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The changing face of Victoria

About the exhibition

Please note: This exhibition has now closed its doors, however it remains available to explore digitally though our virtual tour and online galleries.

Revolution comes in many forms – homemade protest badges from the 1980s, wooden water purifier barrels from the 1800s, a red anarchy flag flown by pioneering unionist ‘Chummy’ Flemming and a newly commissioned artwork challenging disposable camping culture at festivals.

The changing face of Victoria exhibition explored the spirit of activism and invention, and its impact on modern Victoria, through four everyday themes: water, workers’ rights, camping and coffee.

On showcase were more than 150 objects, artworks and photographs that revealed the large and small ways we can all make a difference in shaping our world. 90 per cent of these collection items had never been exhibited before.

The themes explored in this exhibition are:

Meet the curators: Linda Short and Bethan Johnson

Two women standing in the dome and smiling

Bethan Johnson and Linda Short, exhibition curators, The changing face of Victoria, State Library Victoria

Teagan Glenane

This exhibition was co-curated by Linda Short, curator at State Library Victoria, and Bethan Johnson, a former curator at the Library who now holds a curatorial position at ACMI.

Beth and Linda worked closely together for twelve months to reimagine the The changing face of Victoria exhibition, researching and selecting objects from the Library’s collection that address the four topical questions and themes.

They particularly enjoyed collaborating with individual collectors and other cultural organisations to feature additional items in dialogue with the collection, and commissioning a new artwork by Melbourne artist Georgina Humphries which forms an eye-catching moment in the exhibition.

Explore our virtual tour

Discover The changing face of Victoria from wherever you are through our free, virtual tour.

The changing face of Victoria 2021

Where do you camp?

Black and white photo of a women walking in the Australian bushland

State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria. Young woman in the bush dressed as a swagman, 1900–40. Glass negative, State Library Victoria Pictures Collection.

Explore how camping connects us to the land in our 'Where do you camp' online gallery, including forms of camping such as:

  • The Canvas City of Victoria's gold rush
  • protest movements like Camp Sovereignty
  • family camping holidays on the Mornington Peninsula

Installing You Forgot Your Tent by Georgina Humphries

Watch this short video capturing the installation of a colourful canopy in The changing face of Victoria exhibition.

How do you take your coffee?

A black and white image of two men sitting outside a coffee shop sipping drinks and smoking

Georgia Metaxasm, Greek social clubs, Melbourne, 2003–04. Gelatin silver photograph, State Library Victoria Pictures Collection.

Examine the influence of coffee on local innovation and culture in our 'How do you take your coffee' online gallery, including:

  • Melbourne's magnificent coffee palaces of the 1880s
  • the evolution of the KeepCup
  • early espresso machines that revolutionised the way Melburnians take their coffee

How much water do you need?

An image of an outdoor area with a bucket, soaps and clothing.

Julie Millowick, Recycling Water, 2008 (detail). 1 of 10 digital prints, State Library Victoria Pictures Collection.

Explore the role of water in our lives with our 'How much water do you need?' online gallery including:

  • the importance of waterways to the culture and economies of Aboriginal people in Victoria
  • protest movements that are urging action on human-caused climate change
  • ingenious water-saving methods during the millenium drought.

What are you working for?

A painted image of industry workers rallying together

Patrick John O’Flaghartie Fingal Harford, Yarra Bank Meeting, 1923. Oil on canvas, State Library Victoria Pictures Collection.

Celebrate the local 19th-century pioneers who set an international precedent for workers' rights in our 'What are you working for' online gallery, including:

  • the 'Do-it-together' movements and the establishment of trade unions
  • Victoria's hidden workforce
  • discover the places where Melburnians have made their opinions heard.

Explore our past exhibition

View the online galleries of the past iteration of The changing face of Victoria exhibition, showcasing items ranging from key historical artefacts to pieces from daily life.

Canvas Town

Watch our Ask a Librarian video exploring Melbourne's gold rush tent city, known as Canvas Town.

Read Sarah Matthews' blog post to learn more.

View our other image galleries

Cobb & Co horse team and passengers outside colonial country home

Banner image credit

From left to right: Rick Amor, Australian Council of Trade Unions poster, c.1985; home espresso machine, c.1958, collection of Sylvester Longo; rope knot; original 4oz KeepCup; water cask, 1803; W.E. Murphy, History of the eight hours' movement, 1896; Maurice Dunlevy, Stay alive: a handbook on survival, 1981; protest sign, 2019; badges from the Riley and Ephemera Collection