May 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.


Cultural Commons and the Virtual Campus

In response to the evolving Covid-19 situation, the University of Melbourne has created a Virtual Campus Community – a place for students, staff, alumni, community and stakeholders to visit for connection, wellbeing, and intellectual and spiritual nourishment.

With the breadth, volume and significance of the University’s cultural assets, the Cultural Commons initiative, established to increase the accessibility of the collections to students, scholars and the public, is leading the development of a platform to showcase this extensive content. The platform will link to the University’s Virtual Campus Community and other sites.  

The Cultural Commons site will be a platform and channel to share stimulating, creative content. It is not a repository or an encyclopaedic reference to everything we do; instead it will highlight content that will inspire audiences to find out more. Content will be rotated and regularly refreshed.

Highlighting the collaborative nature of the Cultural Commons and an audience led approach, content will be categorised according to the way in which the virtual visitor engages:
  • WATCH – video content, both artistic and documentation style
  • READ – interactive catalogues or publications
  • LISTEN – audio content, podcasts, music, interviews
  • EXPERIENCE – collections, virtual tours of exhibitions
The Cultural Commons site will be launched launched ahead of International Museums Day on 18 May and will be accessible from the Virtual Campus Community site.

Image: Installation view, No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout, Buxton Contemporary, University of Melbourne 12 July – 21 October 2018, photography Christian Capurro

Dentistry: Innovation and Education exhibition goes online

2019 celebrated the 135th anniversary of the establishment of the Odontological Society of Victoria in 1884, which brought about the development of the first dental school in the State. The organization consisted of a group of trained dentists and was modelled on the Odontological Society of Great Britain, established in 1856. The Australian College of Dentistry was established in 1897 and affiliated with the University of Melbourne in a process that formalised dental education and further legitimised dental practice and research.

This anniversary was celebrated with an exhibition held at the Medical History Museum, which is now available online. The exhibition showcases the development of dental practice, education and public health in Victoria through the collections of the Henry Forman Atkinson Museum, Medical History Museum, Australian Dental Association (Victoria) and University of Utrecht, the Netherlands

Image: Alex Bauer, Mr McIntosh’s surgery, Colac, Victoria, c.1900. Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum, University of Melbourne. Gift of Ms Helena Stone 2013 

Friends of the Baillieu Library donation allows for important rare book acquisition

Through a generous donation from the Friends of the Baillieu Library, the University Library’s Rare Books collection has purchased a first edition of Exotic Botany: consisting of coloured figures, and scientific descriptions, of such new, beautiful, or rare plants as are worthy of cultivation in the gardens of Britain.

Published in 1804, this work follows on from James Edward Smith’s earlier publication Specimen of the Botany of New Holland (1793), which Rare Books also holds. It introduces 38 new Australian specimens, drawn by James Sowerby either from drawings and specimens supplied from New South Wales by John White, the First Fleet surgeon or live specimens grown in England from seeds sent from Australia. The beautiful illustrations of plants give us a glimpse into the flora of the time and present us with important scientific data.

This two-volume set is in the original publisher's boards with untrimmed pages, which gives us a sense of the how a buyer would have received the book. Usually owners would then have the book re-bound to suit their library, so to see it in this state is another exciting piece of book history, as is the armorial bookplate of former owner Joseph Radcliffe Baronet of Rudding Park.

This is an important addition to the Rare Books' collection of items relating to flora and fauna in Australia, as many of the plants had not been described before this publication. We thank the Friends of the Baillieu Library for their generous support that allowed the purchase this significant item.

Image: James Sowerby, Andromeda Acuminata, from James Edward Smith, Exotic botany…, 1804-05. Rare Books, University of Melbourne Library

Digital jigsaw puzzles online

Archives and Special Collections at the University of Melbourne have launched a selection of digital jigsaw puzzles that are available online now! The jigsaws offered exemplify the depth and breadth of the collections held by the University of Melbourne Archives, Rare Books, Baillieu Library Print Collection, Rare Maps and Rare Music. They include 17th century decorative world maps, rare 19th century sheet music cover illustrations and 20th century lantern slides of prisoners of war boxing matches to name a few.
Jigsaws are a fun way to pass the time or break up the working day and now a means of exploring these collections. Keep checking back as more jigsaws will be added as the Archives and Special Collections team delve deep to bring you some interesting and unique imagery.

