November 2019
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.


The Engineer’s Revue & David Williamson 

The Engineer’s Revue, organised by the Melbourne University Engineering Students Society, was a mainstay of the University’s student revues from the late 1940s. A folder of programs, scripts and production details has recently come to light, encompassing productions from 1965 to 1973. The find is significant, as engineering student David Williamson had started writing for the Engineering and Melbourne University revues in the early 1960s, and continued to contribute extensive pieces while completing his degree at Monash and then teaching at Swinburne.

There are several skits in Williamson’s hand, written on exam booklets. The revues gave Williamson the confidence to start his illustrious career as a playwright. He reflected, ‘I’d always imagined I’d write novels, but suddenly, hearing audiences respond to what I’d written, I thought this might be more exciting’. (Kristin Williamson, David Williamson: Behind the Scenes, 2009, p. 40). The files are now held in the Melbourne School of Engineering Collection.

Image: The Engineer’s Revue poster 1971, Melbourne School of Engineering Collection, University of Melbourne

PolyMuse: Mapping the rise of modern polymers in the wardrobes of Rose & Ella Grainger

The PolyMuse project is an Australian Research Council funded collaboration between Australian museum professionals and scientists that aims to develop methods for predicting and extending the lifespan of plastic or polymer-based materials in museum collections. 

As part of the project, the Grainger Museum's collection of garments were selectively surveyed to identify materials (both natural and synthetic) present in the wardrobes of two generations of women in Percy's life; his mother Rose and his wife Ella. 

This project is the subject of the Museum's latest pop-up exhibition, PolyMuse: Mapping the rise of modern polymers in the wardrobes of Rose & Ella Grainger, which displays some of the surveyed garments of the two women. Further information on the scientific aspects of the project can be found on the exhibition website. The exhibition runs until Friday 20 December 2019.

Image: Detail of beads on a dress belonging to Rose Grainger, c. 1920. Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

Grimwade Conservation Services joins Faculty of Arts

Grimwade Conservation Services (GCS) (formerly Commercial Conservation Services) transitioned to the Faculty of Arts in August, following the deregistration of University of Melbourne Commercial.

Specialising in all areas of museum standard conservation, GCS is a market-leading conservation practice. Operating for more than twenty years, the GCS has served over four thousand customers, in addition to supporting the University’s teaching, learning and research activities. The GCS' Instagram page highlights some of the recent work carried out by staff.

Over the coming months GCS staff will undertake a series of roadshows across the University to present their capabilities and expertise, whilst hosting visitors and providing a tour of the GCS labs. 

Image: One of GCS' conservators working on an item from the  University Library’s Print Collection

Be part of MENTAL

Science Gallery Melbourne invites proposals from all disciplines to explore the full spectrum of mental health in the first exhibition to be held in its newly constructed gallery.

Everyone with a brain is mental, reacting to the world in response to our own perception, biochemistry and emotional state. Almost half of us will directly experience challenges to our mental health when something is out of balance in our lives. Young people are an especially affected group with 75% of those affected first experiencing mental health stress between the ages of 15-24.

MENTAL is a welcoming place to confront societal bias and stigma. It will immerse audiences in new research, art and ideas that provoke, respond, and adapt throughout the show. Curated with young adults for young adults, it brings together art, science, and technology grounded in research, evidence and enquiry. Part experiment, part exhibition – MENTAL is for everyone. Because really, we are all mental.

Open call: 10 October – 21 November 2019
Exhibition opening late 2020 / early 2021

Further details and application form 


MULCH: The System Garden Performance Picnic

System Garden, Parkville Campus, Saturday 9 November 2019, 2.00pm to 6.00pm

Presented by the Ian Potter Museum of Art

Bring a picnic blanket and refreshments and join us for a splendid afternoon of live art and sonic performance in the University of Melbourne System Garden – an oasis in the heart of the Parkville campus. Performance chemist and curator Lichen Kelp brings together an eclectic range of artists to present a series of site-specific works in conversation with the plants and local ecologies of the Garden. Chemical reactions, improvised movement, experimental electronics, beekeeping, poetry and perfumery all combine in a dynamic program of esoteric and scientific investigation.

A System Garden tour by Tim Uebergang and a talk by beekeeper Jean-Pierre Scheerlink will also be held.

Free event. Further information and bookings.

