Museums and Collections

April 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.


Inside/Out: Venturing beyond the museum

In 2019 the Ian Potter Museum of Art embarks on a year of significant transformation. Key to this change will be an ambitious redevelopment by internationally renowned firm Wood Marsh Architecture, with the generous support of the Ian Potter Foundation. This major capital works project will see an expansion of the Museum’s footprint through the creation of teaching studios for object-based learning from the University Art Collection, a public programs space, a collections gallery, and a teaching gallery (for curriculum-based collection displays). Due for launch in mid-2020, the Potter will also have a new entrance on the University’s campus, a café with outdoor area, and an elegant foyer designed to host functions and opening events.
In the meantime, the Museum faces an interesting challenge: during the construction process it cannot display art in its indoor spaces, so as the galleries are temporarily closed the Museum will be embracing the opportunity to do things differently. In 2019 the Potter will present a year-long program of talks, forums, performances and activations in spaces around campus, within the museum building and beyond it, which promise to shift the experience of visiting and interacting with the Museum into bold new territory.

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

Technical examination of Henry Gritten’s 'Melbourne from the Botanical Gardens'

The recent acquisition of Melbourne from the Botanical Gardens (1865) by British artist Henry Gritten for the University of Melbourne Art Collection has provided an important opportunity for collaborative research between conservators at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation and the Ian Potter Museum of Art's Grimwade Collection Curator, Alisa Bunbury.

Prior to purchase, an in-depth condition report of the painting and frame was undertaken to ascertain any condition considerations and degree of previous restoration. Simple portable examination equipment (handheld lights) and thorough visual documentation was used to identify the general state of the work.

Following purchase, the painting was brought into the Grimwade Centre's North Melbourne conservation laboratory for further analysis and investigation using specialist equipment. Ultraviolet light examination revealed the level of previous restoration by showing small areas of inpainting in the sky area related to very minor damages. Additionally, some inpainting had been carried out to reduce some of the more prominent nineteenth-century drying craquelure. This previous restoration was probably carried out in the last fifty years in conjunction with a lining treatment and conveyed the ability of an earlier skilled restorer. More

Image: Detail from infrared reflectogram of Melbourne from the Botanic Gardens showing drawn horizon lines, hills, houses and the Yarra river

Grainger Museum announces new Composer in Residence 

The Grainger Museum is pleased to announce its new Composer in Residence, Kate Tempany, who will be engaging with the forthcoming exhibition, How it plays: Innovations in percussion.

Kate Tempany is a composer, tabla player and community artist. Her work combines a passionate interest in the environment with a vibrant multiculturalism drawing on Hindustani, West African and Indian folk compositional idioms. 'The How it Plays project at the Grainger Museum is a very exciting chance for me to compose in a participatory setting open to the public,' says Kate. 'I am working on open ended pieces which everyone is welcome to explore, whether by following a graphic score or reading conventional notation.'

Image: Kate Tempany

The 'Great mirror of folly' now digitised

Het Groote tafereel der dwaasheid or the ‘Great mirror of folly’ as it is known in English, is a unique Amsterdam publication complied around the year 1720, by an unnamed publisher, as a record of the aftermath of the West’s first stock market crash. No two volumes of this book are the same because different ephemeral items such as the prints, songs, poetry and broadsides which proliferated that year, were gathered up into bindings of varied arrangements and contents. The resulting book is something akin to a kaleidoscopic view of the financial misadventures of Europe in the 18th century.

In the University’s copy, held by the Baillieu Library Print Collection, the image of the ‘Flora’s Fool’s cap’ is placed at the end of the volume, yet it recalls the famous tulip mania episode which occurred earlier in 1637 that saw the price of tulip bulbs rise spectacularly and then collapse, equally dramatically. This event is regarded as the first financial bubble and is satirised in the print which depicts tulip speculators arranged around a giant fool’s cap.

Another well-known image in the compilation shows the ‘Very famous island of Madhead,’ a map drawn in the shape of a fool’s head which satirises the three countries that incurred the greatest losses during the Mississippi Bubble and South Sea Bubble. England, France and the Dutch Provinces suffered devastating investor losses when these speculation schemes collapsed toward the end of 1720.

The volume contains many biting and fascinating responses to financial crises, and some of these rare items can be found nowhere else. The University of Melbourne’s copy is now digitised and available to explore online.

Image: Page depicting the Very famous island of Madhead from Het Groote tafereel der dwaasheid, c.1720. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne

Exhibitions at The University of Melbourne

The Women’s: carers, advocates and reformers

Medical History Museum, from Tuesday 16 April 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 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

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


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

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 March issue to find out about the Grainger's next exhibition, How it Plays: Innovations in Percussion and some of the hard work being undertaken by the Grainger Museum team in preparation for its opening on 1 May 2019. 

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