Museums and Collections

December 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.


University of Melbourne Herbarium launches Collection Online

With an estimated 150,000 specimens, the University of Melbourne Herbarium (MELU), is the largest university herbarium in Australia, and its online collection is now freely available to the public for the first time.

The Collection Online interface provides access to the University of Melbourne Herbarium digital content, including approximately 23,228 specimens and 9,580 high-resolution images, that make up the 15% of the collection that has been digitised to-date. The specimens in the Herbarium document plant diversity; specimen data can now be searched or browsed, their locations can be mapped, and the flowers and fruit or the collector’s handwriting can be viewed via the high-resolution specimen images. The online collection provides the digital key that enables the public, scientists, and educators globally to virtually explore and discover the biodiversity held within the Herbarium.

Collection Online is constantly being updated, with new specimen records and images added as the result of digitisation initiatives by staff, students, and volunteers working in the Herbarium. This valuable online resource is a collaboration with Science IT, Faculty of Science which provides ongoing technical innovation, software development and server management. Asset management platforms are contributed by Research Platform Services, Infrastructure Services, the University of Melbourne.

Stories of the biodiversity documented in the Herbarium are available via a Pursuit article entitled The Stories of Australia’s Botanical Biodiversity and the Triple R, Uncommon Sense interview with Dr Jo Birch, Herbarium Curator, that were published alongside the launch of the Collection Online.

Image: One of the many volunteers that worked on Collection Online

Winners of the 'Dark Imaginings' micro-story competition announced

The winners of the Dark Imaginings: Gothic Tales of Wonder micro-story competition are: The Fish-Men by Victor Hu (1st), Wisteria by Lily Laycock (2nd) and The Monster which Haunted Belle Tarney (3rd) by Andreas Katsineris-Paine. To read their prize-winning gothic stories of just 300 words (or less), see the University’s student magazine Farrago, which kindly agreed to partner the competition, devised to involve University of Melbourne student writers in this year’s exhibition of the same name which was held in the Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library.

This Special Collections initiative also involved collaboration with academics from the Faculty of Arts, Professor Peter Otto and Dr Elizabeth MacFarlane. Micro-story writing was incorporated into creative writing tutorials this year and expert judging was generously provided. Thank you to everyone involved, especially the many students who entered.

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

University of Melbourne ceremonial mace conserved

With rising temperatures, so too come the collective sighs from university students as they put the final touches on assignments, sit exams and prepare to receive their hard-earned degrees. When this year’s cohort take the stage in December all eyes will undoubtedly be drawn to the University of Melbourne's ceremonial mace, which was recently conserved by Grimwade Centre for Cultural Material Conservation objects conservator, Evan Tindal.

Designed and manufactured by famed gold and silversmith Stuart Devlin in 1965, this object symbolises rebirth and renewal as it fronts each academic procession. However timeless though it may be in form, Devlin’s principal material of choice – silver – is particularly susceptible to environmental pollutants that leave behind the tell-tale signs of silver sulphide tarnish. One might be tempted to break out the Silvo or silver dips of days past – a hangover from tackling grandma’s silverware collection – but these products are often too abrasive and contain harmful chemicals like ammonia. Rather, Evan employed a wet surface clean with acetone to remove surface dirt and oils. Areas exhibiting tarnish and etched-in fingerprints were gently buffed out with a paste of calcium carbonate and ethanol.

Equally important to treatment is the implementation of a cleaning protocol following use and a storage environment to prevent any reoccurrence of the corrosion described above. Recommendations were made to this end, and the mace is now ready to front graduation ceremonies for years to come.

Image: Detail of the mace being treated by Evan Tindal

National awards for two University of Melbourne archivists

Congratulations to Lachlan Glanville and Fiona Ross of the University of Melbourne Archives, whose articles in The Conversation have been recognised by the presenting of Mander Jones Awards by the Australian Society of Archivists. These awards recognise writing about archives for a general audience or an audience that is rarely exposed to archival thinking. Both articles highlight the many human interactions and range of emotions which are reflected in records. They also give an insight into what it is like to work with very personal records and suggest many ways in which they might be valued by researchers.

Focusing on correspondence, Lachlan Glanville’s article Reading Germaine Greer’s Mail, explores a collection of 50 years of letters, emails, faxes, telegrams and newsletters from academics, schoolchildren, radicals and housewives from all over the world to Germaine Greer. Fiona Ross’ article about Red Cross POW enquiry cards gives insight into the important communication work carried out by the Red Cross during the second world war.

