The Chinese Museum and Visitor’s Centre is just a lantern’s toss from Rydges Melbourne (behind Her Majesty’s Theatre at 22 Cohen Lane). The museum was established in 1985 as a not-for-profit institution to document, preserve, collect and research the history and culture of Chinese Australians.
The Museum is in a late 19th Century five-level warehouse in the middle of Melbourne’s Chinatown. It was built in 1890 by furniture manufacturers, the Cohen Bros. Since then the building has been home to many businesses including the Hamodava Tea Company, Kellow Motor Company, a taxi cab company and it was finally bought by Her Majesty’s Theatre to store costumes and sets. During the heyday of Melbourne musicals it was also used as change rooms for the large choruses.
In 1985 the Victorian government acquired the building and the museum rents it for a nominal fee. It is now a living part of Chinatown showcasing the heritage and culture of the Australian Chinese community. The building is also home to the Chinese Visitor’s Centre which runs audio and heritage tours of Chinatown. There are exotic souvenirs for sale in the gift shop.
It’s a great way to whet the appetite before enjoying a meal in arguably Australia’s best array of Chinese restaurants. Entry to the Visitor’s Centre is free an entry to the Chinese Museum costs $9 for adults ($7 concession, $21 family and children under 6 years free). There are often exciting temporary exhibitions as well.
The Chinese Museum opens from 10:00am to 5:00pm every day (closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)and if you are visiting Melbourne from out of town, Rydges Melbourne is just around the corner in Exhibition Street for all your accommodation needs.