April 2020
Welcome to the latest issue of e-news from The University of Melbourne Museums and Collections. This electronic newsletter is circulated each month and provides information on current exhibitions, events and news items from the University’s museums and collections. For details of the individual collections explore the Museums and Collections website.


Museums and collections go virtual

As with most cultural institutions around the world, the University of Melbourne’s many museums and galleries are temporarily closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although our many great exhibitions are not open and associated events have had to be postponed, there is still much happening behind the scenes to ensure the collections continue to support teaching and learning as well as remain virtually available to the wider community.

Object Based Learning content is being moved online with video clips and digital surrogates to ensure students still have access to the University’s rich holdings and curatorial staff expertise. Work is also continuing to ensure that, once the current situation passes, the University’s many exhibitions and displays will be ready for the enjoyment of students, staff and campus visitors.

Until we can again welcome visitors back to our many museums and gallery spaces, we encourage you to take the opportunity to explore the collections online via the Museums and Collections website.

Image: Christine O'Loughlin, Cultural Rubble [detail], University of Melbourne Art Collection, Ian Potter Museum of Art. Commissioned by the University of Melbourne with funds provided by the Ian Potter Foundation 1993

IMAC Award recipient at the University of Birmingham

Bachelor of Arts student and 2019 recipient of the IMAC Award Ruby Kerrison, recently returned from her month-long placement at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Ruby was based with the Research and Collections Unit and had the opportunity to develop her professional skills by working closely with the outstanding museums and collections on campus.

In consultation with collections staff, Ruby’s assignments included researching and writing an introduction to a Käthe Kollwitz’s print in the Barber Museum and developing a presentation and information sheet on a 13th century German arm reliquary also held in the collection. At the Cadbury Research Library, she was introduced to conservation methods and techniques for works on paper and assisted in the manual cleaning of historic maps. For the public engagement program at the Lapworth Museum of Geology, Ruby explored the collection archives to identify visually interesting objects to be used to illustrate postcards promoting the museum and its collections. Ruby also co-wrote an interpretation of a John Walker exhibition to be published in the student journal Research/Curate, and at Winterbourne House and Gardens, a beautiful Edwardian house in the Arts and Crafts style, she researched and wrote a blog post on a 19th century toy in the collection.

On weekends, Ruby had the opportunity to explore the rich cultural environs of Birmingham and managed visits to Oxford and London where she further pursued her interest in museums and galleries. Of her recent IMAC Award placement Ruby reflected:

The IMAC Award was an incredible experience …the broad range of projects within different departments and museums gave me a thorough understanding of how all these aspects come together. One of my favourite aspects of the award was being able to learn from museum professionals in a supportive environment, everyone was so generous with their time. Birmingham is a fascinating city and I felt like I was able to get so much out of it. My time in Birmingham has helped me better understand what careers in museums and collections look like and the array of possibilities within it.

You can read a full account of Ruby’s University of Birmingham IMAC experience on her blog.

The IMAC Award provides a unique international exchange opportunity for students between the University of Melbourne and the University of Birmingham. Recipients of the Award take part in a month-long placement working with the collections and museums of the partner university. The Award enables them to develop professional skills in collections management, enrich their studies and provides the opportunity to consider collections within an international context. 

Image: Ruby Kerrison at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, University of Birmingham

Four activities with the Print Collection to keep you entertained during times of isolation

Are you isolated because of COVID-19? The Baillieu Library Print Collection is available online, and images that are out of copyright are freely available for you to study and enjoy. Here are four ideas to keep you creative during this time of quarantine:

Activity one: curate a print album or scrapbook

Before Instagram, creatives and collectors housed their images in albums. This practice allowed individuals to select and arrange works of art to their own personal desires and tastes. Some prints were inlaid into the album in window mounts and carefully drawn borders, while others were simply pasted down. Collectors sometimes wrote comments under the prints or left other mementos. The nine Sadeler albums, comprising 1200 prints by a dynasty of Flemish printmakers arranged in the 18th century, are the most expansive examples in the collection.

Activity two: do-it-yourself coasters and trenchers

Some prints were created to be used on decorative goods or furniture. Intarsio prints for example, were made to imitate wooden marquetry and they were pasted onto boxes as less expensive but just as elaborate designs. Trenchers are a type of wooden platter and were often decorated with a specially made round prints which were pasted on and protected with varnishes. Coasters may also be personalised with printed roundels. 

Activity three: paper portraits

Create your own paper friends by cutting portraits. Make a silhouette portrait of a figure in profile on a piece of black card, cut the portrait with scissors and paste it onto contrasting white card. This was a popular method of portraiture which began in the 18th century. You could also make paper dolls by cutting figures out of images; cut out some extra clothes so your friends can change outfits. Create a whole world for your paper friends by making them a diorama to live and interact.

