Monday, 26 August 2013

First days in Melbourne - 20-08-2013

My first four days in Melbourne have been experienced as a series of introductions: to the city, the University, and to some of the staff that I’m going to be working with over the coming weeks. Each continues to add to my increasing sense of excitement and gratitude for the award. 

The facade of an old bank is preserved on campus, due to be
incorporated into the new architecture building
 for the second time
The day after my arrival in Melbourne happened to be the University’s Open Day, which presented a great opportunity to preview the campus and some it’s collections. I was immediately struck by a number of similarities between this campus and Birmingham’s. There is the same close juxtaposition of grand, nineteenth-century architecture against the more pragmatic modernist buildings, as well as striking examples of twenty-first century design - a physical manifestation of the fact that despite being built on historic foundations, both Universities are incredibly forward-thinking!

The same can be said of both Melbourne’s and Birmingham’s attitudes to their collections. They seem to share a concern that these historic collections be utilised today as well as preserved for the future. However, I have also been able to observe some differences between the ways that the two universities use and manage their holdings. For example, Melbourne is endowed with a fantastically well equipped and well staffed conservation department, which can be called upon to administer special attention to any objects, paintings or papers in need.  Another difference results from the fact that each of Melbourne’s thirty collections is run and managed separately, although they are  required to comply with university wide policy and minimum standards for their care,  and are all supported in this by the Cultural Collections team.

On the afternoon of my first day, we observed the British tradition of afternoon tea. It was wonderful to be introduced to a number of staff members who work with the collections in various ways. One of the things I have always found exciting about cultural collections, and in particular, those housed in universities, is that they often form a point around which a variety of different people, practices and approaches can meet and communicate. It seems that the projects I’m going to be working on whilst I’m in Melbourne will really see this in action.

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