Museum shops of the world: the Chinese Museum

The Chinese Museum is one of my favourite places in Melbourne. Located beside Her Majesty’s Theatre, in a building which used to hold overflow from the theatre’s wardrobe, it contains four floors of Chinese-Australian history, from the gold rush to the end of the White Australia Policy.

I visited the Museum itself a few months back, but I didn’t have a chance to look closely at the shop that day.  Finally, I’ve had a chance to rectify that serious omission.


The shop is located on the ground floor, right next to the entrance.  The retail area itself is not very large; space is taken up with a few chairs and low tables, and a wonderful set of photographs of the buildings along Little Bourke Street, with a few paragraphs outlining each building’s history.

The shop’s range is heavy on the doo-dads — that’s the technical term: vials of gold from Sovereign Hill, replica Chinese coins, parasols, paper cut art, chopsticks, paper fans.  It’s all nice, and quite inexpensive, but not really specific to Chinese life in Australia.  I was disappointed by the lack of postcards, especially since the Museum has some really interesting objects in its collection which I think would photograph well.  However, such things do cost money, and I get the impression that the Chinese Museum has a tight budget.

What really made the shop stand out was its small but carefully curated collection of books for sale, ranging from a delightful picture book about Australia and Asia to small press memoirs.  I bought After the Rush : regulation, participation and Chinese communities in Australia, 1860-1940 (edited by Sophie Couchman, John Fitzgerald and Paul McGregor) ($35) and a slim book of Chinese-Australian family histories collected by researchers at La Trobe University ($15).  And I plan to go back in a couple of weeks for the history of the Kuomintang in Australia.  (I’m working on a Thing, it requires research.)

Museum: Chinese Museum

Day and time visited: 1:45 PM, Saturday 27 February 2016

Items purchased: various books

Location: 22 Cohen Place, between Little Bourke and Lonsdale Streets

Getting there: I took the train to Parliament then walked west for two blocks

Rating:3 paper parasols out of five