University of Melbourne Archives

International Human Rights Day 2017

Supporting democracy and human rights is one of the six principles of the Universal Declaration on Archives was adopted by the 36th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO on 10th November 2011. In acknowledging International Human Rights Day on the 10th of December each year, archives and their Galleries, Libraries, Museums (GLAM) colleagues have a professional obligation to reflect on their role as custodians of records document human rights violations.

Simba Mumengegwi speaking at the International Human Rights Day rally, University of Melbourne Archives, 10 December 1974, John Ellis Collection, 1999.0081.00778

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Hexed – discoveries and challenges in archiving born-digital records

Lachlan Glanville, Assistant Archivist, Germaine Greer Archive

5 ¼ inch floppy disks from the Germaine Greer Archive
5 ¼ inch floppy disks from the Germaine Greer Archive

Removable media such as floppy disks from the early days of PC ownership are now degrading rapidly and becoming increasingly difficult to access. Without swift action, years of unique records could easily become irrecoverable. Archivists at UMA have been collaborating with colleagues across the University such as Research Platforms, Digital Scholarship and the ESRC on a pilot project on how to extract and preserve digital records. The Greer Archive removable media is one case study. Continue reading “Hexed – discoveries and challenges in archiving born-digital records”


Considering the literary archive: William Gosse Hay

Dr Rachael Weaver
School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

William Hay and pet magpie Jampot, undated, William Gosse Hay Collection, 2005.0025, University of Melbourne Archives, Unit 24, 9/4/12

I first became interested in the Australian writer William Hay ten years ago, when Ken Gelder and I re-published Hay’s 1921 story, ‘An Australian Rip Van Winkle,’ in our Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction (2007). The tale is a delightfully strange one, about a stockman named Jake, a romantic figure who resembles the writer R. L. Stevenson; only he is ‘slightly more melancholy.’[1] It begins with a meditation on the idea of the ‘nowhere road’ – the kind of mysterious sandy white track that winds its way into the Australian bush and seems to promise all kinds of imaginative destinations. Hay’s quaint story was published a little late in the day to be considered strictly colonial, but something about it seemed to belong to the nineteenth century. Like much of Hay’s writing, it has qualities that are anachronistic and modern at the same time. Continue reading “Considering the literary archive: William Gosse Hay”


Anniversary of the Chinese Republic

Katherine Molyneux

It is a photograph of an dusty street in an unnamed city. There are bicycles and a blurry power line. In the background is a low-rise building that might be a market. In the foreground – dominating the scene – is a ceremonial gate, which appears to be made of wood. It is topped by a large dome.

"10 October: Anniversary Chinese Revolution", c1920s
“10 October: Anniversary Chinese Revolution”, c1920s. University of Melbourne Archives, Una Porter album, 1997.0002 item 7/1

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On Una Porter’s Photograph Album

Oscar T. Serquiña, Jr.

"Wesley college students", 1926
“Wesley college students”, India photograph album, 1926. University of Melbourne Archives, Una Porter album, 1997.0002.00003

A personal photograph collection may reveal the roots and routes of its collector’s life. While its primary function is to collate representations of objects, persons, and events, a collection may also lay bare more than what is visible to the eye. Such is the uncontainable paradox of archival materials, especially photos, after all: on one hand, their enduring presence contracts, as well as suspends in motion, the humanity and entity they capture, but it also allows them to allude to the outside world to which they once belonged or continue to belong, on the other. Such is the case of Una Porter’s photo album in the University of Melbourne archives, which largely contains photographic souvenirs—ranging from portraits of individuals and groups to shots of sprawling landscapes and still lives, to documentations of ordinary objects and lush flora and fauna—from trips to countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Egypt, and India. While some photos seem to have emerged from Porter’s missionary and philanthropic work, others look rather touristy, curious, and quotidian. Continue reading “On Una Porter’s Photograph Album”


“The Thoughtful East” / “Masters. Jaupur”

Nathan McCall

India photograph album, 1926
India photograph album, 1926. University of Melbourne Archives, Una Porter album, 1997.0002.00003

