Museums and Collections

October 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.


2018 International Museums and Collections Award recipient announced

We are pleased to announce that Sakina Nomanbhoy, a Bachelor of Arts student studying for her Honours in Art History, was recently selected as the Melbourne recipient of the International Museums and Collections Award. Sakina is delighted to have been chosen for this prestigious award and will commence her month-long placement at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom in early 2019. While there she will work on a range of collection management projects across several of their museums and collections. Sakina, who has recently been working on a Rembrandt research project with the Baillieu Library Print Collection, has a particular interest in Middle Eastern manuscripts and is especially looking forward to exploring the outstanding collections in the University of Birmingham's Cadbury Research Library. She is also very keen to develop and extend her professional skills in the key areas of curating and collection management. You will be able to follow Sakina's cultural adventures in Birmingham via her blog, which will be accessible on the Museums and Collections website from mid-January 2019.

Image: Sakina Nomanbhoy with one of the Rembrandt prints from the Baillieu Library Print Collection

The Gerson incunabulum

The University of Melbourne’s Rare Books Collection holds around 30 incunabula, or early printed books. ‘Incunabula’ is a term given to books produced in the cradle days of book printing, generally pre-1500, and they are distinct from manuscripts, which are hand-written. One of the University’s incunabula was published in 1489 and was authored by Jean (Johannes) Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429), a French scholar devoted to the study of the Catholic Church, who published extensively throughout his life. The title Opera means ‘Work’, and the book appears to be one of three volumes comprising a treatise on the Catholic Church. This first volume is subtitled Prima pars operii Johannes Gerson, meaning ‘The first part of the works of Johannes Gerson.’

The typography is a plain Gothic type, and the text features substantial rubrication, or the addition of red highlighting or markings to a text after it has been printed which may be seen in a sample page. Even after the advances of printing, rubrication often continued to be done by hand, however, if there was substantial rubrication throughout a text, it may have been produced by a second printing using red ink. More

Image: Woodcut attributed to Albrecht Dürer in Jean Gerson's Prima pars operii Johannes Gerson, Nuremburg: Georg Stuchs, 1489. Rare Books Collection, University of Melbourne 

The Rare Books Collection: How did it all start?

Prior to 1959, the University Library’s Rare Books Collection was relatively small. The first significant contribution to the collection was the George McArthur bequest, which was made in 1903. George McArthur (1842-1903) donated 'the whole of his books' to the University of Melbourne, which involved some 2,500 volumes. These books covered topics such as Australian exploration, mining history, typography, and early printing. The bequest made up around ten percent of the Library’s rare cultural materials at the time, and led the way forward to allow for the collection to develop. While George McArthur’s contribution was a start in the right direction, the Library’s Rare Books Collection has become what it is today due to the generous donations made by Dr J. Orde Poynton over the 1960s and 1970s. More

Image: Shelves within the University Library's Rare Book Room

Molecular display explores teaching inspired research

Alice O'Rourke, Masters in Art History and Curating student at the University of Birmingham and the UK recipient of the 2018 International Museums and Collections Award, has curated a new themed display on the ground floor of the Chemistry Building. The exhibition features various molecular models which assist chemistry students and academics to visualise how molecules and atoms occupy space and link together.

Models, made for Professor Richard Robson by the former School of Chemistry Workshop for the purpose of teaching, were an important first step in revealing the possibility of ‘infinite polymeric frameworks’. This new idea was the subject of a scientific paper in 1989 and inspired other chemists around the globe to explore the possibilities of constructing deliberately designed molecular frameworks or coordination polymers, of which metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a subclass.

Working in collaboration with Associate Professor Brendan Abrahams from the School of Chemistry, Alice's display helps highlight and visualise an important growing area of scientific research.

Image: Alice O'Rourke with one of the molecular models on display

A royal gift on display at the Grainger Museum

In 1905, Percy Grainger presented his first Royal Command Performance before Queen Alexandra at Buckingham Palace, London. As his fame spread and his career took off, further performances for European royalty soon followed, including the King and Queen of Denmark in Copenhagen in 1905, and the King and Queen of Norway in 1910. Composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina helped Grainger make connections in Norway, as he developed his touring schedules in this period. Nina Grieg arranged an introduction for Grainger to the King and Queen of Norway.

