centre for healing country and wellbeing: Bringing together different knowledge systems and perspectives, over space and time to address current concerns in the natural and cultural environment. Research focus areas are: understanding people and culture, biodiversity and geodiversity, and environment and climate.

Centre for discovery and innovation: Collaborative approaches to ‘blue-sky’ or flexible, curiosity-driven research. Using new analytical technology and museum practices to make significant discoveries with broader applications.

Centre for collection care and preservation: Innovative strategies to conserve, manage and develop the museum collection and associated information.

The collaborative research program will focus on eleven major impact areas:

  • First Peoples’ knowledge
  • Decolonisation methodologies
  • Archaeology
  • Biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Palaeontology
  • Geology and mineralogy
  • Contemporary history
  • Historic land use, agriculture, and employment
  • Technology and design
  • Health and healing
  • Materials’ science, conservation and preservation.

Recent research highlights

Woman holding chickens
Poultry farmer Amy Paul at Walkerville, South Gippsland, a collaborator on The Invisible Farmer project which has revealed knowledge of how women farmers are revolutionising contemporary farming practice.

Museums Victoria is custodian of a rich collection, comprising more than 17.2 million items that trace our natural, social and cultural histories. Formed over more than 160 years, the collection is catalyst to research of global importance and an asset of inestimable importance to today’s and future generations.

For more than a century, Museums Victoria’s researchers have advanced knowledge and understanding.

Recent research highlights include:

Repairing memory and place: an Indigenous-led approach to urban water design: an Australian Research Council Linkage Project (20212024) involving Museums Victoria, Monash University and First Peoples communities, focussing on ecology and cultural memory of place in Bayside Melbourne.

Repatriation of First Peoples cultural heritage to the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation: a major research, repatriation and reconciliation project (20202022) to return significant cultural heritage held by Museums Victoria to Traditional Owners and back on Country at Budj Bim – Lake Condah, south-western Victoria.

Marine research in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories: marine voyages of discovery aboard the Marine National Facility and CSIRO’s Research Vessel “Investigator” (2021–2022), to uncover poorly known deep-sea animals, and inform conservation policy planning for marine national parks.

Ian Potter Australian Wildlife Biobank: a major facility which opened at Museums Victoria in 2016, supported by the Ian Potter Foundation, to allow the long-term storage of Australian wildlife tissue samples for genetic research.

Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery: continuing efforts by Museums Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to protect and support Victoria’s wildlife following the disastrous bushfires in 2020–2021.

Macroecology of reptiles and frogs over latitudinal and temporal gradients: an Australian Research Council Discovery Project (2021–2023) led by Museums Victoria and Monash University highlighting the ecological history of our diverse reptile and frog fauna.

Inventory, species discovery, biogeography, and natural history of Indonesian rodents: an international collaboration funded by the USA’s National Science Foundation (2016–2022), involving Museums Victoria, Louisiana State University, Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense, with Indonesian indigenous communities, examining little-known tropical mammals in our region.

Victoria’s Fossil Emblem: a study on eight candidates, a public vote, and the January 2022 announcement of a 125-million-year-old extinct amphibian, Koolasuchus cleelandi, as the new State Fossil Emblem.

The Invisible Farmer: securing Australian Farm Women's History: an Australian Research Council Linkage Project (2017–2021) involving Museums Victoria and the University of Melbourne, on the first national study of farm women in Australia.

Kodak Snapshots: 120 Years of Manufacturing in Australia: a long-term research project to record the history of Kodak’s local photographic operations between 1884 and 2004, supported by the Baker Foundation and Kodak Australasia.

Collecting the Curve: an innovative and rapid response program in 2020–2022 to help capture Victorian experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, and gather relevant stories and items for the State collection.

A national framework for managing malignant plastics in museum collections: an Australian Research Council Linkage Project (2016–2022) involving Museums Victoria and the University of Melbourne, studying vulnerable plastics in collections.

Our impact

Woman wearing PPE holding a  tray of frozen tissue samples
Wildlife tissue samples stored in the Ian Potter Australian Wildlife Biobank, enabling genetic research on threatened and endangered species.

The Museums Victoria Research Institute will elevate and highlight Museums Victoria’s research efforts, building on our strong foundations, established reputation and proven track record.

Our vision maximises Museums Victoria’s unique strengths to create a world-leading multidisciplinary research program. Re-imagined, our research will create new knowledge and perspectives that will shape the way in which we safeguard and protect our places, our heritage, and our peoples into the future.

Museums Victoria Research Institute will:

  • Provide evidence and generate knowledge to help understand our world
  • Reveal solutions to the pressing problems of social cohesion, climate crisis, global extinctions, and enriching our quality of life
  • Intersect with community knowledge, needs and expectations
  • Expand public and community engagement with Museums Victoria’s collections.
The Museums Victoria Research Institute will contribute to Victoria as a knowledge and innovation capital, establishing itself alongside Melbourne’s leading universities and medical research centres as one of the key research institutes in the region.

Banner image: A tiny Peacock spider, Maratus literatus, recorded during the 2019 Little Desert Bush Blitz at Nhill, western Victoria, on the lands of the Wotjobaluk People. Source: Museums Victoria, courtesy of Parks Australia Photographer: Heath Warwick

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