Sunday, 1 September 2013

UMA and the Potter - 28-08-13

This week I was introduced to the University of Melbourne Archives and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, where I learnt about the various ways these institutions engage students, staff and alumini of the University, as well as the wider public with their collections. Both institutions offered me a valuable introduction to their day to day duties and also encouraged me to talk to members of staff whose work I was particularly interested in.

UMA's magnificent collection of boxes

The University Archives holds 18km in shelving of archival records and materials, relating to businesses, social and political movements, the city and the University. The staff are currently working to improve accessibility by using digital systems to comprehensively record and organise information about their holdings. This is an ernormous project that includes ironing out any anomalies that have occurred since the archive’s birth half a century ago, as items and records have been moved, new collections have been acquired, members of staff have left and procedures have changed. It showed me that archives certainly aren’t the static things that I had previously imagined.

It was also interesting to see how the work of an archivist, more so than that of an academic, curator or researcher, really aspires to objectivity. The archivist endeavours to order things objectively, describe things objectively, and although assessing the significance of an object is an important aspect of their role, there is still a strong impetus to preserve even those items that may seem to be trivial or arcane.

At the Potter, I was privileged to attend a meeting to discuss a coming exhibition on the architecture on campus (which, incidentally, referred to a number of images that I had encountered the previous day in the archives!) This exhibition will explore how the changing representations of the University, through its buildings and their depcitions, reflect the changing image that the University hopes to present of itself. This strikes me as a fantastic opportunity to engage students of the University but also members of the public, who will have observed, as I did in my first entry, the multitude of architectural styles even from the outskirts of the campus, and may subsequently be inclined to explore the campus grounds within.

I was incredibly excited and inspired by my discussions with the Curator of Academic Programmes, Heather Gaunt. Heather’s inventive projects and ideas recognise that University art collections and galleries house great potential for education across an extremely broad array of academic disciplines. She has worked with students studying medicine and dentistry, business and marketing, computer science, and English as a foreign language, using art as a tool to develop new or existing skills relevant to that discipline. Her approach was refreshing in that many of the projects were mutually beneficial for the participants and for the Museum, in contrast to the Museum that often perceives its visitors as passive beneficiaries. This really feeds into my personal interests in cultural engagement and was also highly relevant for my Cultural Collections Unit project.

No comments:

Post a Comment