Activity four: Prepare your Easter bonnet

Easter is the traditional time for a new, fancy hat. There are plenty of regal and cutting-edge headdresses in the Print Collection.

Checkout the Special Collections blog for examples of prints that will be perfect for these activities. 

Image: Augustin Edouart, Dr Fox of Brislington, c.1825-45. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959

EMu database for Engineering collections

The Melbourne School of Engineering is implementing the EMu collection management system to manage its cultural collections and increase their accessibility. The database will integrate the existing collections across the school (Computing & Information Systems, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Surveying & Geomatic Engineering, and the A.G.M. Michell Collection), while adding additional items held in other parts of the school. An online version of the database will make the collection widely accessible, and support student projects, crowd-sourcing of information and alumni engagement.

Used by major museums and collecting institutions around the world, the EMu database was an application built on database indexing and searching algorithms developed originally in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Melbourne. The database is now owned by Swedish informatics company Axiell; the Asia-Pacific office remains in Carlton.

Image: Watching an Engineering Students’ Club ‘piano chop’ at the Student Union, 1964. Melbourne School of Engineering, University of Melbourne. Photograph Paul Mosig

Old Quad resources available online

Museum and gallery closures related to the ongoing COVID-19 situation will not stop the learning opportunities. Old Quad is hosting a series of free resources on their website to promote engagement and learning during recommended social distancing measures. Students, academics, and members of the public can access resources including free image downloads, digitised exhibition catalogues and essays and videos about the historic Old Quad building. Start your digital exploration today on the Old Quad website.

Image: Samuel Calvert, Interior of University Museum, Melbourne [detail], 1862. Courtesy of State Library Victoria

Recent Acquisition

The Melbourne School of Engineering recently acquired for its Computing and Information Systems Heritage Collection the central processing unit (CPU) from the NEC SX-4 Supercomputer, purchased by the University of Melbourne in 1999. The computer was managed by the Melbourne Advanced Research and Computing Centre, a joint venture of the University, Melbourne University Private and NEC Australia Pty Ltd.

With 32 CPUs, the computer was capable of performing 3.6 billion calculations per second. It was used for molecular studies, weather analysis, mapping of ocean currents, and research on the central nervous system. The collection holds examples of the central processing units and memory boards of several generations of the University’s main research computers, stretching back to the IBM 7044 of 1964.

Image: CPU from the NEC SX-4 Supercomputer, showing the cooling fins on each of the CPUs. Melbourne School of Engineering Collection, University of Melbourne

Insights on the pirouette with Mademoiselle Parisot

Mademoiselle Parisot, the French-born dancer and singer, enthralled conservative English audiences when she debuted on the London stage in 1796 aged about 18 years. She captivated audiences with an almost magical power to balance herself horizontally while pivoting on one toe. Her bold grace also caught the attention of the press and caricaturists. The Monthly Mirror reported that she created ‘a stir by raising her legs far higher than was customary for dancers’ while artists such as Cruikshank lampooned her audience, rapt from gazing beneath her skirts.

The delicate drawing of Parisot in the Baillieu Library Print Collection is a far less risqué portrait of the dancer renowned for her scandalous, gauzy costumes. The image is not signed, but a 1797 mezzotint after Arthur William Devis suggests that this is the original work of art reproduced. The artist has shied away from capturing the famous height of her leg in the pirouette and instead it trails awkwardly behind her (Devis’ career as an artist struggled in the 1790s). Dancers had just dispensed with heeled shoes and Parisot is depicted with the new flat shoes which were secured with ribbons and allowed the performer to leap, turn and fully extend their feet.

Image: Attributed to Arthur William Devis, Mademoiselle Parisot, c.1797. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959

The young and curious: How Science Gallery can break down silos

A new study is hoping to discover why a group of 15 to 25-year-old Melburnians are spending their free time co-designing exhibitions, events and programs without receiving any formal credentials in return.

The group is part of Science Gallery Melbourne, the Australian node within the Global Science Gallery Network, which spans seven countries and counting. The organisation offers a safe space for young people to explore today’s complex ethical challenges around issues like mental health and waste, by bringing science and art together in new and exciting ways.

Each gallery is embedded within a university and draws on a wide range of disciplines to bring its vision to life. So far, the University of Melbourne arm has hosted three pop-up exhibitions, with its permanent home on Swanston Street due to open to the public in 2021.

To ‘keep young voices front and centre’, Science Gallery Melbourne issued a call for young people to join the SciCurious advisory group in 2018. Participants signed up for two years to help the gallery plan its programs.  More

Image: Artist's impression of the new building to house Science Gallery Melbourne

University of Melbourne Collections online

Looking for something extra to read while social distancing at home? There are 24 back issues of the University of Melbourne Collections magazine available online for you to explore. Covering all of the University's cultural collections, the magazines includes a range of fascinating articles written by curators, academics, students and Museums and Collection Project Program volunteers.
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