Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The State Library of Victoria - Melbourne

When ever I am in Melbourne, I usually try to visit this library because I love to see the old reading room.
 The main entrance. It was used to great effect in the 1959 Stanley Kramer film about the end of the world, 'On the Beach'. If you get the chance, see the film. As well as being a great story, it shows the Melbourne of 1959 which apparently did not impress Ava Gardner. She thought it dull and boring. I think she would have a different impression these days.
 It really helps to read the Wikipedia article from the above link since the history of the reading room is interesting. The dome roof was covered with copper sheets in 1959 so the reading room I remember became a dark mysterious place with glowing reading lights amongst the gloom.
 In 1999, a refurbishment took place and the room was reopened in 2003 with the copper removed and the natural lighting restored. What a transformation!
 The green shaded reading lights that so intrigued me when the roof was covered.
 Going up one level. The room was modeled after the Library of Congress.

 Looking down from close to the dome.
 Stained glass of the Bard.
The dome, up close.
 On an upper floor, close to the dome, Ned Kelly's armor is on display. Ned was Australia's most famous bushranger and he was captured while wearing this home made armor. It worked for a while but eventually the Police aimed at his upper legs which were unprotected except for the boots.
 One of the boots.
 Up close view of the helmet. One of Australia's most famous painters, Sydney Nolan, used the armored figure in a series of iconic paintings. The subject has also inspired some films including one where Ned was play by Mick Jagger!
 View from the back.
Description of the initial effect of the armor.
 Ned was tried and hung at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. This is his death mask. What was claimed for many years to be his skull was displayed at the Gaol. I remember visiting the gaol back in the 70's and seeing the skull as well as the cell where the condemned spent their last night before being hanged through the trap door right outside the cell. The skull was stolen in 1978 and has since been recovered but there is still ongoing investigation as to whether it is actually Kelly's skull.
An early Melbourne Cup from 1865 won by Torybory. This horse race is the most prominent in Australia and is held on the first Tuesday of each November. I believe that day is significant in US politics but it is much more important in Australia. The whole country comes to a standstill to watch the race on TV or listen to it on the radio. My mother was not a betting woman, but I would make sure she had a horse in a sweep each year.

The library also has a few very old books on display, dating back to the 13th century.

The library reading room seems to have become a curiosity with very few people actually using it. Most activity is now directly below it where rows of computer terminals are lined up. You can get 15 minutes of free internet time to check your email.

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