Today we joined a friend in exploring the museum part of Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery precinct that was developed at the former railway yards in Inveresk. Our day at the museum was stimulating and fun, especially as we explored the interactive science exhibits in the Phenomena Factory.

We started the day with a long visit from a friend who is currently living in the north of Tasmania. Although we have promised to visit her, we haven’t yet made it to the northwest coast, and so Teena came down to Launnie with her 9yo son Joshua.

While I listened to Teena’s extraordinary tales of how she and her husband have departed from the conventional norms of modern society, Josh quickly made friends with our girls. Sometimes our girls don’t “click” well with boys, but Josh and Aisha were soon playing together so exclusively that I fielded complaints from Brioni!

In the afternoon, we decided to go the museum, and Teena offered us the use of her car for the short drive while she and Joshua walked. It didn’t take long to transfer the carseats out of the bus — and then we were on our way!

Aisha, Teena Paul, Brioni and Joshua Paul, January 2013
Aisha and Brioni elect to walk the 4km to the museum with Teena and Joshua.

Brioni and Josh collecting berries, January 2013
The walkers progress at an easy pace as they stop to pick flowers, examine rocks and collect berries.

Brioni blowing on a dandelion, January 2013
Brioni blows a dandelion into nothing after making a wish.

We arrived at the refurbished railway yards ahead of the walkers, and the colourful sculptures outside the buildings immediately caught Calista and Delaney’s eyes. I love seeing public artwork in a grand scale, and these ones look like props from a Dr Seuss book.

Sculptures outside the QVMAG at Invesesk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The colourful sculptures outside the museum immediately attract the girls.

Entry to the museum is free, and so we went inside and looked around while we waited for Teena, Josh, Brioni and Aisha to join us. It’s special to have some time with just the two littler girls, and together we explored the exhibits in a erratic but exuberant manner.

QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Aisha and Delaney enjoy the coolness of the museum's entry hall.

Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The science centre contains a range of interactive exhibits that encourage children to experiment with a range of energy types, visual perceptions and natural-history instincts.

Perception Tunnel at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The perception tunnel is an interesting exhibit. While standing on a steady platform, the artificial scenery rocks back and forth slowly, and my mind is tricked into believing that I'm on a swinging bridge. It took me fifteen minutes to stop feeling ill after standing inside it with the girls.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Pulling the levers releases bubbles into tubes of liquid with different viscosities.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The colourful thong-a-phone is a simple demonstration of how each length of pipe makes a different tone.

Talking faces at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Instead of looking at the white vase, I encouraged the girls to focus on the dark space either side to see the faces. This vase rotates at a push of the button, giving the impression that the lips of the faces are moving, "talking".

Red-back spider at QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
For Australians, the red-backed spider is as much a local icon as the kangaroo. Our girls know that it's one of the few dangerous spiders — and not to touch it — so this scandalously large one climbing the wall is particularly attractive!

Dinosaur exhibit, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The exhibit halls contain various Tasmanian-focused displays, including this collection of local dinosaurs.

English basket phaeton, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
I'm digging the wickerwork on this early motorised vehicle called and English basket phaeton, imported from England by a wealthy Tasmanian family in the late 1800s.

When the walkers finally arrived, they were hot and thirsty, but certainly not too tired to explore the museum enthusiastically. Josh and Teena have visited the museum before, and so they made sure we didn’t miss out on the fantastic courtyard exhibits.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Clever positioning of mirrors makes the tasmanian devil rise above the counter-top — but it's just an illusion, and the girls try to grab at the figurine.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
In an energetic effort, Brioni sets all three optical-illusion plates rotating by winding the wheels at the bottom.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Aisha's joined at her favourite game by a delegation of Indians and invites the man next to her to join her. They have to move their joysticks to follow a "scent" line on the table, mimicking the way a wolf follows the trail of a rabbit.

Josh and Brioni playing a game at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Josh and Brioni spend quite a bit of time on an insect game where — by the throw of a dice — they hope to outlast predators, poisons and environmental hazards to reach a ripe old age.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Because she's still a bit small, Calista finds that it's easier to play with the magnets if she sits on top of the table too.

After the older girls had played for about half an hour, I asked them to look with me at some of the other exhibits. We have been learning a lot recently about dinosaurs, and I knew that the skeletons — and the taxidermy specimens of Tasmanian creatures — would particularly interest them.

Dinosaur exhibit, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
We're invited to touch this dinosaur femur.

Dinosaur exhibit, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Brioni is immediately drawn to the huge skeleton of a triceratops. This is her favourite dinosaur, and she has a little wooden one that accompanies us on our travels.

Birds' eggs and nests, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The variety of birds, nests and eggs is astonishing. We remain so ignorant of the ways animals live around us — even in suburbia!

Taxidermied animals, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Delaney is happy to recognise the platypus. My eye is on the wombats — I would love the girls to see one (or more) in the wild before we leave Tasmania!

Zygomaturus tasmanicum, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
In 1910, an almost complete skeleton of a Zygomaturus tasmanicum was found in a swamp in northwest Tasmania. It looks like a gigantic wombat to me, but Dell thinks it's a bear.

Two-headed snake, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
A two-headed snake is preserved in a jar after being caught on an island off Tasmania in 1917.

Tasmanian tiger specimens, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity at Hobart zoo in 1936. The history of the Tasmanian tiger's extinction is a sad, sorry tale of our abuse of the wider animal kingdom.

Eagle ray teeth and jawbone, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
My eye is caught by a display of the jawbone (and teeth!) of an eagle ray.

Vintage weapons, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
The historical items don't interest our girls so much at the present, except for this cabinet of weapons. Both Brioni and Calista took time to decide which sword they wanted to use when fighting.

Josh eagerly led us outside to the courtyard where more exhibits needed exploring. I was astounded to realise the power of the huge whisper dishes, although we’ve seen smaller ones before.

Whisper dish at QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
By talking directly into the centre of the dish, the sound is collected and bounced across the courtyard to a receiving dish.

Whisper dish at QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
From thirty metres away, we can hear Brioni as clearly as if she's standing right next to us.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
Following the instructions, the children work together to construct a stable bridge arch.

Exploring the exhibits at Phenomena Factory, QVMAG, Inveresk, Launceston, Tasmania, January 2013
When it's done, they jump on it in triumph.

The QVMAG museum is extraordinarily child-friendly. The staff are receptive to the children’s interests, and I noticed them speaking directly to our girls more than once. Any family that visits Launceston should definitely include this museum on their to-do list — it’s a treasure of Tasmanian history and interactive exhibits!

Thank you to Teena Paul for sharing her photos.