The Adelaide Observer reported in February 1910: ‘King Haakon VII, and Queen Maud of Norway have attended two recitals by brilliant Australian pianist, Percy Grainger, at Christiania. Their Majesties expressed themselves delighted with his playing, and presented him with a handsome souvenir.’

The gift presented to Grainger was a diamond-studded tie pin. It is currently on display at the Grainger Museum as part of the exhibition Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger.

Image: Diamond-studded tie pin presented to Percy Grainger in 1910. Granger Museum Collection


Nightcleaners Part 1

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Tuesday 2 October 2018, 6.00 to 7.30pm
Nightcleaners Part 1 is a documentary made by members of the Berwick Street Collective (Marc Karlin, Mary Kelly, James Scott and Humphry Trevelyan), about the drive to unionize the women who cleaned office blocks at night, who campaigners assert were being victimised and underpaid. Intending at the outset to make a campaign film, the Collective was forced to turn to new forms of documentation in order to represent the forces at work between the cleaners, the Cleaner’s Action Group and the unions – and the complex nature of the movement itself. The result was an intensely self-reflexive film, which implicated both the filmmakers and the audience in the processes of precarious, invisible labour. Presented in collaboration with Artist Film Workshop (AFW).

Nightcleaners Part 1 is presented as part of the State of the Union exhibition running until 28 October 2018. 

Free event. Further information and bookings.  

Image: Berwick Street Film Collective, Nightcleaners Part 1 [detail from film still], 1975. Courtesy of Lux

Monkees music: It’s probably a lot better than you think!

Dulcie Hollyock Room, ground floor, Baillieu Library, Wednesday 3 October 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm

In ‘Monkees music: It’s probably a lot better than you think!’, Dr Derham Groves, curator of Monkeemania in Australia will focus on the music by the mid-1960s American rock and roll band The Monkees, as well as looking at an eclectic mix of other bands and performers of the era, including The Beatles, Bobby Goldsboro, Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys, Richard Harris, and The Archies. Because The Monkees were put together artificially, so to speak, for a TV series, instead of forming organically like a garage band was supposed to in the 1960s, many people played down the band’s musicianship and songbook from the beginning, even though The Monkees produced smash hits like Last train to Clarksville (1966), [Hey, hey, we’re] The Monkees (1966), I’m a believer (1967), and Daydream believer (1967). However, looking back 50 years to when The Monkees first toured Australia in 1968, it is now much easier to assess the merits of the band and its music, and also to appreciate just how emblematic The Monkees were of the 1960s.
Image: Micky Dolenz puppet by Jonathan Liow

Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

Floor Talk
Grainger Museum, Thursday 11 October 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm

Join curators Dr Heather Gaunt, Curator, Collections and Exhibitions, Grainger Museum and Margaret Marshall, Curator, Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne for an overview of the exhibition, its themes and stories behind the collection objects on display. Objects of Fame represents an important collaboration between two significant collections documenting the life and work of Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger, two of the most famous Australians of their time. Don't miss this opportunity to hear first-hand from the curators of this newly opened exhibition.

Free event. Further information and bookings.

Image: Rupert Bunny, Percy Grainger, c.1902. Grainger Museum Collection

Emeritus Professor Chris Wallace-Crabbe on The Universe Looks Down

Leigh Scott Room, Level 1, Baillieu Library, Wednesday 17 October 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm 

Emeritus Professor Chris Wallace-Crabbe will discuss the genesis of long-form poem The Universe Looks Down. Published in 2005, the poem has been described by Professor Wallace-Crabbe as a ‘quest’ and a ‘difficult and zany epic’, reflecting how people behave when they are thrown together on a journey encountering love, violence, or loss. As Chris has said, ‘a quest, like a life, contains different kinds of people, naive, comic, and villainous … all these kinds of people who are held together by a story, in a story, for a story’.

The poem was written over a period of 13 years. It is a quest narrative, but a tale in which there can be no one hero. Instead, a handful of protagonists are seen, engaged in interlocking life-quests, inside and outside historical time. In mythical, heroic and even comical action they press towards a goal which must be different for each individual. Their stories touch on chivalry, Australian history, Indian legend, experimental science, sea journeys, coffee, semi-divine intervention and much more.

