The Immigration Museum first opened in Melbourne's Old Customs House in 1998. Its guiding principle is that there is an immigration experience in the life or family history of all non-Indigenous Australians. Museum facilities and activities include a discovery centre, community gallery, touring exhibitions and public and educational programs, including community festivals, exhibitions and many community engagement activities. Permanent exhibitions explore Victoria's immigration history through global motivations for leaving homeland, personal stories of immigrants from various countries and time periods, the ship journey over time, and a history of Australia's immigration policies and processes. The Museum's most recently launched exhibition explores the complexities of personal identity and how such diversity has and does inform Australian society and past and present experiences of belonging and not belonging. All these subjects are presented in a number of ways, object and image-based displays, audio-visual presentations, immersive experiences such as a series of recreated ship environments, interactive theatre, on-site computer information outlets and the Museum website.
Exhibitions display hundreds of objects from the Museum's collections relating to migration, cultural diversity, transport technology, customs and quarantine, and popular culture. The Migration collection includes over 6,000 objects which document the migration experiences of Victorians since the 1830s and, consequently, the long history of the cultural diversity of the Victorian and broader Australian population.
The Immigration Museum engages with a diverse range of individuals, families, communities and organisations to develop its collections and exhibitions. In this way, the Museum endeavours to represent as many personal stories and individual voices as possible in order present real experiences that are thought-provoking, moving, empathetic and always relevant.
A selection of objects representing the diversity of stories, communities and cultures in the Migration Collection are listed below.