City Gallery shines a light on Melbourne’s coat of arms

City Gallery shines a light on Melbourne’s coat of arms

The unexplored history of Melbourne’s coat of arms has been brought to life, in the latest exhibit at Town Hall’s City Gallery.

"Our city's coat of arms can inspire questions from tourists and locals alike, unsure how it got to be the way it is and why it's featured so prominently across Melbourne," said Councillor Rohan Leppert, Chair of the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio.

'Emblazon: Melbourne's coat of arms' offers a fascinating glimpse into a side of Melbourne's history. It uncovers the story behind Melbourne's little-known and underappreciated coat of arms, which has been featured on everything from a spectacular porcelain vase gifted to Melbourne by the government of France to street signs, hitching posts, electricity supply boxes, cast iron verandas and even Princes Bridge.

First laid down by Councillors in 1842 as the newly created city found its feet, the coat of arms was designed to represent the anticipated economy prosperity of Melbourne: with wool, whale oil, animal fat and the shipping industry key pillars of the new town.

"While our city's population, economic prosperity and cultural diversity has changed dramatically since 1842, the coat of arms has remained largely the same for 176 years.

"Emblazon will give people insight into an aspect of Melbourne's past which is little understood, and prompt keen observers to spot the sometimes bizarre and surprising locations where the coat of arms is on display across our city."

Curator Alisa Bunbury said Emblazon guides visitors through the symbolism and evolution of Melbourne's coat of arms.

"Heraldic designs for civic institutions imply history and permanence, but as time has passed we've seen Melbourne's coat of arms lose its relevance to our modern day city," Ms Bunbury said.

"What Emblazon does is dive deep into how this coat of arms has changed, from being a symbol of Melbourne's bright outlook and future, to its often unnoticed presence around our city. It also provides contemporary responses in newly commissioned works of art where the focus of the coat of arms shifts to Aboriginal loss, popular culture and the pre-colonial landscape."

What: Emblazon: Melbourne's coat of arms

When: Runs until Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Where: City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall, 90-120 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Cost: Free. For more information, visit the City Gallery website.