Museums and Collections

September 2018

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.


Historic Williamstown Observatory telescope identified

An important historic telescope has been identified in the Surveying and Geomatics Engineering Collection in the Department of Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Melbourne. It is a portable transit telescope, 77 cm in length, marked ‘Potter, London’. A transit telescope is used by astronomers to undertake accurate measurements of the passing of stars across the lines in the eyepiece, typically to determine local astronomical time or the longitude of the location. J. D. Potter was a London instrument maker, supplying sextants, charts and other navigational instruments to the Admiralty and mariners.
The size and maker of the telescope, and the rarity of the instrument, make it evident that this was the instrument of 30-inch focal length by Potter, purchased by the Victorian Government for the new Williamstown Observatory and received in April 1854. The observatory had commenced in July 1853 to provide time signals to mariners so that they could calibrate their chronometers; this was essential so that they could determine longitude on their return voyage from Australia. Until the arrival of this instrument, Government Astronomer Robert Ellery had relied on little more than a sextant to make his observations. The observatory was relocated in 1863 as the Melbourne Observatory, adjacent to the Botanic Gardens, with Ellery in charge.
The Potter transit instrument is a significant historic item, being the first telescope of Victoria’s government observatory. How and when the telescope was transferred to the University of Melbourne is unclear. It may have passed to Professor William Wilson, the University’s foundation professor of mathematics, who was closely associated with the establishment and operation of the Melbourne Observatory.

Image: J. D. Potter, London (manufacturer), Portable Transit Telescope, 30-inch focal length, c.1853

Ukiyo-e under the microscope: Conserving nine Japanese woodblocks

Over the past three months conservators at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (GCCMC) have been treating nine Japanese woodblock prints from the Baillieu Library Print Collection withthe support of the Miegunyah Fund. This selection of colourful prints from the Edo period (are to be used for teaching at the University of Melbourne in semester two, 2018. Conservation treatment therefore focused on improving the stability and visual appearance of the works for safe handling and display.

Japanese woodblock prints, both the commercially produced ukiyo-e and privately published surimono, often prove difficult during conservation treatment. Ukiyo-e and surimono are usually printed on remarkably thin papers, comprised of long kozo (Japanese mulberry paper tree) fibres which intermesh during the paper-making process to form a strong sheet. Despite the strength of such papers, their long fibres make them particularly sensitive to abrasion. This limits the mechanical removal of surface dirt. For some of the Baillieu Library prints, treatment was further complicated by the presence of water-soluble pigments and dyes, and areas of subtle embossing produced through blind printing. The print Kabuki actors (1891) by Utagawa Kunisada (1848-1920), was particularly water-sensitive. In order to control the introduction of moisture, it was treated entirely under magnification. More

Image: Utagawa Kunisada III, Kabuki actors, 1891. Baillieu Library Print Collection Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959

Writers wanted to curate and create: The VCA Digital Archive Project needs you

VCA Film and Television is Australia's oldest film school, housing an audiovisual collection dating back to 1967. The VCA Digital Archive Project has been underway since 2015, aimed at unlocking the VCA Film and Television Archive for the first time to create new intersections between expert knowledge, curatorial practice and student-generated content.

The Project is now looking for writers to help shape and theme the films in the soon to be released Archive.

Writers will work with a chosen theme (e.g. feminism, social justice, LGBTIQA, disability, mental illness, adolescence and more) and respond to films in the collection that fit the theme selected. Articles can be a creative response, personal pieces, essays, reviews or reflective pieces.

Article length: 750 words. Platform: VCA Precinct and social media. Payment: $350 voucher of your choosing. Register your interest:, 0412 563 451. Article deadline is 1 December 2018.

Image: Still detail from The Kid in the Closet, directed by Melodie Shen, 2013

Original display cabinet returns to Tiegs Museum

The Tiegs Museum, which is dedicated to the display of zoological specimens, has a new cabinet on display. Well, actually it is an old cabinet. The explanation is that the Tiegs Museum was originally housed in the Baldwin Spencer Building, using wooden cabinets for display. These were replaced when the museum moved to the then new Zoology building (now BioSciences 4) in 1989. However, one of the old cabinets was kept and used for the storage of teaching material elsewhere in the building.

