Museums and Collections

June 2018

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.


Chemistry collection drawn into ABC’s Jack Irish drama

The University of Melbourne provides an authentic setting in the return of the ABC’s popular Jack Irish thriller series. The University’s iconic buildings create an impressive backdrop, with plot clues leading to the School of Chemistry, in an episode scheduled for broadcast later this year. The School of Chemistry Collection will be on show, with items from the collection made available during filming within the Chemistry Building. Items including a collection of crystals and other technical instruments lent authenticity to the production.  

Series lead, Australian actor, Guy Pearce was in the thick of the action but took time out to chat with the Manager of Teaching Laboratories, Robert Ennis-Thomas, to discover more about the importance of the School of Chemistry Collection, and its significance to early research and chemistry teaching in Australia. The School of Chemistry welcomes creative collaborations with external partners and values the opportunity to highlight the importance of its collection to the broader community. More than 30 production crew and extras were involved in the project. Filming ran smoothly with no disruption to Chemistry students during the Summer Semester.  

The new series of Jack Irish is to be released this year. Don’t miss the intrigue which unfolds in the Chemistry corridors.

Image: One of the crystals from the School of Chemistry Collection

Significant botanical collections to be digitised

The University of Melbourne Herbarium recently commenced a digitisation project that will substantially increase access to some of the Herbarium’s most significant late 19th and early 20th century collections. The project will entail the generation of high-resolution digital images of 3,000 objects of national and international significance, including the Herbarium’s important collection of European botanical models dating from the early 1900s.

These digital images will enable virtual access to the collections via the University of Melbourne Herbarium online data portal, which will be launched in late 2018. Developed in collaboration with the University’s Science IT and Research Platform Services, the online data portal will also showcase the 20,000 specimens and 8,000 images from the Herbarium already digitised and enable real-time browsing and searching of the collection database and image repository.

To date, digitisation efforts have focused on significant genera in the Australian flora (e.g. species rich genera including Acacia and Eucalytpus) while less than 3% of the historically significant pre-1930 objects have been imaged. Digitisation of these older significant objects will make them accessible to a global audience for the first time and ensures the diversity of Herbarium’s collections are accessible via the online data portal. Once digitised, the botanical models will be one of the largest collection in the world accessible and searchable online.

This project has been funded through the Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund.

Image: School of BioSciences PhD student (K. Muscat) digitising a specimen as part of the project

The company of the Hanged Man

It is widely accepted that Tarot cards developed in Italy in the 15th century. They sprang out of the playing card tradition and the first engraved images, known as the Tarocci, were initially attributed to the Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna. However, the artists of these first tarot are unknown, and following their first appearance, further artists quickly began to create new versions of this appealing game. Tarot imagery was a reflection of human experience, or a journey of the soul, and it is not until the 18th century that the cards became the tools for fortune-telling and occultism.

Included within the deck are the Major Arcana or trump cards, and these picture cards are the recognisable archetypes. After tarots became standardised, these 22 cards were numbered, so that number 12 becomes the Hanged Man. This is not an auspicious card to draw, for he represents betrayal and is a symbol for the traitor. He is depicted hanging by one foot from the gallows, as traitors in Renaissance Italy were likewise branded. This shady character, and his companion, have now infiltrated into the Baillieu Library Print Collection. More

Image: Pierre-Antoine Keusters, The Hanged Man (Le Pendu), c.1768. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne

Engineering students recreate the Cross-Grainger experiments for Synthesizers: Sound of the Future

A team of four engineering students chose to undertake their group Capstone Project in the Department of Mechanical Engineering with the Grainger Museum in Semester 1 2018. The project was an attempt to recreate Percy Grainger’s player piano electronic experiments with three Solovoxes, in order to give visitors to the Synthesizers: Sound of the Future exhibition an opportunity to understand aspects of Grainger’s 1950 experiment in a tangible way.