Accompanying the photographs are captions written by Ms Porter. These captions present an insight into Ms Porter’s reactions to some of the people and places that she saw. Of particular interest are three photographs captioned. The first is an image of a bearded man with a Tilaka painted on his forehead, indicating that he is probably of Indian heritage. This image is captioned The Thoughtful East. The second is an image of two western women, clearly distinguished by their clothing and complexions. One of these women is possibly Una Porter herself. This image is captioned The Thoughtless West. The final image is a group photo of twenty Indian men and one white male. The group are wearing of mixture of western attire and Indian garments. This photo is captioned Masters. Jaupur. Individually, these photographs do not provide any context for their creation and rely entirely on the larger photograph album to provide that context and the story of Ms Porter’s journey throughout South Asia. As the entire photograph album has been digitised along with these photographs, the viewer has access to all of Ms Porter’s time in the sub-continent however and makes these three photographs more poignant as a result. Continue reading ““The Thoughtful East” / “Masters. Jaupur””


Narrating Photography

Alice Helme

A picture says a thousand words. We all know that ubiquitous and often overused phrase. It is the cornerstone of art analysis and an art historical approach to dissecting pictorial representations. An image presents a visual narrative, conveying a story or meaning through the silent channels of sight. These narratives are fabled to tell a truth, an unaltered vision of the artists’ projected thoughts, or convey a reality of time and place. Photographs have always been revered as a mode of truth telling, as opposed to paintings and other figurative art forms that are imagined from the mind of the artist. Their image captures a moment, and in that scene of suspended time the photographer presents exactly what they saw. We are presented with the perspective of the photographer, or their directed framing of a scene. The image speaks for itself, to use another popular idiom. But what happens when alongside the photograph or series of photographs there are captions and a specific order, all of which were placed and curated by the photographer themselves? Does the meaning alter? And if so, does it reveal a kind of commentary by the photographer? Is this added information then lost in the processes of digitisation and online viewing?

"Outcastes", India photograph album, 1926
“Outcastes”, India photograph album, 1926. University of Melbourne Archives, Una Porter album, 1997.0002.00003

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“Dom Types”

Charmaine Toh

"Dom types", photograph album, 1926
“Dom types”, photograph album, 1926. Una Porter collection, 1997.0002.00003, University of Melbourne Archives

Martyn Jolly has noted that photographic albums were both oral and visual records – their owners would show them to friends and family accompanied by an oral narrative.1 This oral element is of course now lost, but I raise it that we might recognize the importance of situating the individual elements of such archival material within a broader context. In the case of this album, it seems to have been put together to narrate Porter’s philanthropic efforts in India. It is certainly more “formal” in tone than the other Porter album in the archive, which includes photos of family and friends and even her pet dog. One can speculate that Porter would have shown the India album to raise awareness of the situation in India and perhaps to even persuade her audience to support more of such efforts.2 Martyn Jolly, “An Australian Spiritualist’s Personal Cartes-de-Visite Album,” in Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography 1850-1920, ed. Anne Maxwell and Josephine Croci (North Melbourne, Vic: Australian Scholarly Publishing Pty Ltd, 2015), 71–72. Continue reading ““Dom Types””


Una Porter Photo Album

Una Porter, c1990
Una Porter, c1990. University of Melbourne Archives, Una Porter collection 1997.0002.00001

Una Porter’s photographic albums, held in the University of Melbourne’s archives, present labelled photographs narrating her journey through China, Hong Kong, Japan, and India during the 1920s. Porter undertook her tour on a philanthropic mission, documenting her travels and compiling two albums of the photos she took. The albums are particularly important in revealing information about Una Porter’s missionary work abroad and the route she took, presenting a visual account of the Western experience in Asia. Continue reading “Una Porter Photo Album”


‘Winja Ulupna’: Public Health Posters as Visual Culture

Ainslee Meredith

Winja Ulupna is an Aboriginal women’s residential drug and alcohol recovery house based in St Kilda. Established in 1976 through Australian Government investment in residential rehabilitation programs controlled by Aboriginal communities, as distinct from State rehabilitation units (Brady 2002), Winja Ulupna, or ‘women’s haven’, was also the first rehabilitation house in Australia specifically for Aboriginal women. As an early example of an Aboriginal women’s run program providing culturally sensitive alcohol and drug services, the poster highlights the importance of community-controlled residential programs in the broader context of a continued denial of the right of self-determination for Indigenous Australians by governments at that time. Designed by Health Productions in 1991 (the art department of the Health Promotion Unit, for the Government of Victoria), the poster is also significant in terms of the history of government-sponsored poster design to disseminate public health messagesContinue reading “‘Winja Ulupna’: Public Health Posters as Visual Culture”


Number of posts found: 75