Image: System Garden Concert 2017, presented as part of The Score. Photograph Keelan O'Hehir

Inside Out: Vipoo Srivilasa workshop

Montalto, Red Hill, Sunday 10 November 2019, 10.00am to 1.00pm

Workshop presented by the Ian Potter Museum of Art

Inside Out is a year-long program that invites you to shift your experience of the Ian Potter Museum of Art by exploring the artistic opportunities that exist both inside and outside of its galleries.

Soon, the Potter Museum will be taking Inside Out to the Mornington Peninsula – because what better way to encourage a true connection with creativity than through art, wine and an idyllic setting. The intention? To give you the opportunity to engage with art and ideas outside of the usual context of the gallery space.

Led by artist Vipoo Srivilasa, this workshop uses the selfie as a starting point to create a self-portrait in clay. The workshop begins with participants taking a selfie, capturing both their attitude and personality in one frame. Under Vipoo’s guidance, you will then be asked to remember your selfie and attempt to re-create it in clay.

 Cost $95.00. Bookings and further information

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

Digitising the Archive

Old Quad, Building 150, Parkville Campus, Tuesday 19 November, 6.00pm to 7.00pm

Celebrating the four-week run of unprecedented exhibition Discover the Digital Archive, a panel of film students, academics, and industry professionals will discuss the legacy of the newly launched VCA Film and Television Archive with an emphasis on the creation of this living archive.

Free event. Bookings essential.

Image: Damian Corboy [director], still from The Window Seat, 1994. VCA Film and Television Archive, University of Melbourne

Exhibitions at The University of Melbourne

Between appearances: the art of Louise Weaver  

Buxton Contemporary, from Friday 15 November 2019 

Featuring fantastical creatures, iridescent other worlds, uncanny objects and unsettling organic forms, Between appearances: the art of Louise Weaver explores the multidisciplinary practice of one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists.

While Weaver is best known for her whimsical, thought-provoking sculptures of animals, Between appearances features more than 100 works in an array of media including sculptural installations, paintings, drawings, printmaking, collage, textiles, movement and sound. The exhibition spans three decades of the artist’s practice and reveals Weaver’s longstanding interests in fields as diverse as visual culture, art history, natural history, science and design.

Curated by Melissa Keys, Between appearances unfolds across all four of the galleries at Buxton Contemporary. It traces her gradual shift from early figurative forms and compositions through to abstract paintings, objects and sound environments, comprising an overview of Weaver’s richly imaginative, critical and compelling work from the early nineties through to the present. More

Image: Louise Weaver, From the House of Fabius Rufus 2008 [detail]. Collection of Peter Bate and Wendy Foard, Melbourne

Discover the Digital Archive

Old Quad, to Friday 22 November 2019

Old Quad presents Discover the Digital Archive, an exclusive installation which offers unprecedented access to the VCA Film and Television Digital Archive. This Archive is the first of its kind within the University of Melbourne’s Cultural Collections, making it an evolving and vital time-capsule, which up until now has remained closed to the public.

Developed thanks to The Digital Archive Project, the installation brings together work from Film and Television students dating back to 1966, including around 500 celluloid films and more than 1,200 magnetic. The Archive in its entirety is only available at Old Quad during this bespoke exhibition, making this experience a once-off opportunity for engagement and research. Audiences may browse the collection at their leisure or peruse a special 'Old Quad' playlist curated by passionate University of Melbourne film students and featuring range of significant works from different eras and genres.

Horizon lines: The ambitions of a print collection   

Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, to Sunday 8 December 2019

Horizon lines: The ambitions of a print collection focuses on Northern and Italian Renaissance printmakers, such as Albrecht Dürer, and Dutch Republic artists, including Rembrandt, as well as the British etching revival. The selected woodcuts, engravings and etchings present a variety of perspectives on the ambitions of the artists who created them, as well as their collectors and scholars. The exhibition is staged as one of several activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Harold Wright and Sarah and William Holmes scholarships. The awards enable print scholars from Australia and New Zealand to examine prints at the British Museum. Taking its cue from the approach of Harold Wright and inspiration behind the scholarships, this exhibition encourages considered looking for the acquisition of knowledge and sheer enjoyment of prints.