The Solovox was a monophonic keyboard attachment instrument, which connected to an electronic sound generation box, amplifier and speaker. Grainger rigged up three of these instruments with his Duo-Art piano, to explore electronic means of creating Free Music. He hand-cut piano rolls with a fragment of his Sea Song sketch (1907, 1922). The action of the piano keys pulled down the keys on each of the Solovoxes, which were tuned a fraction of a semi-tone apart.

The students have recreated one of Grainger’s piano roll fragments for Sea Song, and have experimented with connecting the keys of the player piano with an electronic keyboard, simulating aspects of the original experiment. They have used a pianola donated to the Grainger Museum as the test instrument. The students are Lai Fan, Xinyu Wang, Zhengnan Shi, and Mukun Xie.

The instrument can be played in the Synthesizers exhibition at the Grainger Museum until 9 September 2018.

Image: The instrument recreated by engineering students for the Synthesizers: Sound of the Future exhibition

Grant to allow conservation of significant prints

The Baillieu Library Print Collection was recently awarded a grant from the Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund for the conservation treatment of 11 significant prints. This conservation work will allow these prints to go on display as part of a 2019 exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Harold Wright Scholarship.

The exhibition, titled Horizon lines, will celebrate both print culture and the 50th anniversary of the scholarship which enables its recipient to study prints at the British Museum. Harold Wright was a print scholar and philanthropist who worked for many years at the London-based art dealers Colnaghi. His advice helped to shape many print collections in Australia and New Zealand.

The exhibition will focus on exemplary prints from the collection, as well as print scholarship and philanthropy. Prominent schools of printmaking history to be displayed include Northern printmaking (Albrecht Dürer and his circle), Italian Renaissance prints, Rembrandt and the Dutch Republic, and artists they inspired through the Etching Revival. The virtuosity of the woodcut, engraving and etching, the three principal line-making techniques, will also be examined through the exhibition. The woodcuts, engravings and etchings to be conserved are some of the University’s most exceptional art works and are by artists such as Dürer and Rembrandt.

Horizon lines will be on display at the Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, during the second half of 2019.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, The three trees, 1643. Baillieu Library Print Collection, the University of Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959. One of the 11 works to be conserved in preparation for the Horizon lines exhibition


In conversation: Speculative fiction

Leigh Scott Room, level one, Baillieu Library, Thursday 14 June 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm 

Join host Louise Swinn and authors Michelle Goldsmith, Narrelle Harris, Kirstyn McDermott and Jason Nahrung for a discussion of the speculative fiction genre – one that includes horror, fantasy and science fiction – and the evolution of early gothic literature into its contemporary form.

This talk is presented as part of the exhibition Dark imaginings: Gothic tales of wonder.

Free event. Further information and bookings.  

Image: Alfred Ashley (illustrator), Lieutenant-Colonel Hort (author), The embroidered banner. London: John & Daniel A. Darling, 1850. Rare Books, University of Melbourne Library

From under the bed and down from the attic: Synthesizers reclaimed  

Grainger Museum, Sunday 17 June 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm

Robin Fox, media artist and founding Co-Director of the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio, talks about his personal connection to the re-discovery and re-animation of the EMS synthesizers in the exhibition Synthesizers: Sound of the future. Robin’s stepfather, Jim Sosnin, was audio technician for Keith Humble at the Grainger Museum in the 1970s. Jim assisted with setting up the Grainger Electronic Music Studio, including the installation of the EMS Synthi 100 in 1973. Most of the EMS synthesizers left the Grainger Museum with Keith Humble when Humble went to La Trobe University to establish the Music Department in 1974.

When the La Trobe University Music Department closed in 1999, the smaller synthesizers disappeared from public view, going into the safe-keeping of Jim Sosnin. These dusty ‘science-fiction’ machines were re-discovered a few years ago by Robin in his step-father’s attic. These instruments, on display here, turned out to be highly significant. They are the earliest instruments made by the company EMS, Electronic Music Studios, in London. Their creation is inextricably linked with the co-development of Australian electronic music in the early 1970s.

Free event. Further information and bookings.

Image: Portable analogue synthesizer EMS VCS 3, made in 1969, at the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio. Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS) Collection. Photograph Amber Haines

Up from the vaults

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Friday 22 June, 11am to 12.00pm

Join Dr Andrew Jamieson for the Ian Potter Museum of Art’s first ‘Up From The Vaults’ program where rarely seen objects from the University of Melbourne’s Art Collection are put on display and discussed. Looking at ivory carvings, Dr Jamieson will reveal mysteries from Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud, Ancient Iraq and tell tales from the excavation of Kalhu (Calah of the Bible) then the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.

Free event. Further information and bookings

Image: Nimrud, Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq), Phoenician ivory of bull with lowered head [detail], 9th-8th century BCE. The University of Melbourne Art Collection, Classics and Archaeology Collection

Neighbourhood night: Music, food, drink and great art

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Wednesday 27 June 2018, 6.00pm to 8.00pm

Come and enjoy an evening of art and refreshments for local residents, students, staff, families and those interested in art and music. Explore the whole museum with two exhibitions presented at this special after-hours viewing.

Free event. Further information and bookings

Image: Ian Potter Museum of Art at dusk [detail]. Photograph by Peter Casamento

Transnational Draculas 

Leigh Scott Room, Baillieu Library, Thursday 28 June 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm

Join the University of Melbourne’s Professor Ken Gelder as he identifies Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s migration – from Transylvania to London – as something that makes this ancient vampire modern. His talk will track the modern vampire’s arrival in three quite different places: the American South, Japan and Sweden, looking at Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2010, 2012), Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976) and the True Blood television series; Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D (1983) and the anime film director Mamoru Oshii’s Blood: The Last Vampire: Night of the Beasts (2000); and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let the Right One In (2004), adapted to film in 2008 and re-adapted in the US in 2010.

This talk is presented as part of the exhibition Dark imaginings: Gothic tales of wonder.

Free event. Further information and bookings

Image: Heinrich Ramberg (illustrator), Heinrich Marschner (librettist), Gallerie zu dem Vampyr, Orphea Taschenbuch für 1831. Leipzig: Ernst Fleischer, [1830]. Rare Music, University of Melbourne Library

Exhibitions at The University of Melbourne

Meredith Turnbull: Closer

Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 1 July 2018

Meredith Turnbull takes a non-hierarchical approach to art making, combining sculpture, photography, decorative objects and jewellery in artworks that invite reflection upon use, value and decoration, adornment and excess. In Meredith Turnbull: Closer the artist presents an installation of newly commissioned work which responds to the University of Melbourne Art Collection. Turnbull has drawn from the Collection’s eclectic and vibrant holdings of decorative art to make new forms and display contexts for objects ranging from large scale wood carvings, glazed earthenware and porcelain, to modernist fine art jewellery. Closer engages with decorative traditions to explore the intersections between visual art, craft and design. Meredith Turnbull is a Melbourne-based artist, curator and writer.

Image: Meredith Turnbull, Co-workers: Objects, Décor, Fabrics (Dekor XXVIII), 2010-2016. Courtesy of the artist and Daine Singer, Melbourne

Stieg Persson: Polyphonic

Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 1 July 2018

Stieg Persson: Polyphonic explores the rich, complex and beguiling practice of Melbourne-based artist Stieg Persson. Bringing together work spanning a thirty-year career, this major exhibition provides the opportunity to reflect upon the preoccupations and concerns that thread through and bind the artist’s expansive practice: issues of mortality and the human condition; the ongoing relevance and importance of the past; the ebb and flow of notions of taste and class, and underpinning these intersecting interests, the fundamental question about just what is the contribution of art to contemporary life. As Persson asks, “Does art any longer have any faith in its ability to be an authentic form of self-expression?”

Stieg Persson is an alumnus of the University of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Art (Painting) in 1981 and a Master of Fine Arts in 1998. Persson is currently a PhD candidate at the VCA; examples of this new work are included in the exhibition. More

Image: Stieg Persson, Landscape (Covetous) [detail], 1983. The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Purchased 1983

Dark imaginings: Gothic tales of wonder

Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, to Tuesday 31 July 2018

In 18th century Europe a revolutionary shift in literary and artistic expression took place that became known as ‘the Gothic’. Nightmarish images of barbarity, oppression and the supernatural were abstracted from an earlier medieval (or ‘Gothic’) age and fused with a Romantic focus on imagination and emotion, resulting in works of frightening and thrilling originality. Leading exponents of the gothic set their creative works in dark and claustrophobic spaces or wild, threatening landscapes and infused them with melancholy, gloom and fear.

