From the Baillieu to Birmingham… and on to the Bodleian
The University of Melbourne’s cultural collections contains over 30 separate holdings originating from the earliest years of the University’s establishment in the 1850s. And every year new acquisitions, like the purchase last year of a page from an original Gutenberg Bible – the first European printed book – keep the collections dynamic and relevant.
Helen Arnoldi, the Cultural Collections Projects Co-ordinator based in the Baillieu Library on the University’s Parkville campus, believes that carrying on the tradition of encouraging use of the collections by students for research, teaching, conversation or simply enjoyment is a crucial element of the Melbourne experience. “The recent experiences of two Faculty of Arts students exemplify the importance of the University’s rich cultural collections,” she says.
“The Cultural Collections Projects Program and more recently, the Museums and Collections Award, have placed many students and volunteers in projects that enrich and enhance their academic and professional experience.
“This is wonderful for the students and the collections have also benefited from their interaction which has, over the years, supported and extended collection management programs.”
Emma Neale is in the third year of her Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Art History and Screen and Cultural Studies. She is also the recipient of the 2011–2012 Museums and Collections Award, a prize offered between the universities of Melbourne and Birmingham and supported by the University Library and the global network of research universities, Universitas 21.
“I heard about this award through volunteering with the University’s cultural collections which I started to do in May 2011,” says Ms Neale. “My goal was to gain as much experience of conservation and collection management as I could, and then apply to do a Master of Cultural Materials Conservation.
“Winning this prestigious award was a truly exciting and inspiring experience. Having the opportunity to travel to Birmingham and work within their extensive collections provided me with hands-on experience and training.
“It cemented my passion for the conservation industry and provided undreamt of opportunities to work with a new and eclectic range of objects prior to deciding on a specialisation. I’ve now been able to make an informed decision and with my experience working on textile projects both with University of Melbourne Archives and in Birmingham, I will seriously consider a textile specialisation.”
Louise Box is currently completing a Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Arts while working full time with the Executive Education team at Melbourne Business School.
As part of the Cultural Collections Projects Program, Ms Box completed an internship as exhibition designer for the Knowledge Through Print exhibition currently showing at the Baillieu Library. “My role was to design the overall look of the exhibition”, she says, “from layout of the space and the catalogue to marketing and planning the visitor experience”.
“It’s been a privilege to work closely with curator Wallace Kirsop and Pam Pryde from Special Collections,” says Ms Box. “Their deep knowledge is inspirational.”
“My experiences have been both strategic and hands on, including creating exhibition cradles, website planning, layout of the exhibition cases, to hanging wall panels. I’ve discovered new approaches to creativity, problem solving and collaboration that are already adding value to me personally and professionally.”
Ms Arnoldi believes that programs and awards like the Cultural Collections Projects Program and the Museums and Collections Award provide participants with an invaluable opportunity to work closely with a collection, expand and broaden their professional skills, or simply pursue an interest.
“While both local and national students have been involved for some time, only a few years ago did the program host its first international student,” she says.
“Following Emma Neale’s return from Birmingham we have just this month welcomed Emily Millward, a PhD candidate in Egyptology at the University of Birmingham who will join the Cultural Collections unit to work on various collections across campus – here at the Baillieu, at the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, and at the Ian Potter Museum of Art.
The recent experiences of both students have whetted their appetites for international travel and study. Emma Neale is currently in New York with thirty other University of Melbourne art history students completing a one-month overseas intensive field trip under the guidance of Professor Charles Green and staying in student accommodation at Columbia University.
For Louise Box, working with the University’s cultural collections and with the Knowledge Through Print exhibition inspired her to successfully apply for the Summer School at the Centre for the Study of the Book at the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.
“What could be better? It’s a wonderful opportunity.”