We all know the Melbourne Cup as the race that stops the nation; bringing together punters, public holiday enthusiasts and those of us who like to don a fancy hat.

One day shy of the race, we’re bringing together an iconic Thoroughbred.

For many years Phar Lap, Australia’s most famous horse, has been in pieces. Phar Lap’s heart—currently preserved in a jar of formaldehyde—is at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, his hide is at the Melbourne Museum, and his skeleton is at the Museum of New Zealand.

Today, students from three schools around the country will see all the pieces of Phar Lap at once, without leaving the classroom.


Phar Lap in action with jockey Jim Pike at Flemington race track around 1930. Image: Wikimedia Commons

This is where the robot comes in. Our Museum ‘bot, who lives at the National Museum of Australia, is driving the reunion of Phar Lap’s pieces across the Tasman with the help of an expert guide from the National Museum of Australia.

Logging in through their classroom smart board or computers, students will control their own view of Phar Lap’s heart using the 360 degree panoramic camera on the robot’s head. They can ask the museum guide questions and can click on items in the exhibit to bring up images and more information. Phar Lap’s other pieces, his hide and skeleton, will be seen on the same screen as fast broadband hooks the students up with museums in Canberra, Melbourne and New Zealand simultaneously.


Phar Lap’s pieces. His heart was 6.35kg, 50% larger than the average weight of a horse heart.

“While the classroom sweep can be a bit of fun on Melbourne Cup day, we are giving students a much richer cultural and educational experience that they’ll hopefully remember for a long time” said Robert Bunzli, manager of the museum robot program at the National Museum.

“The students absolutely love hearing about animals and the part they have played in Australian history. Horses are a particular favourite of course, and most of them have heard of Phar Lap but don’t know anything about him. ”

And from what the students have told us, they agree. “The tour was good and we enjoyed seeing the massive heart. It was better than flying to Canberra,” a student said. And our favourite, “OMG whoever invented the robot is a genius”.

Our robotics expert, Dr Jonathan Roberts, says the museum robot has shown the combination of immersive learning technology and fast broadband can deliver educational experiences to students no matter where they live.

“We are now looking to extend the application of our mobile telepresence system into other areas including remote training, retail, mining and manufacturing industries.  At the moment we are investigating how this system could be used to remotely deliver health services such as providing specialist services to regional and remote communities, conducting medical training or facilitating remote ward rounds.”


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Media: Sarah Klistorner, Communications Advisor. +61 2 9372 4662, Sarah. Klistorner@csiro.au