This event forms part of the exhibition public programs for The Universe Looks Down, currently on display in the Noel Shaw Gallery, Level 1, Baillieu Library.

Free event, Further information and bookings.

Image: Kristin Headlam, Owl, 2016/2017 [#11]. Rare Books, Special Collections, University of Melbourne

Rare Books Lecture 2018: Vulnerable law sources, and how to take care of them

Presented by Associate Professor Ann Genovese, University of Melbourne
Melbourne Law School, G08 Theatre, Thursday 25 October 2018, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

The description of legal books as ‘rare’ invokes a sense of romance: the preservation of fragments of previous centuries, in specialist archives and libraries, awaiting discovery by the assiduous scholar. Ann’s work concerns telling Australian law stories of the past 60 years, and her archival adventures have been far less romantic, but raise urgent problems. In a time of open access the notes, books, documents, records, court files, and transcripts created closest to our own time should exist in robust proliferation, and enable myriad stories to be told about developments in our law and public life. The reality is that they might be better described as precarious, or vulnerable. Many are of uncertain status or dispersed location; others have already been sentenced.

In her talk Ann will reflect on two recent projects, Lives Lived with Law and the Court as Archive, as both anchor around how Australian public institutions might understand their custodial responsibilities for contemporary law sources. In doing so, she will also contemplate her own scholarly obligations when conducting such research, and why it is she cares about these rich and irreplaceable materials, and the diverse Australian stories of living with law that they tell.

Free event. Further information and bookings.

Image: Bess Meredith, Letters, 2015. Image used with permission of the artist

Exhibitions at The University of Melbourne

No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout  

Buxton Contemporary, to Sunday 21 October 2018

This ironically titled exhibition shines a spotlight on Ronnie van Hout, a Melbourne-based New Zealand-born artist best known for his distinctive brand of existential absurdism. Bringing together works that span more than twenty years of practice, No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout encompasses sculpture, video, photography, embroidery and text, and features major new installations.

Van Hout’s tragicomic oeuvre references a wide range of sources, from science fiction, cults and cinema to art history and popular and celebrity culture. He frequently draws upon childhood experiences and recollections to create wryly amusing yet heart-rending micro fictions. Casting fragile, lonely figures in the midst of perplexing scenarios, van Hout masterfully evokes familiar and yet strange interior worlds. His unsettling tableaux unleash deep social anxieties and feelings of self-consciousness, triggering the impulse to simultaneously laugh and cry. More

Image: Installation view, No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout. Photograph by Christian Capurro

State of the Union

Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 28 October 2018

State of the Union explores the relationship of artists to political engagement through a focus on the labour movement and trade unions. The exhibition presents artworks that investigate industrial action and labour issues alongside the work of artists who draw upon the traditional visual strategies of protest, such as banners, posters, and collaborative actions. In addition to artworks that take trade unionism as a subject matter, the exhibition includes a consideration of artists whose practices are a form of cultural activism through which they advocate for fair working conditions, including those of artworkers.
This exhibition takes place at a time when unions and trades councils are working together to win back lost ground. In this moment of renewed momentum, State of the Union provides an opportunity to explore the historical relationship between art and the labour movement, and to consider how this collaborative advocacy for workers’ rights might continue into the future. More

Image: Operative Painters & Decorators Union of Australasia, Victorian Branch banner [detail], 1915. Courtesy of Museum Victoria and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)


Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 28 October 2018

Eavesdropping used to be a crime. According to Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769) ‘eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls or windows, or the eaves of a house, to hearken after discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court-leet.’ Two hundred and fifty years later, eavesdropping isn’t just legal, it’s ubiquitous. What was once a minor public order offence has become one of the most important politico-legal problems of our time, as the Snowden revelations made abundantly clear. Eavesdropping: the ever-increasing access to, capture and control of our sonic worlds by state and corporate interests.
Curated by Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) and Dr James Parker (Melbourne Law School), this project pursues an expanded definition of eavesdropping; one that includes contemporary mechanisms for listening-in but also activist practices of listening back, that are concerned with malicious listenings but also the responsibilities of the earwitness. Eavesdropping is a unique collaboration between Ian Potter Museum of Art, Liquid Architecture, and the Melbourne Law School, comprising an exhibition, a public program, a series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world. More
Image: Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia Universalis in volume 1 of Rome by Francisci Corbelletti [detail], 1650. Rare Music, Special Collections, 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


Science Gallery Melbourne, to Saturday 3 November 2018

Mathematical precision, quantum physics, utopian worlds, body modification, internet dating and Instagram filters. Why do humans strive for perfection?

