The Australian Performing Arts Collection at the Arts Center Melbourne will be open to the public as part of a $2.2 million Reveal project

Historically significant costumes and performing arts, ranging from Kylie Minogue’s gold lamé hotpants to Dame Nellie Melba’s La Traviata bodice, will be made available to the public in 2023 as part of a $2.2 million to improve and expand the Australian Performing Arts Collection at Arts Center Melbourne (APAC).

Unveiled today by Creative Industries Minister Steve Dimopoulos, MP, the Collections’ Reveal project will give the public access to never-before-seen objects and costumes through a first behind-the-scenes tour experience.

The new space designed by Melbourne-based Williams Ross Architects is due to open in June 2023 and will feature improved and expanded storage to increase capacity for more than 780,000 collection items, ranging from costumes and props, designs and models of sets, props, photographs and albums, posters, programs, archives and audio and visual material. It will include the Collection’s first-ever conservation laboratory to preserve objects on-site, and an upgraded photographic studio to continue digitization and build on the development of online exhibits.

Funded by the Victorian government through Creative Victoria and philanthropists Virginia and Harry Boon and Maxwell and Merle Carroll Bequest, a key element of the design is an internal street allowing visitors to view curators, curators, registrars, research and exhibition teams working on the collection, as well as objects and costumes in recessed display cases and 2D works on the wall. The intention is not to imitate or replace a gallery environment, but to provide “windows” into what it takes to develop, manage, preserve and share a state collection.

Karen Quinlan, Managing Director of the Melbourne Arts Centre:

As proud stewards of the Australian Performing Arts Collection, we are thrilled to discover and share this hidden treasure with the people of Victoria. We hope they will feel ownership and pride in this state collection and all the value and benefits it offers.

Minister of Creative Industries Steve Dimopoulos:

Victoria is home to Australia’s largest and most star-studded performing arts collection, full of gems that celebrate our rich entertainment history and our greatest talents.

This new space revolutionizes the care of collections with state-of-the-art facilities, while offering a captivating new behind-the-scenes experience for visitors. This is another fantastic offer unique to our creative state.

International pop music superstar Kylie Minogue said she was delighted to have her extensive collection within the Australian Performing Arts Collection being shared with the community.


The Australian Performing Arts Collection houses over 1000 items from my career, including costumes and props. I am so grateful that with the help of the expert and passionate collections team, these items can be shared with generations to come. It’s so exciting that fans, music lovers, and history buffs will get to see some of them up close and personal among so many other treasures housed in the new space.

One of Kylie’s signature costumes – her museum dress – is set to be one of ten treasured pieces from Australia’s performing arts collection to be on display when the new space opens in 2023. line on these articles will be published on Arts Centre’s Melbourne website from November.

Arts Center Melbourne Head of Collections, Preservation and Access Samantha Hamilton:

What started as a solution to a storage problem has turned into an opportunity to share the collection and what it takes to develop, manage, preserve and make a state collection accessible to the Victorian community.

The Australian Performing Arts Collection Reveal project aims to deepen our engagement and share our Australian Performing Arts Collection with the people of Victoria, including school groups, the performing arts community and visitors to Arts Center Melbourne. It will become a staple of Melbourne.

The Australian Performing Arts Collection (APAC), established in 1975, is the country’s largest collection of the history and traditions of the performing arts. The collection acquires performing arts material in the five main collecting areas of circus, dance, music, opera and theatre.

APAC Reveal will remain a permanent offering at Arts Center Melbourne. The Reimagining Arts Center Melbourne project, part of the Melbourne Arts District transformation. includes the Creativity Center at 1 City Rd. This center will include an Australian Performing Arts Gallery to display the Australian Performing Arts Collection and an expanded permanent home for the Australian Music Vault.

Important items from the Australian performing arts collection

  • Kylie Minogue’s costumes designed by Dolce and Gabbana from her Aphrodite Les Folies tour, 2011
  • Tutu worn by Justine Summers in Divergence, The Australian Ballet, 1994
  • Bodice worn by Dame Nellie Melba as Violetta in La Traviata, circa 1908
  • Wirth’s Circus album compiled by Charles West, circa 1905 – 1940s
  • Notebooks compiled by Nick Cave
  • Model set designed by Tony Tripp for Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Melbourne Theater Company, 1995
  • Ossie Ostrich puppet from the TV show Hey Hey It’s Saturday, c1972
  • Costume designs by Roger Kirk for the role of Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz
  • Glasses worn with Barry Humphries’ Fish Dress as Edna Everage

For more information, click here

Photo credit: Mark Gambino