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A dedicated home for music memorabilia, exploring the past, present and future of music archives. Find your own piece of the story.

Australian Music Vault, credit: Carla Gottgens, source: Australian Music Vault's website, © Australian Music Vault

Exploring the Australian Music Vault: Aussie music industry’s treasure trove

Celebrating Australian contemporary music story – past, present and future – the Australian Music Vault at the Arts Centre Melbourne is a place to discover exciting new stories from today’s Australian music scene. MAG_BTM explored the depths of the Australian Performing Arts Collection that the Vault brings to life.

“Vaults traditionally never really opened, but this one is open for all of you all the time, it’s free, it’s gonna be full of amazing memories and never before revealed things”, states popstar and inaugural patron of the Australian Music Vault Kylie Minogue.

Alongside other famous Aussie artists and representatives of the local music industry such as Archie Roach AM (who sadly passed away in July 2022), Michael Gudinski AM, Ian “Molly” Meldrum AM, and Tina Arena AM, Kylie Minogue AO OBE is giving her ongoin support to the Australian Music Vault since its opening in 2017, in order to amplify the stories of Australian contemporary music and inspire a new generation of music makers.

Providing a physical home to Australian past, present and future music scene, the Vault brings Australian’s rich music culture to life with a free permanent exhibition hosted in the grand foyer of Arts Centre Melbourne. Many of the amazing items on display, ranging from photographs, archival documents, posters and photography to instruments and iconinc stage costumes, are drawn from Arts Centre Melbourne’s extensive Australian Performing Arts Collection.

With regularly changing content supported by interactive and immersive digital experiences, the exhibition offers visitors a glimpse into the world of the artists, producers, managers, record labels, promoters, roadies and technicians who have helped put Australian music on the map.

In addition to the physical exhibition, the Austalian Music Vault offers fans, researchers and curious from all around the world a dynamic website with curated digital exhibitions and in-depth narratives expanding on the Vault’s collecitons, as well as a growing library of music stories and video interviews and a dedicated active creative learning program, featuring specially commissioned online resources and onsite workshops.

In this overview, MAG_BTM explores the digital contents of the Australian Music Vault and the Australian Performing Arts Collection to tickle your curiosity and give you a taste of the musical treasures they preserve.

Archie Roach performing at WOMADelaide 12-march-2011 by Nichollas Harrison, wikipedia CC

  1. Ladies Dance Bands: Grace and Stella Fulton

    Sisters Grace and Stella Funston were among the first female musicians to enter paid employment. They are both mostly known for being members of the all-female dance band the Magpies Ladies Orchestra (1913) and for playing in other ladies musical ensembles.

    With a particularly high demand for musicians and the tragic shortage of men resulting from the First World War, from the late 1910s women had the opportunity to become recognised professionals, and to perform publicly with instruments formerly considered taboo, in Grace’s case: the trumpet – which she played alongside the saxophone, the flute, the piano, and the cornet!

    Franki Stott and Her Gay Collegians at the opening of their season at the Merri Dance Palais in North Fitzroy, 31 March 1930. The group includes: Grace Funston (trumpet), Stella Funston (saxophone), Franki Stott (banjo), Pat Robinson (piano) and Dora Lightfoot (drums). Photograph by Ruskin, Melbourne. Unknown photographers. From the Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne – Wikipedia CC

  2. Ladies Dance Bands: Grace and Stella Fulton

    This collection is a valuable research tool for understanding the role of women in music during both World Wars, and highlights include Grace Funston’s Ukulele (c1930s), and a collection of nine highly detailed scrapbooks, documenting the history of the Funston family, alongside news clippings, diaries and notebooks, musical scores, programmes and correspondence.

    Grace Funston and Roy Brinsden performing in Pat Hanna’s Diggers, Theatre Royal, Brisbane, 1926. Photograph by Poulsen Studio, Brisbane. Unknown photographers. From the Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne – Wikipedia CC

  1. Photography: Shellie Tonkin

    The photograph was taken at a gig at The Corner Hotel, 27 February 1996 by photographer Shellie Tonkin. The photograph was commissioned for the exhibition, Out There: images at the edge of Melbourne’s music scene, 17 May – 26 May, 1996 at the Performing Arts Museum for the Next Wave Festival.

    complete details here

    Stephanie Ashworth bass player with Sandpit, by Shellie Tonkin, purchased by Arst Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection, 1996. Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)

  2. Photography: Katheleen O’Brien

    The Australian rock/post-punk/new-wave band Midnight Oil is famous worldwide because of their music, which often broaches political subjects.

    This photograph was taken by Kathleen O’Brien whilst working as a freelance photographer for Australian rock journals, RAM, JUKE and Rolling Stone from 1977 to 1981.

    complete details here

    Midnight Oil by Kathleen O’Brien, from The Kathleen O’Brien Collection. Performing Arts Collection, 1998. Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)

  3. Photography: Peter Milne

    The photograph was taken by Peter Milne while Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were on tour in Europe in 1992. The photograph featured in Peter Milne’s photographic exhibition Just Pretend I’m Not Here, 1992, at the Performing Arts Museum, Victorian Arts Centre.

    complete details here

    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – tour in Europe in 1992, by Peter Milne, Gift of Peter Milne, 1992, Peter Milne Collection – Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)

  1. Kylie Minogue: “The Museum Dress”

    One of the highlights of the Kylie Minogue Collection is the “Museum Dress”, worn by Kylie for the signature image of the 2005 touring exhibition Kylie: The Exhibition. The gown gathers iconic images, re-framing them in a colourful montage that allows us to travel through pivotal moments in Kylie’s career. The bodice’s printed fabric samples images from her album covers, while the skirt depicts Kylie in a range of intriguing settings (in studio, on stage, etc). As a final touch, he Museum Dress features fabric samples and trims retained for backstage repairs on tour costumes, making those moments even more tangible.

