Museums and Collections

June 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.


New Melbourne School of Engineering displays

Two new displays have been installed in the Melbourne School of Engineering (MSE), showcasing the School’s cultural collections. A display in the MSE offices in the South Wing of the Old Engineering Building (Building 173) presents objects and stories from the late 19th century to the present, highlighting engineering teaching over that period. From an initial 15 students in 1861, the school taught over 13,000 students in 2018.

The display in the Medtech Linkway, which runs through the Engineering Workshop (Building 169), focuses on innovations in biomedical engineering undertaken at the University. Items on show include a low-cost pressure-cast system to make sockets for prosthetic legs, now used in Vietnam and Cambodia, and developed with the International Committee of the Red Cross; a 3D-printed prosthetic joint replacement for the temporomandibular joint in the jaw, individualised to each patient; and a ‘Rainbow Box’ low-cost multi-sensory toy designed by students in Electrical and Electronic Engineering for children with autism, developed in collaboration with AMAZE (formally Autism Victoria).

A video explaining the purpose and operation of the adjacent CAREN laboratory, a Virtual Reality biomechanical facility which supports cross-disciplinary research in human movement and rehabilitation, is also on show in the Medtech Linkway.

Image: The CAREN Lab, Melbourne School of Engineering

Finding Karen Holten in the Grainger Museum

A recent project to translate the Danish-language letters from Karen Holten to Percy Grainger by intern Regitze Phil, has prompted the search for other signs of Karen within the collections held by the Grainger Museum. Karen was a Danish-born pianist who was Grainger’s lover for eight years during the time he lived in London. They were to remain friends until Karen's death in 1953. 

One of the highlights found during the search was a Danish national costume worn by Karen in the first decade of the 20th century. The costume consists of a skirt, bodice and apron, made from printed cotton, and is well worn and much loved. The extensive hand-stitched repairs on the waistcoat are testament to a practice of ‘Make Do & Mend’, common in Karen’s era.

Thanks to Percy's archival zeal, we are fortunate to often have multiple forms of documentary evidence for the objects in the Museum's collection. Thus, as well as having Karen's entire costume, the Museum also holds photographs that depict Karen actually wearing these clothes on multiple occasions. An image of Percy and Karen in Denmark in the summer of 1909, whereby Karen is wearing the skirt, bodice and possibly the apron of the outfit shown here, can be found on the Museum's website.

An article by Regitze Phil on Karen Holten will be published later in the December 2019 issue of University of Melbourne Collections. You can read about Regitze's internship at the Grainger Museum in the March issue of Grainger Museum e-News.

Image: Traditional Danish outfit belonging to Karen Holten, Grainger Museum Collection, University of Melbourne

Medical History Museum exhibition touring to London and Berlin

The Medical History Museum is pleased to announce that a selection of twenty works from the Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous Bush Medicine exhibition is touring internationally to Bush House, King’s College, London (15 May to 28 June 2019) and The Berlin Museum of Medical History of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (24 October 2019 to 2 February 2020).

The Art of Healing explores the enduring presence and evolution of Indigenous medicine, and presents, through contemporary art, examples of specific treatments and broader approaches to healthy living from across Australia. This exhibition affirms that traditional healing is thriving and is an intrinsic part of the lives of many Indigenous communities.

The illustrated work by Judith Inkamala from Hermannsburg Potters was commissioned for this exhibition. Here, Inkamala depicts many examples of bush medicine; she says 'on this pot you can see the old brother walking, the eldest one, the sister in law going to visit the Ngangkara One (Bush Medicine Doctor). They are the eldest and are there to prepare the bush medicine and teach the young ones. The old lady and the old brother will sing, sing, sing and spit into the Bush medicine as they mix it. Singing medicine into the mixture, over the big pot then sing that medicine into the jars. That's why everyone will get better and everyone will become strong'.

Image: Judith Pugkarta Inkamala, Bush Medicine, 2017. Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne

Life in a floating world: Japanese Ukiyo-e in the University of Melbourne’s Print Collection

Life in a floating world: Japanese Ukiyo-e in the University of Melbourne’s Print Collection is the name of a new display in University House at the Woodward Centre. Conceived and arranged by Museums and Collections student intern, Mona Mi, this exhibition of seven Japanese woodcuts from the Edo period comprises prints produced by several Japanese Ukiyo-e artists from the early 18th century to the mid 19th century from the University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library Print Collection.

Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e) are renowned for their distinctive lively images and for their influence on European Impressionist artists. Typically they illustrate leisure and entertainment, stories derived from folklore and history, figures, drama theatre and landscapes, and are associated with the Edo period (1615-1868). The subjects include kabuki actors, story characters and landscapes. The selected works are indicative of the diversity of the cultural collections at the University of Melbourne and provide an opportunity to view these iconic representations of Japanese culture at close hand.

The seven prints displayed include woodblock prints from the Torii School, which is well-known for its depiction of kabuki, as well as works by artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige II, the pupil of Utagawa Hiroshige, who inherited his master’s skill in depictions of the landscape, Utagawa Kunisada, who was known for his portrayal of actors and beauties, and Kitagawa Utamaro, who specialised in presenting the personalities of women through art.

Image: Utagawa Kunisada I, Tattooed villain seeking a victim, 1859. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne


In conversation: Stephen Bram, John Nixon and Rose Nolan

Buxton Contemporary, Saturday 1 June 2019, 11.20am

Stephen Bram, John Nixon and Rose Nolan are each known for their continued engagement with non-objective art. These three artists have a long association that was cemented at Store 5, a small yet influential artist-run space operating in Melbourne from 1989 to 1993. More recently, the artists shared a studio for a period of time. Join them for a conversation with guest curator Linda Short, about the work they have featured in the Buxton Contemporary's current exhibition, A New Order, and hear their insightful reflections on each other's practices. 

Further information and bookings

Image: The digital screen at the entrance of Buxton Contemporary, featuring Kate Mitchell's digital video In Time, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery. Photograph James Geer

Archie Barry: National Anthem Performance Program

Buxton Contemporary, Saturday 8 June and Saturday 22 June 2019, 2.00pm

Breath mark and muscle song: rest and only say what’s necessary. The second and third in a series of scheduled performances, Archie Barry turns a stethoscope into an instrument for amplifying their heartbeat as percussive accompaniment to their voice. The resulting song gently yields an appreciation of the way an individual body processes asynchronous rhythms of breath and blood, love and language.

Further information.

Image: Breath mark and muscle song: rest and only say what’s necessary. Photograph Alex Cuffe


Exhibitions at The University of Melbourne

A New Order   

Buxton Contemporary, to Sunday 7 July 2019

There are innumerable ways to join the dots and build connections between the works in A New Order, all of which have been selected from the Michael Buxton Collection. Within the exhibition and the work of the 12 artists represented, we encounter many interconnecting styles and themes: a will to order or to react against it, a tendency for systematic and serial methods, a push and pull within processes that favour chance as much as rules. Patterns become structures that can be seen as more than compositions, as intrinsic to the content of a work or even as its central subject. More

Image: Diena Georgetti, Split panelled shadow chart, 2011. The Michael Buxton Collection, University of Melbourne Art Collection. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Michael and Janet Buxton

National Anthem

Buxton Contemporary, to Sunday 7 July 2019  

Presenting a cacophonous array of artistic voices and perspectives, National Anthem brings together 24 artists, from a range of generations, who critically address Australian national identity. Built around key works in the Michael Buxton Collection, together with works sourced from beyond the collection, this project reflects on the ways that the desire for a singular national identity often excludes Indigenous histories and denies the multiplicity of voices, cultures and experiences that enrich, contest and enhance Australian life.

Channelling humour and satire and engaging in tactics such as play, intervention and confrontation, the artists in National Anthem seek self-determination and collectively hold a mirror up to contemporary Australia, prompting new representations of who we are or who we might aspire to become. More

Image: Juan Davila, Un-Australian, 2014. The Michael Buxton Collection, University of Melbourne Art Collection. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Michael and Janet Buxton

Ancestral Memory

Old Quad, to Friday 30 August 2019

The newly refurbished Old Quad is thrilled to inaugurate its treasury gallery with the exhibition, Ancestral Memory, from Maree Clarke (Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba Yorta Yorta/Boon Wurrung). A renowned cultural ‘revivifyer’, Clarke has been active in reclaiming the visual/material culture of her Ancestors and re-thinking this in line with her lived experiences as a contemporary southeast Australian Aboriginal artist.

Ancestral Memory tells the story of water on the lands of the Kulin Nation. Diving into the history of Old Quad’s location, the Kulin Nation cultural advisor Jefa Greenaway says, ‘[w]hat transpired from this research was that the story of water has always been and continues to be very important to this place. It is a story that traverses the campus.’

A central feature of the exhibition, Clarke’s dramatic glass eel trap shares both ancient and contemporary connections. Displayed alongside two woven eel traps, the distinctive patterns and methods of weaving connect these items to place; to a series of waterways running thick with eels and ancestral memory. Greenaway assures us that ‘[t]he eels continue to swim through the storm water pipes of the University. They rear their heads up in some of the ponds and storm water grates that exist on the campus.’

A powerful demonstration of resilience, Clarke’s Ancestral Memory launches the Old Quad into the next chapter while keeping a firm grasp on the past.

Image: Installation view of Ancestral Memory. Artist Maree Clarke. Photograph © Christian Capurro

The Women’s: Carers, advocates and reformers

Medical History Museum, to Saturday 2 November 2019

The Women’s: Carers, advocates and reformers exhibition explores the work of The Royal Women’s Hospital through the contributions of many remarkable individuals; public education and health campaigns; the training of nurses, midwives, doctors and other health professionals; and public policy and research. It follows the institution from its modest East Melbourne origins to its location today in the Parkville medical precinct, while also presenting the stories and knowledge of the traditional owners. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue highlight items from the Women’s Historic and Archive collection, Medical History Museum collection and the Victorian Public Records Office.

The Women’s has played a critical role in the life Melbourne since its beginnings. As historian Janet McCalman explains: 'The Royal Women’s Hospital opened in August 1856 as the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital and Infirmary for the Diseases Peculiar to Women and Children in a terrace house in Albert Street, East Melbourne. Melbourne was in the midst of a gold-rush that would bring half a million people through the colony in the decade. Women were abandoned, pregnant and destitute, while their husbands and erstwhile lovers tried their luck on the goldfields. The need for a charity lying-in hospital for women without homes was urgent.'

Image: Dr Kate Campbell (1899-1986) examining a premature baby in an isolette, 1974. Gift of Winifred Crick, Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne

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


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 photographic, 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: Visitors at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. Photography by Jody Hutchinson

University of Melbourne Collections

Issue 23 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 remnants of Piltdown Man in the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology; the story behind a replica of an ancient bronze statue of a Greek god; strange creatures found in the Baillieu Library Print Collection; the Kipp generator that transformed chemistry teaching in the 1950s 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 May issue to find out about the Grainger's new exhibition, How it Plays: Innovations in Percussion, which is now open. 

Image: Percy Aldridge Grainger, In a Nutshell Suite, No.2 ‘Gay but wistful’ [detail]. Grainger Museum Collection, University of Melbourne
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