Dark imaginings: Gothic tales of wonder explores the expression of the Gothic from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries. The exhibition marks several important gothic anniversaries, including the bicentenary of the first publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the 200th birthday of Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights. More

Image: Graphic by Janet Boschen based on: Robert Burns (author) and John Faed (artist), Tam O’Shanter. Edinburgh, 1855. Rare Books, Special Collections, University of Melbourne

Synthesizers: Sound of the future

Grainger Museum, to Sunday 9 September 2018

Presented by Grainger Museum and Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio

Today’s musical hackers, sound artists and digital musicians who patch and share and experiment with sound are the direct beneficiaries of innovators in electronic sound in the second half of the twentieth century. The Grainger Museum was at the heart of musical experimentation in Melbourne in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when University of Melbourne composer and teacher Keith Humble, and composer and Grainger Museum Curator Ian Bonighton ran a renegade electronic composition studio with early analog synthesizers, including the EMS Synthi 100.

The exhibition Synthesizers: Sound of the future explores this Melbourne scene and, more broadly, the evolution of the commercially produced synthesizer by EMS (Electronic Music Studios Ltd, UK) in this period. The exhibition features key instruments on loan from the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS) and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. More

Image: Portable analogue synthesizer EMS VCS 3, made in 1969, at the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio. Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS) Collection. Photograph Amber Haines

The art of healing: Australian Indigenous traditional healing practice

Medical History Museum, to Saturday 29 September 2018

The art of healing: Australian Indigenous traditional healing practice follows the premise of Tjukurrpa (dreaming). It looks at traditional Indigenous healing practice as past, present and future simultaneously. It presents examples of healing practice from the many distinct and varied Indigenous communities throughout Australia. These are shown through contemporary art practice and examples of plants and medicines.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major catalogue with the perspectives of Indigenous communities represented. The key to this exhibition is revealing that traditional Indigenous healing is a current practice informed by the past, and an intrinsic part of the life of Indigenous people in Australia. More

Image: Judith Pugkarta Inkamala, Bush Medicine, 2017. Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne

Liquid form: Ancient and contemporary glass

Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 28 October 2018

Liquid form: Ancient and contemporary glass celebrates the luminous medium of glass. Displaying significant artefacts from the Egyptian and Roman periods alongside the work of contemporary makers, Liquid form examines the development of faience and glass manufacture in the ancient world and demonstrates how these methods have been reinvigorated and extended in the modern era.

Highlighting the treasures in the University of Melbourne’s Classics & Archaeology Collection, Liquid Form is the first major exhibition of glass at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. The exhibition also showcases significant works from major collections around Australia, including the Australian Institute of Archaeology, Melbourne; the Dodgson Collection of Egyptian Antiquities at Queens College, the University of Melbourne; the John Elliot Classics Museum, the University of Tasmania; the RD Milns Antiquities Museum, the University of Queensland and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. More

Image: Egyptian necklace, 1550BCE-395CE. University of Melbourne Art Collection. Classics and Archaeology Collection. Gift of Miss D Kilburn, 1962

More exhibitions

For a full list of exhibitions and associated events at the University of Melbourne, visit the websites of the individual galleries and museums.

Ian Potter Museum of Art

Margaret Lawrence Gallery

George Paton Gallery

The Dax Centre

Science Gallery Melbourne

The Professor Sir Joseph Burke Gallery, Trinity College

Buxton Contemporary

Image: Visitors at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. Photography by Jody Hutchinson

Now available: University of Melbourne Collections

Issue 21 of the University of Melbourne Collections magazine is now available. Join the Friends of the Baillieu Library and receive two complimentary issues annually.

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