Late in 2016 it was agreed that this old cabinet belonged in the Tiegs and space was made for it within the museum. Prior to its relocation, the cabinet was restored thanks to a generous grant from the Miegunyah Fund received earlier this year. The history of the cabinet and the Tiegs Museum is now illustrated within the cabinet by a display of photographs and a selection of early specimens from the Tiegs collection.

Image: The display cabinet now at home in the Tiegs Museum. The items on display reflect the history of the museum. Photograph by Laura Marchese

Margaret Sutherland research to be funded by Redmond Barry Fellowship

Australian composer Margaret Sutherland AO OBE (1897-1984) was one of the most innovative and influential composers of the first half of the twentieth century. She produced around 200 works in her lifetime, mostly chamber and vocal/choral works, but also orchestral works, four for theatre and one opera. Margaret Sutherland was also a tireless advocate for composers and for the arts in general in Australia. In her desire to be both serious composer and mother, Sutherland was atypical of her era, and faced particular challenges, public and private, in blending these roles.

Beyond the Stave: A Biography of Australian Composer and Arts Activist Margaret Sutherland (1897-1984) is the title of a scholarly biography of this unconventional and iconic Australian figure, to be written by the 2018 Redmond Barry Fellow, Dr Jillian Graham.

The Redmond Barry Fellowship is named in honour of Sir Redmond Barry (1813-1880), a founder of the University of Melbourne and the State Library Victoria. The Fellowship is awarded to scholars and writers to facilitate research and the production of works of literature that utilise the superb collections of the State Library and the University of Melbourne.

Image: Dickinson Monteath Studio, Margaret Sutherland, c.1934. Rare Music Collection, Special Collections, University of Melbourne Library


Performance: How to turn a ship around (They could say love)

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Saturday 1 September 2018, 1.00pm to 3.00pm
How to turn a ship around (They could say love) is a script and performance developed from email conversations with Danielle O’Brien (a Webb dock-sitter) and Josh Bornstein (lawyer at Maurice Blackburn who developed a legal strategy for the Maritime Union of Australia) in reference to the 1998 Maritime Union dispute. The double-barrelled nature of the title points to different points in history shared by the artists Sam George and Lisa Radford, the dispute and the conversations that ensued.
They could say love references not only the act of the union members and their families but also those that sat beside them. They could say love also references the painting Untitled (International Signal Code) 2011 by Sam George and Lisa Radford. This large painting, which was entered into the ANL Seafarers Maritime Painting Prize, riffed-off the history of abstraction by arranging a collection of flags from the international signal code for shipping which could only be read by the sailors (workers) and teachers of the code. The code in this 2011 painting reads 'We can say love'. Part celebration, part lament but also a small gesture of solidarity to what was achieved by the Maritime Union at this time.
Chloe Martin and Tref Gare will perform Lisa Radford and Sam George’s script in this 8 minute 8 second performance.

This public program is offered as part of the State of the Union exhibition running until 28 October 2018. 

Free event. Further information and bookings.  

Image: Sam George and Lisa Radford, How to turn a ship around (they could say love) [detail], 2018. Courtesy of the artists

The Monkees on television

30-minute bursts of pop surrealism with Dr Derham Groves

Dulcie Hollyock Room, ground floor, Baillieu Library, Wednesday 5 September 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm

In this talk, exhibition curator Dr Derham Groves will concentrate on The Monkees TV show (1966-1968), which starred Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork. At the time, most parents of The Monkees' adolescent fans who watched the band’s 30-minute sitcom thought it was just more of the same 'visual chewing-gum' on Australian television at the time, intended as babysitting for teenagers, however, The Monkees was a lot more sophisticated than that. Besides thoroughly enjoying The Monkees' music, which featured prominently on every episode, the youthful viewers of the show also enjoyed The Monkees' surreal sense of humour. Take the beginning of episode 57, The Monkees blow their minds (1968), for example, when Frank Zappa, the lead guitarist and singer with the hit US rock band The Mothers of Invention, dressed as Mike Nesmith interviewed Mike Nesmith dressed as Frank Zappa. Now, how surreal is that! Furthermore, no other show on television then or ever since has had a male authority figure quite like The Monkees' Mr. Schneider.  Derham will also introduce him—a jolly-looking life-size mannequin, who usually sat silently in The Monkees’ living room until someone pulled the string emerging from his chest, prompting him to dispense pearls of wisdom such as 'It’s a shame to waste youth on children'. Once again, how surreal is that?
Image: Micky Dolenz puppet by Jonathan Liow