The jigsaws can be accessed via the Special Collections website.

Image: Jigsaw of cover art from Paolo Giorza, The Geelong skating rink galop, 1877. Rare Music Collection, University of Melbourne

New online exhibition launched to mark World Red Cross/Red Crescent Day

Launched to coincide with World Red Cross/Red Crescent Day (8 May), the University of Melbourne Archives launched a small  online exhibition to highlight some key items in our Australian Red Cross Collection. The exhibition features some of our collection of glass lantern slides, which were used for talks about the war effort, for cinema screenings engaging the community about the need for membership, fundraising and blood donations and for rehabilitation activities after World War II.

Alongside the lantern slides, the broader Australian Red Cross collection, part of the ‘Gift to the Nation’, includes photographs, posters, audio, correspondence and governance records. It tells stories of years of responding to crisis throughout the world and traces the ongoing commitment of people volunteering to help others.

Image: 'Blood saves precious lives', glass lantern slide, c.1940. Australian Red Cross Society, University of Melbourne Archives


Up from the Vaults online

This month, as part of the new online delivery of the Inside Out program, the Ian Potter Museum of Art welcomes artist and VCA lecturer Dr Raafat Ishak, who draws from his close knowledge of the University of Melbourne Art Collection and its history, to present the first of the Potter’s fully digital Up from the Vaults talks.

Between 1996 and 2010 Ishak was the Potter’s conservation technician, and his survey exhibition Raafat Ishak: recipes for aversion and strategy. Work in progress #6, was held at the Museum in 2010. Since that time, Ishak has continued his interest in the University of Melbourne Art Collection through his role as a lecturer in Visual Art at the Victorian College of the Arts, where he is Head of Painting.

In this talk, you will hear from Ishak as he discusses works by Vivienne Shark LeWitt, John Brack and William Strutt – three artists from three different generations of Australian art, whose work is held in the University's collection. You will hear insights into the new relationships between these disparate artists and their work as Ishak finds common threads in their approaches, including the subtle forms of protest and the criticism of art and its institutions that each artist employed.

Raafat Ishak talk can be accessed via the Potter’s website.

Image: William Strutt, Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia 1852 [detail], 1887. University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of the Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest 1973

A view from the vegetables

Vegetable seeds and seedlings are some of the many items being panic purchased by nervous communities during the pandemic. This is partly because cultivating vegetables offers a source of food should supermarkets sell out, but perhaps more importantly, these living and thriving organisms also nourish the soul. Carl Wilhelm Kolbe (1759-1835) was a German Romantic printmaker who pondered and celebrated the wonders of vegetables. Just like the Romantics who examined nature to experience emotions and reveal divine purposes, now is again the time to lie beneath the cabbages and contemplate the leaves.

Kolbe’s ‘The cow in the reeds’ is one of the 28 etchings he created to depict giant vegetation growing in natural surroundings and which he called ‘Kräuterblätter’ (vegetable sheets). He took his inspiration from the woods of his hometown of Dessau, 17th century Dutch landscapes and the poetry of Salomon Gessner. He created a new perspective by applying almost botanical accuracy to his renderings of vegetation, seen from a worm’s eye view, so that the viewer feels the magic of being amongst colossal plants. In ‘The cow in the reeds’ the animal is of secondary interest to the reeds arching overhead, meadow plants, and in the foreground giant, luscious rhubarb.

Visit the Special Collection blog to view a full digital copy of the original print held by the Baillieu Library Print Collection.

Image: Carl Wilhelm Kolbe, ‘Cow in the reeds’ [detail], c.1800. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959

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 University's cultural collections, the magazines includes a range of fascinating articles written by curators, academics, students and Museums and Collection Project Program volunteers..
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