You may have passed by the Immigration Museum in your travels. It is a pleasant sight from the train that glides past on the city loop from Flinders Street Station. The building forms part of Melbourne’s wonderful artistic spaces. The grand architecture of the Old Customs House summons presence in sheer size and stature. Art, architecture, history, nature and human connection come together here. Such things are examined more closely. Love has been one such topic.
Upstairs, love letters adorn the walls. Not only romantic love- family love, young love, sibling love and grandparent love. These colourful handwritten notes rain down the walls, rich with sentiment and personal remembrances. Visitors quietly sit around a round table laden with paper flowers and green leaves to write their own letter of love. Others wander through the exhibition, immersed in the audio stories that narrate the different ways love has impacted their lives. Visual artworks and mementos add another layer to the story.
“The Immigration Museum’s Love exhibition has in many ways felt like a much needed reminder of the value that strong relationships bring to our lives, especially during challenging periods,” said Anna Quinn, Media and Communications Manager, Immigration Museum.
“We’ve had thousands of visitors share their own love stories on notecards in our Heart Garden – with sentiments that range from the deeply heartfelt to those from people who’ve perhaps just had their heart broken and are still feeling a bit cynical.”
Downstairs Mirka Mora vestiges are on display. Generously proportioned windows allow the tall trees to peer into the cavernous space that leads to the Discovery Centre. This is a charming alcove off the main lobby. It is a cosy space. Books line the parameter and small screens at the entrance allow visitors to learn more about current exhibitions. A coffee nook is located right outside. This is where a playgroup will be held on April the 23rd.
Throughout the playgroup morning parents will have the opportunity to wander up to the exhibition space where Love is in its final weeks. The audio immersive experience allows visitors to submerge into the stories, whimsy and human experience. It is a reflective exercise, one that transports you. So many stories passing by one another.
In partnership with Heide Museum of Modern Art, the exhibit houses five separate building structures within the installation, exploring the topics of romance, devotion, soulmates and grief. Each is lit with a different neon sign: This is it. There’s no one else, Darling you have made my life, Each year I grieve another year, Let’s walk a sky together.
An old wedding dress, sacred beads, letters, indigenous sculpture, photographs, dolls- all carrying meaning and significance- have been kept lovingly and preserved through time. A large work by Marita Dyson inspired by the lives of Sunday and John Reid is hung on the back wall, full of recollections, art and poetry.
The Immigration Museum has had a spike in visitor numbers with a 21% rise compared to this time last year, a change they’re putting down to the ‘love effect!’.
It is hard to begin to describe love in uncontrived, non-repetitive ways. The real authentic light and heavy stuff that seeps in under our skin. Truth is, it is unspeakably precious, and words often fail- but a look, skin on skin contact, doing something selflessly, a handwritten note- it’s the best we have got. This exhibition explores love is its known and its unknown.
It is a good place to take pause, connect and cherish the love we have and keep in varying forms.
We do not always have the luxury to sink into stories with depth and detail, to explore things philosophically and thoughtfully. This exhibition invites us to do just that. It has many layers of meaning. A bit like playgroup. There’s lots of stories.
Back in the Discovery Centre families are invited to settle into a comfy beanbag or sink into a leather sofa and immerse yourself in the storybook collection. Chat with other families. Grab a coffee. Your children are free to play in this safe space. Continue to listen to the Love audio. A reminder of family, of friendship and of the human condition to love.
Playgroup at the Immigration Museum will take place from 10am-noon on the 23rd of April
Bring your own cup for a discount. Either a coffee mug or a keep cup will get you a $3 coffee instead of $4.20!
Exhibition tickets: $15, kids go free. Find out more here
*The exhibition is designed to appeal to all ages, but some content may require parental guidance. Feel free to check before entering with young children.
Above images and video: Courtesy of Museums Victoria