July 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.


University of Melbourne Archives turns 60

The University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) turns 60 years old on Monday 29 June. Since its formation in 1960, the UMA has expanded its holdings to over 20 kilometres of historically and culturally important material across a range of collections. Today it is one of the largest non-government archives in Australia.

To mark the occasion, Archives and Special Collections have created a video celebrating the story and significance of the UMA.
A range of contributors were crowd sourced from their various places of social isolation in order to help tell the story of the UMA. Featured contributors include researchers, academics, archivists as well as staff and students past and present. Their contributions demonstrate the varied use of archival records and highlight the depth of material held in the UMA.

The video will be launched on Monday 29 June to coincide with the anniversary and can be accessed via the UMA’s website

Reflections from an intern at the Grainger Museum

By Jake Ryan Deans

Visiting a museum for the first time is an experience most people never forget. At 5 – as most 5-year olds are – I was enamoured by dinosaurs; seeing pterodactyl bones suspended by wire tens of metres above my head as the dull roar of footsteps, chatter, and tour guide instructions permeated the Melbourne museum is something that I can recall vividly. Eventually, as most 5-year olds do, I got over my dinosaur obsession and moved onto more diverse interests. For me, that was music.

Being a student of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, I have at multiple occasions walked through the Grainger Museum. Personally, I find the museum as a concept far more interesting than the items themselves; I caught myself becoming an armchair psychologist, trying to figure out what type of man would spend a lifetime dedicating a museum to himself! My fascination with Grainger was eventually sated when I was asked to undertake an archival project at the Museum for the Professional Project subject of my musicology honours degree.

I was given access to a recent donation by Schott Music Limited, London of original manuscript material that contained photos, letters, and scores that followed Grainger’s communications with his editors at Schott Publishing. The first thing that struck me was the composer’s eye for detail, not only in his music, but in his editorial choices. Within the material was close to 32 correspondences of editorial comments between Grainger and his editors, asking for minutiae to be changed. The most egregious example of which was Grainger expressing his dissatisfaction and distress towards the kerning and symmetry of the letter ‘G’ in the word ‘Greenwood.’ While the assemblage of historic items I was looking over were fascinating, I admittedly was finding the archival process dry. It was not until I was halfway through the items that I understood the appeal of documenting, labelling, filing, and sorting.

Archival work is an important process for the management of information and the development of scholarship. What initially appeared as a dry, bureaucratic task shifted into the masonry of information. This patience was rewarded; while I did not uncover anything ground-breaking, I was met with other interesting finds.

I said earlier that your first time at a museum is something that you rarely forget. I still hold true in this belief, but I would like to add an addendum. There is a pre-archival perspective and a post-archival perspective. Meandering around a museum pre-archival is a highly enjoyable experience, you look at the displays, read the history. Post-archival allows you to peer past the displays. The museum reveals its true form; the Grainger Museum as I perceive it is an institution of data and preservation and represents the architectural embodiment of historic scholarship.

Image: Signed poster of Percy Grainger, dedicated to Max Steffens, 1932. Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne. Gift of Schott Music Limited, London 2020

Creation in Isolation: Old Quad tracks a new world of isolated composition

Despite the limitations of this global pandemic, the show must go on! University of Melbourne music students and alumni have used their time in isolation to create bespoke pieces of music reflecting on the COVID-19 situation as part of the Creation in Isolation project. Hear these new compositions and listen to the students speak to their practice via the Old Quad’s website.

This digital presentation was prepared as part of the upcoming Multivocal exhibition at Old Quad. Multivocal celebrates the creation, performance and experience of music at the University of Melbourne, past and present. Multivocal will be opening soon at Old Quad in collaboration with the Grainger Museum.

Image: Participating music students and alumni share their experience of Creation in Isolation


Melbourne School of Engineering cultural collections at Melbourne Connect

The Melbourne Connect precinct on the corner of Swanston and Grattan Streets is rapidly taking shape.

This innovation precinct offers several new opportunities for drawing on the University’s Cultural Commons. Science Gallery Melbourne will have a permanent home to explore creative collisions between art and science. The Superfloor will accommodate events and short-term displays by the University and research partners. And the precinct will become the focal point for the Melbourne School of Engineering (MSE), with opportunities to celebrate and reflect upon past and current achievements.

The MSE building at Melbourne Connect will include sixteen showcases and displays, integrated into the main circulation spaces and social hubs across the seven floors. The displays will explore the diverse ways in which MSE has contributed to society by tackling key social, environmental and technical challenges. Displays will comprise a designed mixture of artefacts, documents, images and media. Tablet screens can present existing or commissioned captioned videos and images. Wherever possible, the videos, graphics and text will feature the personal stories of researchers and end-users, so that there is a strong sense of MSE working in its many and diverse communities.

The MSE collection stretches back to the commencement of the teaching of engineering at the University. Two transit telescopes dating from the 1850s were used by Professor William Wilson, the founder of the engineering course, to teach astronomy and surveying in the 1860s and 1870s. A set of German kinematic models was acquired by Professor William Kernot from the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and used to demonstrate mechanical principles to his students. Also surviving are a number of instruments and electrical standards acquired by Edward Brown to establish the course in electrical engineering in 1911.

