First Peoples Exhibition

  • 2014

  • Service
    Education Services

Designed By:

  • Museum Victoria Design Studio

Commissioned By:

Museum Victoria Design Studio

Designed In:


First Peoples is a new 1250sqm permanent exhibition in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum in Victoria, Australia. This unique public space welcomes all visitors with an invitation to share and celebrate the diverse contemporary culture and rich history of the Koorie (South-East Australian Aboriginal) Community, one of the oldest living cultures in the world. Continuing a long tradition of Koorie communities gathering in Melbourne to celebrate Culture, share knowledge and engage in cross cultural dialogue, First Peoples provides a new cultural hub merging the best of contemporary museum practice with the richness of Koorie knowledge and storytelling.

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  • At Museum Victoria we believe that pausing to listen to and appreciate peoples' beliefs and ways of understanding the world is an important step towards reconciliation and living in a healthy, culturally diverse community. We believe we have a special responsibility to communicate the depth of Indigenous cultures to each new generation. First Peoples has been designed to inspire, fascinate and make a vital contribution to our communities understanding of the world surrounding them. This new exhibition provides an invaluable opportunity to engage with Koorie and broader Aboriginal cultures as a vital element in our shared histories.

  • Prior to the opening of the First Peoples exhibition, over 125,000 students, from both primary and secondary education environments, visited the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Center annually. One of the key aspirations for the new exhibition is to ensure that every Victorian school child visits at least once during the course of their study. To encourage this and ensure schools and teachers are equipped to best benefit from their visit, the exhibition experience has been designed to embrace and support state and national education curricula with education programs developed and extensive teacher professional development workshops and previews conducted.

  • The development of First Peoples was a rich collaboration between Museum staff, Victorian Koorie community members, and Aboriginal community members across Australia. Integral to this partnership was the creation of the First Peoples Yulendj (law and knowledge) Group of Elders and Community representatives. As Cultural custodians, this group has brought their knowledge, rich social networks and stories co-produce this unique exhibition. The Yulendj Group was formed specifically to explore new ways of sharing knowledge beyond the typical practice of community consultation and were able to ensure the First Peoples exhibition accords with both Aboriginal and western law and knowledge systems.

  • First Peoples contributes significantly to design practice as a proven model for successful cross cultural collaboration relating to public display and interpretation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The creation of the Yulendj group has enabled Community to share knowledge and advice across the entire project team from design and curatorial to conservation and public programs. The collaborative model is providing many long-term benefits for all including: improved community access to collections; improved research and identification of collections; knowledge and skills exchange between staff and community; and, the exciting exhibition, First Peoples.

    First Peoples invites visitors to explore Koorie Culture as an evocative multi_sensory journey across a new interior landscape. The exhibition is staged over multiple levels featuring a circuitous route through a range of unique environments. It contains content that challenges preconceptions, uncovers hidden histories and inspires audiences to learn more through rich multimedia and engaging interactive interpretation. The notion of 'walking a story' and learning as a physical journey are explored with the exhibition communication methods drawing from traditional Aboriginal education models rich in oral history and physical, sensory experience.