• arts & culture

27 December 2018

For 62 years kids have put nose to glass, smearing the window for a better look at the Myer Christmas displays.

Make Believe Exhibition

Recreation of 1956 Myer Christmas window at Melbourne Museum. Photo: Jake Roden

And that’s just how staff like it. The grubbier the window, the more times the panes need cleaning and they know they’ve got a hit on their hands.

While the curators behind Melbourne Museum’s exhibition Make Believe: The Story of the Myer Christmas Windows knew it would be a success, even they have been surprised at just how dear Victorians hold the tradition of travelling into the ‘city’ for a glimpse at the glass.

A social media call-out for people’s fondest memories resulted in hundreds of submissions. Tugging on heart strings they now form the display most likely to cause (happy) tears and the entire exhibition is one of the museum’s most popular.

Created by Freddie Asmussen, the first windows coincided with the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and featured Santa’s arrival at the stadium. Unfortunately the original characters have not survived, but the Melbourne Museum’s team have painstakingly recreated the diorama for the Make Believe exhibition and Santa the athlete is once more welcoming visitors.

Each display is a 12-month job with current Creative Director John Kerr already thinking about 2019’s theme. For months Melbourne Museum followed Kerr’s team, documenting the mammoth undertaking of building this year’s windows. The exhibition features original pencil sketches, hand-carved sculptures and explores the logistics of keeping the characters intact during a two-week installation period.

Inspired by fairy tales and children’s storybooks Kerr is as in love with his job as when he started in 1994. And he too remembers the day he visited the windows as a child telling his mum he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up.

Featuring scenes from Alice In Wonderland this year’s Myer Windows light up Bourke Street until January 6.

Make Believe: The Story of the Myer Christmas Windows is at Melbourne Museum until February 9.