Melbourne has been well and truly rocked since welcoming The Australian Music Vault in December of last year. Taking its place comfortably within The Arts Centre in the heart of Melbourne, The Australian Music Vault is a sincere celebration of the story surrounding Australian contemporary music, inclusive of past, present and future.
A permanent exhibition, The Australian Music Vault has been created in collaboration with the music industry and features interactive and digital experiences, along with iconic objects sourced from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Australian Performing Arts Collection and a continuing roster of live performances and educational programs, as well as public events.
“The way that we’ve approached it [The Australian Music Vault], rather than doing a hall of fame, or doing something chronological, we’ve decided to take a more thematic approach,” says Australian Music Vault Senior Curator, Carolyn Laffan. “We’re connecting musicians, music and history, rather than separating them into different areas.”
“It’s a very open-ended exhibition – it’s extremely intergenerational,” she says. “You can come in grandparent, parent and child and you’re all going to gravitate towards different things, but also teach each other new things along the way.”
The Australian Music Vault is an exhibition that is free for all patrons and invites both young and old to experience it – no backstage pass required. Featuring several different areas and elements, the exhibition invites its visitors to feel, see, hear, interact and learn.
The areas featured are titled, Agents of Change, The Real Thing, The Wild Ones and Two Way Traffic, along with a current spotlight on Punk and New Wave. Designed to be both organic and evolving, the displays will be renewed on a regular basis, ensuring a broad look at the Australian music story, as well as extensive exploration into specific themes which will be on rotation.
“The idea of this exhibition is that it’s not really fixed in its content – we’re constantly refreshing and changing it, but for example, our area called ‘The Wild Ones’ looks at innovators and trailblazers and the sort of people who have made a real change in the industry,” explains Laffan. “That’s everyone from Johnny O’Keefe in the late 1950’s and ‘60s, through to Jen Cloher and Courtney Barnett with Milk! Records… and on to people like Molly Meldrum and the great impact that he had on the local music scene in the ‘70s and ‘80s through Countdown.”
The Australian Music Vault was a mere concept for some time, until several entities went on to partner and support the project. It was perhaps its founding patrons and partners which really gave it the wings to fly, though. Of its founding patrons is Tina Arena, Kylie Minogue, Archie Roach, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum and Michael Gudinski, along with several major partners including APRA AMCOS and ARIA, among others.
“We spent a whole year really, where this was just a concept,” explains Laffan. “It was really great to have people of that caliber in the industry, sort of reassuring people that ‘yeah, this is going to be a really great thing’.”
Today the Australian Music Vault celebrates after having over 200,000 patrons visit the vault in its few months of being open.
An element which has been receiving particular attention within the vault is an experience known as ‘The Amplifier’.
“It’s probably my favourite element of the exhibition,” expresses Laffan. “Right in the center of the exhibition we have a room that you can go into, where you’re able to experience something like what it was like to be at The Sunbury Festival, or what it was like to be in the audience at Countdown.”
“I love going in when other people are in there and just seeing how people respond – there’s all different kinds of reactions,” she continues. “With The Sunbury experience, if you’re old enough to have been at The Sunbury Festival there’s a real nostalgia and memory that kicks in, but for younger people, a lot will say ‘not much has changed – it’s just like being at Meredith, or Falls.’
“And little kids really love it as well – when ‘Love is in The Air’ comes on it’s like a disco in there.”
Partnered with Spotify, The Australian Music Vault allows for patrons to create their own unique playlist as they explore and discover The Vault – a keepsake and reminder of their experience which will remain with them long beyond their visit to the exhibition.
“You can buy a mixtape, which is a card and you can navigate the exhibition through digital labels,” she explains. “For example you can look at Olivia Newton John and play a song of hers while you’re taking in her display – and if you like that song you can actually tap on it and it will create a Spotify playlist for you.
“It really joins the experience together… and no two Spotify playlists will be the same.”
When & Where: The Australian Music Vault is open daily, excluding Christmas Day and can be found at Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd
Written by Helena Metzke