    The fascinating story of this unique piece is told in detail by Arts centre Melbourne in its dedicated online exhibiton From Kylie with love, diving deep into the dress’ many details through extraordinary close-ups, Kylies’ own words and the memories of the team that worked tirelessly to create the costume.

    Kylie Minogue, The Museum Dress, Gift of Kylie Minogue 2003, Kylie Minogue Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)

  2. Kylie Minogue: the Athletica costume

    Among the many remarkable collections preserved at the APAC/AMV, Kylie Minogue’s Collection surely stands out because of its wow-factor, counting over 470 items including costumes, accessories, shoes and more.
    This ensemble, known as the “Athletica costume”, was worn by Kylie for the song ‘Red Blooded Woman’ during Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour 2006. Kylie was wearing it when she was joined by U2 singer Bono on the second night of her Homecoming Tour to perform ‘Kids’ the duet she recorded with Robbie Williams in 2000. Bono got into the spirit of the act by producing a diamante encrusted leash to match her cheeky cat suit. Complementing the “Athletica” costume, the red boxing gloves, feature Swarovski cystals across the wrists depicting the letters K and M.

    complete details here

    Kylie Minogue, Atheltica costume, Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour 2006, Gift of Kylie Minogue Cultural Gifts Program, 2008, Kylie Minogue Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)

  3. Kylie Minogue: the Athletica costume

    In this shot by rock photographer Denis O’Regan, Kylie Minogue is performing at Wembley Arena (London, UK) wearing the Athelica costume in 2006.


    ©Denis O’Regan

    Kylie Minogue at Wembley Arena, 31 December 2006, ©Denis O’Regan, courtesy of Denis O’Regan

  4. Nick Cave’s archive

    These two-tone, cream and beige, patent leather, slip on shoes with leather sole were part of the he exhibition Nick Cave: The Exhibition at the Arts Centre (10 November 2007 – 6 April 2008).

    Worn by Nick Cave around 1993, this pair of shoes features on the inner sole the fabric label “Red or Dead”, a British fashion label.

    complete details here

    Shoes worn by Nick Cave, c.1993, Gift of Nick Cave, 2006, Nick Cave Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)

  5. AC/DC: Angus Young’s school boy costume

    A timeless hard rock classic, there’s no othe outfit in which any of us can picture AC/DC’s lead guitarist Angus Young.

    Worn by Angus Young around 1973 -1974, this jacket, preserved in APAC’s collecitons, is part of a “School Boy” costume which was designed and made by Angus Young’s sister Margaret Horsburgh. Angus Young, quoted by Brad Tolinski in AC/DC Programme for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2003 Induction said: “My Sister came up with the idea back in 1973, when I was fifteen… As a kid, I’d come right home from school and pick up my guitar without changing out of my school uniform.”

    complete details here

    Angus Young’s school boy jacket, c. 1973, Gift of Angus Young, 1988, Costumes and accessories Colleciton, Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)

  6. Slipt Enz Collection

    Formed in Auckland (New Zeland) in 1972, Slpit Enz are famous for their unique looks and orchestrated performances, incorporating unusual sets and costumes to reflect the various stages of their musical development. Their costumes as well as some of the stage sets were mostly designed by the band’s drummer/vocalist Noel Crombie. Split Enz’s music and performances were highly inventive and their style of music has been described variously as New Wave, Rock, Pop and Postmodern. Their theatrical stage act was a blend of disparate elements from the music hall, opera buffa, and art rock.

    The impressive collection of Split Enz’s stage costumes is preserved today at APAC, featruing 18 sets of costumes and related costume designs worn by band members during 1974 -1984 as well as photographs, costume designs by Noel Crombie, a make-up case, album covers and posters.

    colleciton details here

    Split Enz at Nambassa. This pic was taken at the 1979 Nambassa festival New Zealand. by Nambassa Trust and Peter Terry via wikipedia CC

  7. Tunic worn by Split Enz band member in Courting the Act tour, 1976

    As a title of example of the many flamboyant and colorfull costumes from the Split Enz Collection preserved at the Arts Centre Melbourne, we picked out this tunic worn by one of the Split Enz members in Courting the Act tour in 1976.

    These costumes draw their influence from a range of traditional entertainers – court jesters, clowns, and strolling minstrels. They were created for the Courting The Act Mini Tour of Australia and New Zealand. This phase saw the integration of extreme hairstyles, makeup and elaborate costuming with performances incorporating theatrics, including recitations, discordant movement and spoon playing.

    complete details here

    Tunic worn by Split Enz band member in Courting the Act tour, 1976, Gift of Noel Crombie, 1984, Split Enz Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne (APAC)