Up from the vaults: A Hugh Ramsay sketch

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Thursday 6 September 2018, 12.00pm to 1.00pm

Get a rare look at Hugh Ramsay's sketch Satyr (1894) in this presentation by art historian Dr Callum Reid. The Dancing Faun, currently in the tribuna of the Uffizi Gallery, was one of the key sculptures reproduced in casts for the National Gallery of Victoria Art School, where it was seen and sketched by Hugh Ramsay. This discussion will explore the various lenses through which this artefact can be viewed, looking at the sculpture's history, placement, reception and the key features translated onto the page by Hugh Ramsay's charcoal.

Free event. Further information and bookings.

Image: Hugh Ramsay, Satyr, 1894. The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of Nell Fullerton


Grainger Museum, Sunday 9 September 2018, 1.00pm to 5.00pm

The MCM New Music studio and Grainger Museum present a full afternoon’s program of events, including two concerts of works by Keith Humble, Ian Bonighton and others associated with the Grainger Electronic Music Studio. This concert features rare performances of unpublished works by Keith Humble and Ian Bonighton for guitars and percussion ensembles, as well as Humble’s Arcade IV for guitar and percussion, one of a set of his works that celebrate the laneways of Melbourne.

A post-event reception will take place in Tallis Room. Join the performers and staff from the Grainger Museum as they celebrate the end of the Synthesizers: Sounds of The Future exhibition and continue discussing the music of Humble, Bonighton and others associated with Melbourne’s contemporary music scene in the 1960s.

Free event, bookings required.

Image: Felix Werder, Ian Bonighton, Keith Humble and Ron Nagorcka (clockwise from top left) with the LP Reverberations, Unknown photographer, 1973. Photograph courtesy of Agnes Dodds

Rethinking Australia’s art history: The challenge of Aboriginal art

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Thursday 13 September 2018, 6.00pm to 8.00pm

Join Professor Ian McLean, Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art, for the Melbourne launch of Rethinking Australia’s Art History: The Challenge of Aboriginal Art by Dr Susan Lowish, Senior Lecturer in Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne.
This book aims to redefine Australia's earliest art history by chronicling for the first time the birth of the category ‘Aboriginal art’, tracing the term’s use through published literature in the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
On show will be one of the Ian Potter Museum of Art’s latest acquisitions, a rare 1802 drawing of an Aboriginal warrior by the French artist Nicolas-Martin Petit. This is the first drawing by Petit to enter an Australian institutional collection.

Free event. Further information and bookings.

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

Exhibitions at The University of Melbourne

Synthesizers: Sound of the future

Grainger Museum, to Sunday 9 September 2018

Presented by Grainger Museum and Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio

Today’s musical hackers, sound artists and digital musicians who patch and share and experiment with sound are the direct beneficiaries of innovators in electronic sound in the second half of the twentieth century. The Grainger Museum was at the heart of musical experimentation in Melbourne in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when University of Melbourne composer and teacher Keith Humble, and composer and Grainger Museum Curator Ian Bonighton ran a renegade electronic composition studio with early analog synthesizers, including the EMS Synthi 100.

The exhibition Synthesizers: Sound of the future explores this Melbourne scene and, more broadly, the evolution of the commercially produced synthesizer by EMS (Electronic Music Studios Ltd, UK) in this period. The exhibition features key instruments on loan from the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS) and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. More

Image: Portable analogue synthesizer EMS VCS 3, made in 1969, at the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio. Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS) Collection. Photograph Amber Haines

Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

Grainger Museum, from Friday 21 September 2018

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.

Image: Baron Arpad Paszthory, Madame Melba, c.1902-1904. Grainger Museum Collection, University of Melbourne

The art of healing: Australian Indigenous traditional healing practice

Medical History Museum, to Saturday 29 September 2018

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

No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout  

Buxton Contemporary, to Sunday 21 October 2018

This ironically titled exhibition shines a spotlight on Ronnie van Hout, a Melbourne-based New Zealand-born artist best known for his distinctive brand of existential absurdism. Bringing together works that span more than twenty years of practice, No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout encompasses sculpture, video, photography, embroidery and text, and features major new installations.