Underpinned by the accuracy and precision of maths and physics, a wave of new science and technology allows us to modify, hack and transform our lives into our own personal perfection. We can surgically modify our bodies, build perfect cities, clone our dogs and live in ecological harmony with our environment. With growing cultural pressures to look perfect and live an ideal life, is striving for perfection a positive goal? Or is imperfection what sustains life and creates diversity and difference?

Through the lens of artists, musicians, mathematicians, architects, designers, psychologists and surgeons, Science Gallery Melbourne will explore what it means to pursue perfection in a non-perfect world. Perfection is on display at the Dulux Gallery, Melbourne School of Design.

Monkeemania in Australia

Ground floor, Baillieu Library, to Thursday 31 January 2019

Monkeemania in Australia celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Australian tour by the American band, The Monkees, in 1968. More broadly, it also provides a snapshot of everyday life in Australia at a very eventful time in history. 1968 was a roller coaster of a year, as a series of tumultuous events—including assassinations, heroic victories in sports, a bloody war, the publication of Gore Vidal's Myra Brekinridge, a devastating famine, and the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey—caused people to celebrate one day and despair the next.

Monkeemania in Australia consists of an exhibition and a series of public talks by the exhibition’s curator, Dr Derham Groves, about The Monkees, their Australian tour, their eponymous TV show, their music, and their film Head (1968), a surreal masterpiece. The exhibition runs until 31 January 2019.

Image: Mike Nesmith puppet by Zhuojun Sun

The Universe Looks Down

Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, to Sunday 17 February 2019

Kristin Headlam’s exhibition The Universe Looks Down derives from a University of Melbourne commission of a suite of etchings by Kristin in response to the long narrative poem of the same name by eminent Australian poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe. As part of this major commission, the University Library acquired the sketchbooks, preliminary drawings and watercolours which evidence the conceptual development of the 64 etchings in the completed suite. These exploratory images, as well as the prints give a rare glimpse into the creative process Kristin entered into to undertake this unique collaboration. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of talks by Kristin Headlam, Chris Wallace-Crabbe and Lisa Gorton.

Image: Kristin Headlam, The end of Horn, 2016/2017. Rare Books, Special Collections, University of Melbourne

Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

Grainger Museum, to Sunday 17 February 2019

Presented by Grainger Museum and Arts Centre Melbourne

Melbourne produced two international stars of classical music – Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger – in the decades surrounding Federation. Adopting a name in honour of her home town, Nellie Melba made her professional debut in 1887 and became hailed as the greatest opera singer of her time. Percy Grainger was a child prodigy who forged a career of pianistic brilliance and musical innovation as the new century unfolded. Each conquered the world’s great stages, enjoyed royal approbation and public fascination. The musical talents of Melba and Grainger, who had both family and professional connections, were matched only by the fame they engendered. Stampeding their way into popular consciousness as early media-assisted celebrities, they created rich intellectual and material legacies. Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger showcases these two extraordinary Australians, drawing on objects from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Australian Performing Arts Collection, and the Grainger Museum. This exhibition also offers opportunities to consider fame in the context of today’s technology-focused culture that allows performers to become ‘famous’ in ways that Grainger and Melba could never have conceived.

Image: Cloak worn by Nellie Melba as Elsa in Lohengrin, c.1891. Designed by Jean-Philippe Worth. Gift of Pamela, Lady Vestey, 1977. Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

The art of healing: Australian Indigenous traditional healing practice

Medical History Museum, to Saturday 2 March 2019

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

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

University of Melbourne Collections

Issue 22 of the University of Melbourne Collections magazine will be available soon. Join the Friends of the Baillieu Library and receive two complimentary issues of the magazine annually.

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