Tyama at Melbourne Museum
Tyama, the new, multi-sensory and reactive digital exhibit at Melbourne Museum, might at first seem like just another light show. But its extravagant and considered approach to inclusive knowledge sharing is an evocative and fascinating journey into the nuances of the nocturnal world through full-sensory engagement and play.
Pronounced “Chah-muh”, the 1000-square-metre, six-room display is an immersive, interactive and visually stunning exhibit that blends scientific rigour, First Peoples’ wisdom, sweeping Disney-inspired soundscapes that incorporate natural sounds, and impressionistic digital animations that respond to your movements. The net result is an experience that hits a sweet spot you never knew you were looking for: somewhere between a rave and a school excursion.
The 40-minute, 360-degree journey into the nocturnal worlds of some of Victoria’s least charismatic, but most interesting, creatures – our moths, bats and fish – offers a chance to understand and embody them through reactive animations and dazzling use of light and sound. Echolocation, pheromone sensitivity and innate spatial perception are visually translated into lavish, synergistic scenes that allow visitors to experience first-hand these otherwise imperceptible processes going on around us all the time.
The word tyama is the Keerray Woorroong language verb “to know”. But the word doesn’t just describe the information we hold in our minds. Tyama is about holistic understanding – knowing with our whole being. Both the word and the exhibit “recognise that knowledge is not something to be taken, it is to be earned through truly engaging with the world around us”, according to the project’s collaborators.
As you make your way through the space in groups no bigger than 20, vibrant animated renderings of the nocturnal habitats swirl around you on towering screens, some seven metres high. The creatures and natural elements depicted are impressionistic and not intended to be photo-realistic – but that’s not to say they aren’t accurate. Every detail has been scrutinised by the museum’s researchers to ensure they’re scientifically truthful. Hidden in side rooms dotted throughout, the exhibit’s glass cabinet displays give you a chance to investigate more traditional museum specimens.
Through a towering textural kelp forest and into the cavernous final chamber the expansive 27-metre-long screens reveal the songline of the southern right whale’s delivery of life to Victoria. Narrated by Yaraan Bundle, a proud mother of three belonging to Gunditjmara and Yuin Nations and keeper of the Couzens’ family clan story, it’s an origin tale never-before shared with the public.