Van Hout’s tragicomic oeuvre references a wide range of sources, from science fiction, cults and cinema to art history and popular and celebrity culture. He frequently draws upon childhood experiences and recollections to create wryly amusing yet heart-rending micro fictions. Casting fragile, lonely figures in the midst of perplexing scenarios, van Hout masterfully evokes familiar and yet strange interior worlds. His unsettling tableaux unleash deep social anxieties and feelings of self-consciousness, triggering the impulse to simultaneously laugh and cry. More

Image: Installation view, No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout. Photograph by Christian Capurro

State of the Union

Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 28 October 2018

State of the Union explores the relationship of artists to political engagement through a focus on the labour movement and trade unions. The exhibition presents artworks that investigate industrial action and labour issues alongside the work of artists who draw upon the traditional visual strategies of protest, such as banners, posters, and collaborative actions. In addition to artworks that take trade unionism as a subject matter, the exhibition includes a consideration of artists whose practices are a form of cultural activism through which they advocate for fair working conditions, including those of artworkers.
This exhibition takes place at a time when unions and trades councils are working together to win back lost ground. In this moment of renewed momentum, State of the Union provides an opportunity to explore the historical relationship between art and the labour movement, and to consider how this collaborative advocacy for workers’ rights might continue into the future. More

Image: Operative Painters & Decorators Union of Australasia, Victorian Branch banner [detail], 1915. Courtesy of Museum Victoria and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)


Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 28 October 2018

Eavesdropping used to be a crime. According to Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769) ‘eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls or windows, or the eaves of a house, to hearken after discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court-leet.’ Two hundred and fifty years later, eavesdropping isn’t just legal, it’s ubiquitous. What was once a minor public order offence has become one of the most important politico-legal problems of our time, as the Snowden revelations made abundantly clear. Eavesdropping: the ever-increasing access to, capture and control of our sonic worlds by state and corporate interests.
Curated by Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) and Dr James Parker (Melbourne Law School), this project pursues an expanded definition of eavesdropping; one that includes contemporary mechanisms for listening-in but also activist practices of listening back, that are concerned with malicious listenings but also the responsibilities of the earwitness. Eavesdropping is a unique collaboration between Ian Potter Museum of Art, Liquid Architecture, and the Melbourne Law School, comprising an exhibition, a public program, a series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world. More
Image: Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia Universalis in volume 1 of Rome by Francisci Corbelletti [detail], 1650. Rare Music, Special Collections, University of Melbourne

Liquid form: Ancient and contemporary glass

Ian Potter Museum of Art, to Sunday 28 October 2018

Liquid form: Ancient and contemporary glass celebrates the luminous medium of glass. Displaying significant artefacts from the Egyptian and Roman periods alongside the work of contemporary makers, Liquid form examines the development of faience and glass manufacture in the ancient world and demonstrates how these methods have been reinvigorated and extended in the modern era.

Highlighting the treasures in the University of Melbourne’s Classics & Archaeology Collection, Liquid Form is the first major exhibition of glass at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. The exhibition also showcases significant works from major collections around Australia, including the Australian Institute of Archaeology, Melbourne; the Dodgson Collection of Egyptian Antiquities at Queens College, the University of Melbourne; the John Elliot Classics Museum, the University of Tasmania; the RD Milns Antiquities Museum, the University of Queensland and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. More

Image: Egyptian necklace, 1550BCE-395CE. University of Melbourne Art Collection. Classics and Archaeology Collection. Gift of Miss D Kilburn, 1962

Monkeemania in Australia

Ground floor, Baillieu Library, to Thursday 31 January 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 Brekinridge, 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. The exhibition runs until 31 January 2019.

Image: Mike Nesmith puppet by Zhuojun Sun

The Universe Looks Down

Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, to Sunday 17 February 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

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

The Professor Sir Joseph 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 will be available soon. Join the Friends of the Baillieu Library and receive two complimentary issues of the magazine annually.

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