Image: Baccio Bandinelli, Apollo and Daphne, 1515. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959  

Be Brutal: Nicholas Harding Portraits

Burke Gallery, Trinity College, to Thursday 19 December 2019

In early 2017, 89-year-old doyen of Australian art John Olsen sat as a portrait subject for Nicholas Harding. The work was a finalist in the Archibald Prize that year. As Harding prepared to capture his visage, Olsen offered the younger artist some sage advice – ‘Be brutal!’

As Harding’s portrait of Olsen was being shown in the Archibald at the Art Gallery of NSW, a highly successful exhibition of Harding’s portrait works was on show at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Included among them was his most recent commission, a portrait of William Cowan AM, the latest acquisition to enter Trinity College’s own portrait collection.
Be Brutal: Nicholas Harding Portraits presents this Harding work from our own collection alongside a number of rarely seen works from the artist’s personal collection. More

Image: Nicolas Harding, William Cowan AM, 2017. Trinity College Portrait Collection

How it plays: Innovations in percussion

Grainger Museum, to Friday 20 December 2019

How it plays: Innovations in percussion is a collaborative exhibition and performance project including Grainger Museum, Federation Handbells (Museums Victoria/Creative Victoria), Speak Percussion, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music and the Melbourne School of Design.

The exhibition explores radical innovations in percussion, focussed on Melbourne, that have changed the way we can all hear and play music, ranging from Percy Grainger’s ‘tuneful percussion’ in the early twentieth century, to the present, with the Federation Handbells and the trailblazing organisation, Speak Percussion.

Image: J.C. Deagan (designer/maker), Percy Aldridge Grainger (designer/maker), Staff Bells, 1916. Grainger Museum Collection, University of Melbourne. Photograph Peter Casamento

The Roots of Burnley: Exploring a long history of significance to the Victorian community

Level 1, Main Administration Building, University of Melbourne Burnley Campus, to 28 June 2020

The exhibition The Roots of Burnley: Exploring a long history of significance to the Victorian community offers an insight into the history of Burnley Gardens and the Burnley campus in the Victorian landscape. Eight panels with historical photographs and documents illustrate the strong connection people had – and still have – with Burnley.   

The exhibition is a walk through time from the beginnings of the campus as experimental gardens to today’s modern University campus. Opening in 1861, the Burnley site has continually adapted to cater to the needs of the community. With content primarily sourced from the archives collection, the exhibition not only reflects on this rich history, but provides an outlook on the future of the Burnley campus. Curated by Meg Hibbert and Jane Wilson.

Image: Perle des jardins glass slide, Burnley Campus Archives, University of Melbourne


Arts West, to Tuesday 1 October 2020

One of the most important anthropological collections in the world, the Donald Thomson Collection includes almost 7500 artefacts and 2000 biological specimens collected mainly on Cape York, Arnhem Land and from the Great Sandy Desert and the Gibson Desert of Western Australia, during the University of Melbourne anthropologist's 50-year career. Donald Thomson's ethnohistory collection is included in the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register.

Professor Thomson's wife Dorita Thomson made a generous gift of the collection of objects into the care of the University of Melbourne. This, along with the photographs, film and field notes owned by the Thomson family, have been on long-term loan to Museums Victoria from the University and the Thomson family since 1973. The Thomson family's own collection is featured in the Awaken exhibition, including handwritten notes, postcards sent to his family and Professor Thomson's typewriter.

Image: Installation view of Awaken, Arts West, 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

Burke Gallery, Trinity College

Buxton Contemporary

Old Quad

Image: Medical History Museum

University of Melbourne Collections

Issue 24 of the University of Melbourne Collections magazine is now available. Join the Friends of the Baillieu Library and receive two complimentary issues of the magazine annually.

In this issue read about the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Collection; the latest Medical History Museum exhibition on the Royal Women's Hospital; an indigenous carved emu egg from the University Art Collection; the Ernest Fooks Collection at the Architecture, Building and Planning Library and much more.


News from the Grainger Museum

Subscribe to the Grainger Museums e-News to receive monthly updates on exhibitions, events and news about the collections and activities.  

Read the October issue to find out about the Grainger's current exhibitions, PolyMuse: Mapping the rise of modern polymers in the wardrobes of Rose & Ella Grainger  and How it Plays: Innovations in Percussion

Image: Installation view of How it Plays: Innovations in Percussion
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