As well as displaying historic material, the displays are intended to showcase and celebrate current research and collaboration. This requires a program of targeted collecting and documentation with research teams and industry partners.

Changeover of content and new stories are essential to keep the displays fresh and engaging. Staff and students will be encouraged to contribute, showcasing their current research and collaborative projects. Other displays of iconic items, such as the original Computation Laboratory door (1955) and the IBM 7044 computer console (1964), will remain for longer periods, and serve as signposts for their respective work areas.

Through displays at Melbourne Connect and the new database, the MSE cultural collections will be brought in the present, and help us shape the future.

Image: Tellurometer microwave distance measuring instrument which transformed the precision surveying and mapping of Australia, 1962. Melbourne School of Engineering Collection, University of Melbourne

The art of needlework: An important social narrative

This month’s Up from the Vaults talk from the Potter Museum of Art is by the University of Melbourne’s Matthew Martin, a lecturer in Art History and Curatorship from the School of Culture and Communication.

In this fascinating talk, Matthew takes a close look at a needlework sampler from the Russell and Mab Grimwade collection and explains why it is unusual for samplers to be collected by non-specialist art museums such as the Potter; examples of the work of young women, he says, were more readily classified as domestic craftwork than as art. Recent scholarship, however, has begun to revise this opinion, arguing that needlework functioned as an important form of literacy for early modern English women.

Created in 1798 by then-18-year-old Beatrice Acton, the sampler featured depicts a map of England and Wales and is a brilliant example of a type of needlework image that appeared between 1770 and 1840 – a period when the working of embroidery maps of regions of Britain or depictions of the globe reflected changes in the approach to women’s education.

Indeed, this was a time when women’s education moved away from the ‘accomplishments’ of the eighteenth century to a more practically focused education that included a more rigorous engagement with scientific disciplines including geography. No longer merely passive recipients of memorised knowledge, young women, through the choice of stitched map subject, demonstrated their engagement with contemporary discourses around national identity and British imperial aspirations.

Image: Beatrice Acton, Embroidered map of England and Wales, 1798. University of Melbourne Art Collection. The Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest, 1973

Apocryphal pictures

Navigating ancient texts and images can be a mystifying experience and encountering ‘hidden’ or secret stories in the Bible, known as the Apocrypha, are a provocative example. These tantalising, albeit esoteric stories, actually occur throughout Western art, indicating their appeal to artists and audiences. Therefore it is worth taking a look at a few examples, represented by works in the Baillieu Library Print Collection, in brief detail to try and disambiguate their meaning.

The Apocrypha are writings, often classified as a group of fourteen books appendices in the Old Testament. In the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) and the Vulgate (Latin version of the Scriptures) they are not considered canonical and are therefore unauthorised because their authorship is contested. They are omitted altogether from the Protestant Bible. Several of the Apocrypha discuss strong female protagonists and also erotic themes. More

Image: Oliviero Gatti after Pordenone, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1606. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959

Light Source commissions

Light Source is a new series of commissions that form part of Buxton Contemporary’s expanded digital artistic program.

You are invited to participate in Stuart Ringholts new work Looking at a painting without clothes on in the safety of your own home – all you have to do is register on the Buxton Contemporary website.
Ringholts humorous and timely work, which is the inaugural Buxton Contemporary Light Source commission, comprises a series of instructions and materials that are dispatched to participants through the post.
Looking at a painting without clothes on in the safety of your own home refigures Ringholts well known naked museum tours for the age of isolation.
‘ ... the viewing of the painting can best be described as playing ‘Twister for the thinking nude’ ... typically, the museum visitor's job is to look at the nude in its environs ... but this self-assembled painting functions in the reverse. No longer does one look at a nude; instead you are the nude’, says Ringholt.
Comprising of a flat-packed painting and instructional guide, the work requires participants to assemble the artwork and stick it to a wall in their living space. Participants are then encouraged to remove their clothes and sit on a chair or on the floor and experience the fields of colour that constitute the painting. The nude viewing can be experienced solo or shared with members of your household and others, as social distancing measures relax. Participants are also asked to take a photo of themselves with the artwork and post it using the hashtag #nakedwithringholt. The work is a limited edition of 500.
Through its new Light Source commissions, Buxton Contemporary has commissioned and is supporting the development of six new projects.

Image: Stuart Ringholt, Looking at a painting without clothes on in the safety of your own home 2020. Courtesy of the artist, Buxton Contemporary, University of Melbourne and MADA, Monash University

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 Universitys cultural collections, the magazines includes a range of fascinating articles written by curators, academics, students and Museums and Collection Project Program volunteers.


Cultural Commons at the University of Melbourne

Stay connected, inspired and engaged with the University of Melbourne’s arts and culture through virtual tours, online collections, videos, catalogues, podcasts and more. At the heart of our community, culture brings us together.

The University of Melbourne’s Cultural Commons provides access to a unique group of museums, galleries, theatres, collections, and knowledge. It represents what we value, hold, discover and create and what collectively helps us to understand what it means to be human.

The University of Melbourne acknowledge and pay respects to the Boonwurrung, Wurundjeri, Dja Dja Wurrung peoples and the Yorta Yorta nation, the traditional owners of the lands on which our venues and campuses are situated.

Image: Display of mallets for percussion instruments, c.1930s. Various makers including J.C Deagan (instrument maker). Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne
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