August 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.


Museums and Collections Projects Program – Special Collections blogger project

Bachelor of Arts graduate Bianca Arthur-Hull, recently commenced a Museum and Collections Projects Program placement with Special Collections. Mentored by Prints Curator Kerrianne Stone, Bianca’s project has her contributing to the Special Collections blog which showcases the latest news, research, events and highlights from these rich collections.

Having majored in Art History, Bianca’s first blog post focused on John Martin’s Paradise Lost series, and gave her the opportunity to further explore a print that she had been particularly captivated with when she had viewed it in an exhibition in the Baillieu Library's Noel Shaw Gallery in 2018. Serendipitously, the subject of the print was an area of fascination throughout her studies, and she was pleased to have the opportunity to revisit these themes when writing the blog. Of her research for the blogpost, Bianca commented ‘I loved delving into what I saw as the power of the print, and then discussing Romanticism as a movement in all its features and interpretations including that wonderfully dense concept of the Sublime…’. Bianca is enjoying her project and connecting with the University’s wonderful collections in this very immediate and rewarding way.

The projects offered through the MCPP give participants the opportunity to develop their professional skills and gain experience working closely with the University’s museums and collections. Of her reasons for becoming involved, Bianca observed:

‘I was interested in the blogging project specifically as an opportunity to engage with the University collections beyond my Bachelor's degree…it’s a way of bridging the gap between (what can be) the very cloistered world of art, and wider appreciation. There is so much joy and beauty in these collections and having an opportunity to write and give my thoughts on them with my background in art is, for me, such a privilege’.

Bianca is currently enjoying researching the collections for upcoming posts which will provide more insights and unique ways to view the UoM’s collections. Bianca’s latest blog posting is now available.

Image: Bianca Arthur-Hull 

Gordon Bennett at the Potter

In 1993, Gordon Bennett was an artist-in-residence at the University of Melbourne. At the time, he had only been out of art school for four years but was already making waves. Always highly productive, Bennett was also very experimental during this early part of his career.

In the latest Up from the Vaults video from the Potter Museum of Art, Professor Ian McLean discusses Big Romantic Painting: Apotheosis of Captain Cook, a large major work completed by Bennett during the 1993 residency. Also discussed are Bennett’s two-part exhibition of installation art at the Potter titled Mirrorama.

Professor Ian McLean is the Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne.

Image: Gordon Bennett, Big Romantic Painting: Apotheosis of Captain Cook [detail], 1993. University of Melbourne Art Collection. Purchased from the artist 1993, following the artist's term as artist-in-residence at the University of Melbourne © The Estate of Gordon Bennett 

Getting creative during lockdown

By Peter Mitchelson, Grimwade Conservation Services, University of Melbourne

A few years ago, I repaired a large volume of prints that was almost 80 cm long. It was heavy, fragile and unwieldy to handle on my own and I needed a way of supporting the book to perform the work without risk of damage. Together with my colleague Jordi Casasayas, who restores picture frames and is a skilled woodworker, we designed and built an adjustable wooden cradle that allowed me to position the volume at a convenient angle to complete the repairs safely. Since then, the cradle has been incredibly handy when working on other books.

In the months before the COVID-19 lockdown, I visited the Rare Books Collection in the Baillieu Library and realised it would be helpful if they owned a few different sized book cradles and offered to make some. The extra time at home during the lockdown period provided the perfect opportunity to produce some cradles and refine the design.

Jordi built a scaled prototype out of card with modifications to the original design, making it simpler, stronger and more versatile. A few days before the lockdown we purchased everything from the hardware store and split the tasks between us. Jordi cut the pieces at home and dropped them at my door a week later for me to complete the sanding, varnishing and construction.

My small flat was transformed into a workshop with lots of additional sawing and drilling occurring on my balcony. I spent hours sanding each piece by hand in the car park to avoid disturbing my neighbours, and gradually the cradles began to emerge. Each cradle was given two coats of water-based varnish and a final sand for a nice smooth finish.

The leather on many old volumes becomes degraded – typically due to acids breaking down the fibres. Termed ‘red rot’, this leather is crumbly and often leaves residues on whatever surface it comes in contact with. Our cradles, therefore, required a soft, washable surface and our textile conservator Victoria Thomas kindly offered to sew cushions and make washable covers for each cradle. This was the most enjoyable aspect of the project, collaborating with other team members, staying connected with colleagues during this period and then sharing in the rewarding feeling of producing something useful for the University’s collections.

Peter Mitchelson completed an Honours in Art History and a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation from The University of Melbourne. Since graduating in 2011 he has worked at Artlab in Adelaide, the National Library in Canberra and has been with Grimwade Conservation Services at The University of Melbourne for the last seven years. He first specialised in Paper Conservation and is undertaking continual training as a Book Conservator.

Image: Wooden book cradle manufactured by Peter Mitchelson and Jordi Casasayas 

Wind-ups during lockdown

As pandemic lockdowns drag on, cabin fever may also set in as families spend extended time together in confined spaces. A 17th century engraving by Jacques de Gheyn II (c.1565-1629) from the Baillieu Library Print Collection humorously captures the kind of domestic tensions that may be experienced right now in households across the globe. The print leverages off the comic trope in art of the hen-pecked husband, and in case you did not get the joke, a scolding hen has been included in the center of the scene.

The farce depicts a husband at left reduced to a fool by wearing feminine clothes and performing a traditionally female task of working with a textile winder. His harridan wife has come blustering through the door to berate him. The household keys are displayed prominently as part of her costume, and perhaps also as a symbol of her dominance.

In the present-day context, we are likely to see individuals happily making similar visual gags in social media by recreating works of art from the 17th century with found objects around the home. The foolish husband in the engraving would also be commended for performing a mindful activity to diffuse stress.

Even though it has been used as a tool for comedy in printmaking, the winder is also a therapeutic instrument. If you are feeling tense during the next period of lockdown, get out your fishing line, thread or yarn and think funny thoughts as you wind away the hours.

Image: Jacques de Gheyn II, A woman quarrelling with her husband, n.d. (17th century). Baillieu Library Print Collection, the University of Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959

Potter Museum of Art: Redevelopment update & future plans 

From Kelly Gellatly, Director, Ian Potter Museum of Art

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the Australian university sector, and the University of Melbourne is no different. In recent months, the challenges presented by COVID-19 on the University’s financial position has led to a rigorous program of cost saving measures being implemented across the institution, including the deferral of capital projects to the value of $350M.

The Potter’s current redevelopment by Wood Marsh Architecture – The Ian Potter Museum of Art Education and Programs Centre, has been included in these deferrals, and is now expected to recommence in 2021. While this delay is disappointing, it is nevertheless understandable in the current environment, and the Potter’s redevelopment, and the benefits it will bring to teaching and engagement, remains a priority for the University.

For the remainder of 2020, we will continue to roll out our successful Inside Out program. Work also continues of course on our suite of opening programs, including the landmark exhibition 65,000 Years: A Short History of Australian Art, curated by Professor Marcia Langton AO.

We are currently scoping our activities for 2021 to ensure the Potter continues to provide relevant, engaging and stimulating content for our audiences. This new platform – SPECULATIVE FUTURES – will be announced later in the year.

Image: The proposed new entrance to the Potter Museum of Art designed by Wood Marsh Architecture

Castle drawings by Charles Henry Ashdown

By Adelaide Greig, Baillieu Library Print Collection intern

Castles, those formidable stone monoliths that dotted the countryside serving as homes and fortresses, form one of the most enduring images of the Middle Ages in Western Europe. While many now lie in varying states of ruin, few symbols of the medieval period capture the imagination of the modern person to such an extent. One envisions how they must have looked in the midst of their glory days, some eight hundred years ago.

Charles Henry Ashdown was an English illustrator who endeavoured to bring his visions of British castles, as they would have stood in the Middle Ages, to life. The writer of numerous books on medieval architecture and weaponry, his most notable works are British and Foreign Arms & Armour, published in 1909, and British Castles, published in 1911. Little is recorded about Ashdown’s life, although details given in the front pages of British and Foreign Arms, identify him as based in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, and working as the Curator of Numismatics at Herts County Museum.

His book on British castles features 22-full colour illustrations along with detailed commentary on the history and function of castles. However, interestingly, none of these illustrations match up to a series of twelve pencil and watercolour drawings, completed by Ashdown from 1914-1921, that are held within the Baillieu Library Print Collection. Furthermore, these drawings seem to not be listed in the catalogues of any other major library, unlike Ashdown’s fairly ubiquitous book publications. Perhaps these are unpublished works of Ashdown’s, part of a more personal project, which somehow ended up in the hands of an individual who thought best to deposit them safely in the University collection on the other side of the world.

While far away from Ashdown’s beloved St. Albans, and the medieval architecture which formed the inspiration for his art, his ability to envision and illustrate castles in their now lost form is one that can be appreciated from anywhere and anytime. More

Image: Charles Henry Ashdown, Harlech Castle in 1300 [detail], 1921. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne

Event Horizon Symposium

Online: Monday 17 & Tuesday 18 August 2020, live plenary sessions Friday 21 August 2020 via Zoom

Marking the launch of the forthcoming issue of Art + Australia 56.2, the Event Horizon Symposium brings together artists, physicists and cultural theorists to discuss what is an ‘event horizon’, across topics ranging from black holes, dark matter, tipping points and new horizons. Presented in partnership with the Centre of Visual Art (CoVA) and Science Gallery Melbourne, this virtual symposium signposts a dynamic collaboration between the arts and sciences at the University of Melbourne, providing a forum through which audiences can engage with front-line research across these disciplines.

It is through such assemblies as these that we can grasp the shared creativity and experimentation being carried out across the arts and sciences on topics of mutual interest and consequence to all of society.

The Event Horizon Symposium will take place virtually, with new content released on the website across two days on the 17 & 18 August 2020. Two live plenary sessions will take place on Friday 21 August via Zoom.

Register for the symposium

Image: Detail from computer generated image of the supermassive black hole at the core of galaxy M87. Published by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration

The Hunter Collector: A cultural meander through the University of Melbourne collections

A collaboration between Humanities21 and the Grimwade Centre, Faculty of Arts.

Online: Wednesday 19 August 2020, 6.00pm to 7.30pm

Series Launch: The University of Melbourne Art Collection and the foundations of two academic disciplines. Presented by Associate Professor Alison Inglis and Professor Robyn Sloggett.

The art collection of the University of Melbourne has served as an important foundation for two significant, and at the time overlapping, academic disciplines at the University; Art History (as the Department of Fine Arts) and Cultural Materials Conservation (within the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation). With the creation of the Herald Chair in Fine Arts by Sir Keith Murdoch in the 1940s, the Department of Fine Arts was created as an Australian ‘training ground for expert staffing of galleries and art museums’.

From 1990 the University’s collection of Australian art supported a series of Australian Research Council grant projects that enabled Cultural Materials Conservation to create an Australian artists' materials and techniques database and build academic resources for teaching, research and for use by the public, culminating in the establishment of an academic centre for conservation. With the basis of the University’s impeccably provenanced Australian art collection, this research now provides a baseline against which works can be tested.

Bookings opening soon

Image: Christine O'Loughlin, Cultural Rubble, 1993. University of Melbourne Art Collection. Commissioned by the University of Melbourne with funds provided by the Ian Potter Foundation 1993
Stay connected

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

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.

Museums and Collections website | Forward to a friend | Privacy policy | Disclaimer
Explore our collections

Copyright © 2020 University of Melbourne,
all rights reserved.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
University of Melbourne · Room 120, Baillieu Library, · Parkville, Vic 3010 · Australia

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp