From the Vice-Chancellor
Universities nurture learning in many ways. From ground-breaking research to teaching successive generations of students, universities play an important role in building knowledge in communities. But they support learning and exploration via less obvious means too: they’re important in the cultural makeup of a city, providing homes for objects which help inform learning and the understanding of our shared history.
In this edition, Voice celebrates the University’s cultural treasures, the materials and artefacts they encompass, and the people who gave them to the University for safe-keeping.
Universities take very seriously and with great pride their role in maintaining, preserving and providing access to the resources they have in their care. When members of the community bequeath or entrust their possessions, many of which are valuable, to us, they can be sure their treasures will be safeguarded, preserved, and used to further learning.
The University of Melbourne, which celebrates its 160th anniversary next year, is the second-oldest university in Australia, so it is no surprise we have more than 30 collections including many objects that are important reminders of Australia’s history.
And the collections are not static, but rather are added to continually to provide the best possible resources for researchers, students and the community. The University’s focus on growing its collections has meant the addition of some particularly rare pieces in recent years, including a page from a Gutenberg Bible, the first European printed book.
And they range far beyond the imagined rare books and manuscripts to include antique medical and dental equipment, fine art housed at the University’s Ian Potter Museum of Art and as part of the VCA Art Collection, rare musical instruments and even botanic specimens, preserved at the University’s Herbarium.
The collections are an important window into the country’s history: influential politicians, including Malcolm Fraser, have left their personal papers and materials to the University, and composer and musician Percy Grainger donated a substantial bequest to fund a museum on the Parkville campus which houses his collected papers and possessions, from articles of clothing he designed to his extensive collection of musical instruments, some of his own invention.
Though the research undertaken using objects from the collections naturally informs researchers’ teaching, and students are welcome to access parts of the collections for their own research, the collections are also more directly used in teaching: the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation runs several degree courses including the Master of Cultural Material Conservation, which focuses on training future generations of conservators.
The University is not a place where learning is limited to a select few, however: rather, because it is a public-spirited institution, we encourage the use and enjoyment of the collections by the wider community, whether for research, teaching, conversation or enjoyment.
This engagement with the community is one of the reasons we are hosting the Cultural Treasures Festival on 28 and 29 July, and why we hold regular exhibitions throughout the year featuring different parts of the collection.
I invite the Melbourne community to join us at this year’s Festival to explore and learn from the University and its collections.