Image: Lachlan Glanville and Fiona Ross

From the Grainger Museum collection

A public research query at the Grainger Museum recently turned up a fascinating experiment in keeping time for Grainger Curator Heather Gaunt when she discovered a Pinfold’s patent silent gravity metronome.

This remarkable timekeeper was brought to light in the process of sourcing material for a public research query from The Mona McBurney Collection, in the Grainger Museum Archive. Accessioned as part of a donation made in 1985 by the family of musician Mona McBurney (1862-1932), the metronome had not been photographed or fully documented by the Museum to date. Once the three separate metal parts – arm and legs – were fitted together correctly, in a delicate balance, the object revealed its true nature… a silent oscillating timekeeper.

Further research revealed some interesting facts. Patented in the USA on 31 March 1891, the ‘Improved Metronome’ was designed in England by Arthur Gough Pinfold. More

Image: Pinfold’s patent silent gravity metronome, c.1900. Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne 

The Three Graces: From painting to print

The Three Graces, housed in the Baillieu Library Print Collection, is a 1776 print by Thomas Watson (1750-1781) after a 1773 painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792). The large print was created using the mezzotint method. Mezzotint involves scraping and polishing the surface of a copper or steel plate engraving to create different tones with both soft shades and rich blacks. This technique was used often in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries for the reproduction of paintings, particularly portraits.

The original painting was titled Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen and it was commissioned by the politician Luke Gardiner, who was engaged to Elizabeth Montgomery, one of the three women depicted. Currently, the original painting is part of the Tate collection. More

Image: Thomas Waston after Joshua Reynolds, The Three Graces Decorating a Terminal Figure of Hymen [detail], 1776. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne


Curators' perspective - Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Saturday 1 December, 1.00pm to 2.00pm

For just over a decade beginning in the 1950s, Clement Meadmore produced a small range of innovative furniture and lighting designs, popular with architects, artists and designers. Modern homes designed by architects such as Robin Boyd and Peter McIntyre were not complete without Meadmore furniture or lighting, often placed alongside pieces by other renowned designers Frances Burke and Grant Featherston.

See iconic design pieces newly attributed to Meadmore, alongside a range of archival material on display for the first time.
Join guest curators Dean Keep and Jeromie Maver for a lively overview of this period in Meadmore’s life, including anecdotes from interviews with his colleagues, family and avid collectors.

Free event, Further information and bookings.

Image: Clement Meadmore, c.1952. Private collection, Melboure

Miegunyah Student Project Award 2018 presentations

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Tuesday 4 December and Wednesday 5 December 2018, 1.00- 2.00pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art annually offers six competitive Awards of $1500 each to University of Melbourne students across all disciplines, for small projects focused on The Russell and Mab Grimwade ‘Miegunyah’ Collection. The Miegunyah Student Project Award scheme aims to give students experience in working in an interdisciplinary context with a significant and extensive material and visual culture collection. In recognition of the changing face of academic engagement these projects also give students the opportunity to think about how to share their research with a range of audiences and to make use of multiple modes of distribution.

Join us to hear this year's research outcomes undertaken by the 2018 Award recipients. Held over two days, the presentations will provide an opportunity to learn about the diverse range of projects worked on by the students.
Free event. Further information.  

Image: Emu egg with carved relief, nd. The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of the Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest 1973

Exhibitions at The University of Melbourne

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 Breckinridge, 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

The Garden of Forking Paths: Mira Gojak and Takehito Koganezawa  

Buxton Contemporary, to Sunday 17 February 2019

The Garden of Forking Paths brings together the distinctive practices of Mira Gojak and Takehito Koganezawa finding points of connection and divergence in the trajectories of these two highly accomplished artists. The project takes its name from modernist Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges’ intricate and magical short story from 1941. Part philosophy, part science fiction and part riddle, Borges’ The Garden of Forking Paths is a richly multidimensional text that conjures co-existent but dynamically shifting realms of time and space.

This exhibition is curated by Shihoko Iida, Chief Curator of the Aichi Triennale 2019 and Melissa Keys, Curator of Buxton Contemporary in collaboration with the artists. More

Image: Mira Gojak, Prop for Instabilities 2, 2013. The Michael Buxton Collection, University of Melbourne Art Collection. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Michael and Janet Buxton

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.

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

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 is now available. Join the Friends of the Baillieu Library and receive two complimentary issues of the magazine annually.

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