2015. Put it in your diary as the year the government became officially okay with people getting messed up at dodgy warehouse raves. That was our take when we heard about The Docks, anyway.

The free exhibition doesn’t just explain Melbourne’s semi-legal early rave scene – it celebrates it. It’s a surprising choice from the City of Melbourne, which was less than thrilled when the subculture kicked off in the ‘90s, taking its cues from Berlin and other cities. The Docklands was the natural focal point for this scene, with its wealth of disused warehouses and its distance from residential areas.

As it turns out, the roughly 10-year period was too rosy to ignore. While researching local stories to present at Library at the Dock, the council’s community heritage curator heard time and time again about the semi-mythical era, presumably from several people with technicolour PLUR tattoos. This despite few written records or other recorded media.

“Back in the ‘90s, Melbourne was generally regarded as a bit of a techno capital around the world,” councillor Rohan Leppert says. “Some of the early parties weren’t legal – that was part of the appeal and why it was attractive to so many.”

Like we said: a weird thing for a city council to commemorate. It’s done so with the help of the Electronic Music Alliance Australia; Melbourne Raves; and Monash Art, Design and Architecture students.

The space is decked out with personal memorabilia such as posters, tickets, homemade clothing and the amusingly basic OH&S plans party organisers cobbled together to get a permit in the later years. There are also music samples and interactive elements, such as a drum machine and virtual rave.

“I’ve got a retrospective equivalent of FOMO. I was born 10 years too late and in the wrong city,” says Leppert, who grew up in Canberra. “Some of the people who rocked up at the exhibition launch were having so much fun reminiscing.”

The Docks runs from now to February 28, 2016.

Library at The Dock
107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands