Museums and Collections

February 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.


International Museums and Collections Award - Birmingham blog

Sakina Nomanbhoy is currently completing her Honours in Art History at the University of Melbourne, and as the 2018 recipient of the IMaC Award has recently commenced her month-long placement at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Over the next month she will be working closely with collections staff on projects across their museums and cultural collections. While on campus Sakina is also looking forward to spending some time in the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library pursuing further research for her thesis, which investigates the links between Islamic and European art and culture in the first decades after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.  

You can follow Sakina’s cultural adventure in Birmingham via her blog.

The IMaC Award provides a unique international exchange opportunity for students between the University of Melbourne and the University of Birmingham. Recipients of the Award take part in a placement working with the collections and museums of the partner university. The Award enables them to develop professional skills in collections management, enrich their studies and the opportunity to consider collections within an international context.

Image: Sakina Nomanbhoy

Acquisition of Henry Gritten painting of Melbourne from the Botanical Gardens

In the will of Sir Russell Grimwade (1879-1955), he allowed the University of Melbourne to spend bequeathed funds on ‘books, pictures and furniture’. His intention was to further furnish Miegunyah, the Toorak house his wife Mab subsequently left to the University to be used, in part, as a house museum. This use proved impossible and Miegunyah was sold with the income forming the Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund. Over the last year, this Fund has supported the acquisition of thirteen works of art, carefully selected to enhance the Grimwade Collection of art and books relating to early Australia.

In October 2018 an elegant oil painting depicting Melbourne from the Botanic Gardens, in its original gilt frame, was purchased at auction. This is the first work of art by Henry Gritten to enter the University of Melbourne Art Collection. Born in 1818, Gritten was one of the most experienced artists working in the Australian colonies, having trained and exhibited in London before travelling to New York, where he painted landscapes for several years. He arrived in Australia in 1853 and moved between Sydney, Hobart Town, Melbourne and Launceston, where he died. More

Image: Henry Gritten (1818-1873), Melbourne from the Botanic Gardens [detail], 1865. University of Melbourne Art Collection. Purchased 2018, The Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund

Electrical Engineering Education Collection 

A project is underway to develop more detailed documentation on the Electrical Engineering Education Collection. Dr John McCutchan, former head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, has assisted with the identification and significance of over 200 items in the collection. John McCutchan was a student in electrical engineering in the department following World War II and, following five years working in England, returned to be a lecturer in the department in 1958. The collection has been photographed and a new spreadsheet created, ready for transfer to a more substantial database. Further documentation of the collection with former staff is underway.

A collection of some 20 items from the Photonics Laboratory has also been added to the collection, and awaits further documentation. The Photonics Laboratory, along with its associated Cooperative Research Centres, has been a leader in research and development of optical fibres for telecommunications in Australia, since the creation of the group by Professor Rod Tucker in 1990.

Image: Detail of a Hewlett Packard Standard Signal Generator, acquired during the fitting out of the electronics labs in the early 1950s. Electrical Engineering Education Collection, University of Melbourne

Upcoming Royal Women’s Hospital exhibition announced 

The Women’s: carers, advocates and reformers exhibition, to be held 18 April to 2 November 2019 at the Medical History Museum, and accompanying catalogue will highlight items from the Women’s Hospital Historic and Archive collection, Medical History Museum collection and Public Records Office. The exhibition  explore the role of key individuals, public education and health campaigns, public policy and research from the first hospital site to its current location. It will also acknowledge the stories and traditions of the traditional owners.

The Royal Women’s Hospital has played a critical role in the life of Melbourne since its beginnings. As historian Janet MacCallum 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

The Great Melbourne Telescope

A display on the Great Melbourne Telescope has been installed on Level 1 of Arts West. The Great Melbourne Telescope was conceived by Professor William Parkinson Wilson, the first professor of mathematics at the University of Melbourne. Designed by a committee of the Royal Society of London, the huge telescope was commissioned at Melbourne Observatory in 1869, to observe the nebulae of the southern hemisphere. The display, commemorating the 150th anniversary, includes two telescopes from the Surveying and Geomatic Engineering Collection, which had formerly been used at the Williamstown Observatory and subsequently passed to Professor Wilson, and publications on the Great Melbourne Telescope from the Baillieu Library's Special Collections.

Image: Erecting the Great Melbourne Telescope at Melbourne Observatory [detail], 1869. Museums Victoria

Treating Rose Grainger’s gown 

This photograph shows X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF) being undertaken on an item from the Grainger Museum collection during conservation treatment. This process enables testing for possible traces of arsenic and mercury, as well as other metals that may have been used in their making. The item in treatment, a black satin and ermine evening gown once belonging to Rose Grainger, is now on display as part of the Grainger Museum’s current exhibition, Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger. University of Melbourne student conservator Rachel Jones undertook treatment work on this fascinating object as part of a major treatment project in collaboration with the Grainger Museum. You can read about Rachel's project on the Grimwade Centre blog.

Image: XRF testing of taxidermy heads on the evening gown collar from the Grainger Museum collection


Cocktail Hour at the Potter

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Thursday 14 February 2019, 6.00pm to 7.30pm

Surprise your loved one this Valentine’s Day with a pre-dinner drink at the Potter’s Cocktail Hour. Enjoy our latest exhibition with a Four Pillars Gin tasting or a gin cocktail, transporting you back to the lifestyle of the fifties.

In the 1950s mid-century tastemakers sought to shape post-war Melbourne into a thriving and cosmopolitan city. For just over a decade, Clement Meadmore produced a small range of innovative furniture and lighting designs, popular with architects, artists and designers of the period.

The iconic designs in this exhibition - including chairs, tables, light fixtures and graphics - are enlivened by archival images and documents, alongside interviews with the artist’s family and colleagues connected to the Melbourne art, jazz and design scenes of the period. Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design showcases Meadmore’s rich design practice and shines a light on the important cultural shifts that shaped mid-century Melbourne.

$20.00, Further information and bookings.

Image: Installation view of Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design, 2018. Photographer Christian Capurro

Originals and knockoffs

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Thursday 21 February 2019, 6.00pm to 7.00pm

What is it like to be a designer in Australia today when design theft is so prevalent? In Australia replicas of originals remain legal despite fakes being criminalised in Europe and Britain. In the 1950s Clement Meadmore had his own stoush with another manufacturer and the patent office. At the peak of his success, Meadmore’s corded chair would be produced by no less than six copyists.

Join Anne-Maree Sargeant, Director Authentic Design Alliance for a conversation with guest curators Dean Keep and Jeromie Maver, and award winning industrial designer Adam Goodrum on the perils of protecting original designs – a concern for designers even more so today.

Extended opening hours from 5pm for pre-program Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design exhibition viewing.
Free event. Further information.  

Image: Clement Meadmore, Calyx pendant lamp, 1954. Harris/Atkins Collection

Exhibitions at The 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

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

Monkeemania in Australia

Ground floor, Baillieu Library, to Sunday 3 March 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.

Image: Mike Nesmith puppet by Zhuojun Sun

The Universe Looks Down

Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, to Sunday 31 March 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 31 March 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.


Arts West, to Sunday 30 June 2019

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

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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