October 26th, 2012
Image: Ray Jones, England, 1919, Ray Jones collection, 1981.0081, NN/2520, University of Melbourne Archives
The University of Melbourne Archive’s records relating to World War I are extensive. The official University records document the University’s involvement in the war, through research, mobilisations and public relations. Other collections of significance include that of Sir Percival Edgar Dean, (one of) Billy Hughes’ private secretary from November 1916, and the war diaries of John Neville Fraser, the father of Malcolm Fraser. The large collection of union papers document the campaign against conscription in Australia.
In relation to the experience of Australian soldiers in France, UMA holds an interesting range of documents. They include the diaries and correspondence of University students’ and staff, some of whom did not return. UMA also holds photographs, medals, publications and other memorabilia gathered by Australian soldiers during the war.
The UMA will shortly be launching an exciting new blog titled ‘Somewhere in France’. Using collections from the University of Melbourne Archives, French language students at the University will discuss the experiences of Australian soldiers in France during World War I – this blog is under construction and will be launched on 15 November 2012. See <http://umasomewhereinfrance.wordpress.com>
October 12th, 2012
Image: A group of men in front of a locomotive at the Mount Lyell Mine in Tasmania, University of Melbourne Archives (UMA), Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co, Ltd. Collection, 1975.0083, PA/241.1.
The 12 October 2012 marks the centenary of the North Mount Lyell disaster. The fire is believed to have started in an underground pump house at the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Company mining site.
The disaster is the focus of a seminar co-ordinated by UMA which will be held in the Baillieu Library on 29 November 2012. Guest speakers are:
- Geoffrey Blainey, Internationally acclaimed historian and author of The Peaks of Lyell
- Andrew Reeve, Professorial Fellow at Monash University and author of Up from the Underworld: Coalminers and Community in Wonthaggi 1909-1968
- Richard Knight, Mining Engineer and Company Director, researching the question: Did the North Mount Lyell fire lead to disaster?
Each speaker will share their insights into the events surrounding the disaster.
The University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) has recently digitised the Royal Commission into the disaster where 42 men lost their lives. Their names listed on page 830 under the heading ‘List of bodies recovered from North Mt Lyell Mine’ serves as a chilling reminder of the impact of this event on the small community. http://repository.unimelb.edu.au/10187/15818
Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Company commenced operation near Queenstown in 1893. Photographs taken in 1899 by government photographer John Watt Beattie show Tasmania’s wild forested landscape; and the early beginning of the company and its railway. http://repository.unimelb.edu.au/10187/16047
Schultz, P. 2009 History of Queenstown West Coast Tasmania, accessed on 5 October 2012, www.users.on.net/~bilmac/disaster.html
University of Melbourne Archives, Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Ltd, 1974.0067 & 1975.0083
Wikipedia. 2012, Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company accessed on 5 October 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Lyell_Mining_and_Railway_Company
September 7th, 2012
Thomas Bibby Guest arrived in Sydney in 1852. By May 1856 he had established a steam biscuit factory in Melbourne in partnership with John Barnes, trading as Barnes, Guest & Co. The firm began the manufacture of ship and fancy biscuits in a building in William Street and by 1858 the firm reorganised as TB Guest & Co. With continuing expansion of the business, a store was built at the William Street site in 1869. Following a fire, the factory was rebuilt and served as Guest’s factory until 1932 when the business moved to West Melbourne. In 1963 Arnott Guest Pty Ltd was created following a merger with another biscuit company.
Samuel Thomas Gill was commissioned by the architect to paint a representation of the second William Street building. Gill is best known for his lithographs of Victorian gold-diggings, but he was often commissioned by architects as he was capable of embellishing a perspective view of a building. This painting exemplifies his style with its solid architectural depiction and the spirited but somewhat naïve figures, animals and carriages.
While Gill’s artistry depicts the prosperity of the company, the stories found within the company records allow a vastly different insight into the working conditions of female industrial workers and working class conditions in general during the late 19th century.
August 14th, 2012
From the Duke’s and Orr’s Amalgamated Dry Docks Ltd collection, no date, item 1972.0042.0110, unit 59, University of Melbourne Archives
Living in modern times where advanced aviation technology has made travelling overseas and the transport of goods an efficient and relatively effortless process, it is easy to forget that less than a century ago these services were essentially performed by water transport. This mode of transport took a great toll on ships often travelling for months at a time in harsh weather conditions. The University of Melbourne Archives holds the Duke’s and Orr’s Amalgamated Dry Docks Ltd collection, a fascinating record of the engineering, maintenance and repair business of the maritime industry in Melbourne.
Today the old Duke’s and Orr’s graving dock at Clarendon Street, South Wharf houses the famous Melbourne icon, the sailing ship Polly Woodside. The dock shares a rich history in Melbourne’s maritime activity, having docked, cleaned, painted and repaired thousands of ships including those affected by the battles of wartime. It is also of historic significance in the field of engineering due to the fact that its wooden walls remained during reconstruction at the turn of the century, making it the last timber walled dry dock in Australia, and of its size, possibly one of the last in the world. This is said to be in part due to the choice of Australian Eucalypt whose timber is outstanding for strength and durability.
The collection encompasses records dating between the years 1878–1975 consisting of a variety of documents including minutes, accounts, time books, correspondence, share registers and other company related documents. Time books recording employee wages reflect the era’s economy and industry wage standards while correspondence with employees, insurance companies and medical practitioners regarding injury and accident reports provide an interesting historical understanding of work safety practices (or lack of) and protection in the event of workplace injury. Needless to say, there were a lot of slips and spills! In addition correspondence with Melbourne Harbor Trust, Lands Department, Customs Collector, Federal Income and the Tax Department provides details of Melbourne’s port operations. Docking registers, time books and cleaning books all list names of ships docked at Duke’s and Orr’s Graving Yard, linking employees to these jobs at certain dates. Along with the National Trust Library in Victoria, the Duke’s and Orr’s Amalgamated Dry Dock’s Ltd collection also includes a number of copies of published Registers of Australia and New Zealand Shipping.
An assortment of photographs provides a visual record of Duke’s and Orr’s and Melbourne’s maritime activities, depicting staff at work and posing for group shots, the immense size of the ships, impressive engineering machinery and the mammoth task at hand to repair the damaged ships. Visual records of the Yarra Bank serve as a rich insight into the history of Melbourne’s once close proximity between the CBD and its bustling port facilities, some featuring horse and carts along the surrounding roads.
The Duke’s and Orr’s Amalgamated Dry Docks Ltd collection is listed online and searchable via the University of Melbourne Archives catalogue, http://gallery.its.unimelb.edu.au/imu/imu.php?request=load&irn=110337&ecatalogue=on&view=details. Digitising some of the more fragile and significant records is proposed for the future. Duke’s and Orr’s Amalgamated Dry Dock’s Ltd did business with many prominent firms in Melbourne for which the University of Melbourne Archives also holds records, including Huddart Parker, J.B. Were and Son, Stock Exchange, Inglis Smith and Co. and McPhersons Ltd.
July 4th, 2012
The Rialto, detail of third and fourth stories, c.1890, William Pitt, 1977.0115, University of Melbourne Archives
Exhibition: A Wealth of Details, ground floor, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne, 26 July – 12 August, open during library hours. (See http://library.unimelb.edu.au/hours#baillieu_library.)
In partnership with Melbourne Open House and as part of the University of Melbourne’s Cultural Treasures Festival (28-29 July) University of Melbourne Archives has prepared a brochure and exhibition, A Wealth of Details, showing plans, photographs and documents to give further insight into buildings open during the weekend.
May 18th, 2012
The University of Melbourne Archives has recently digitised and made available online a unique collection of recordings of political advertisements from the 1949 federal election campaign. The recordings are from the ‘John Henry Austral’ advertising campaign run by the Liberal Party of Australia in 1948 and 1949. The 13 records comprise 22 episodes including the first five episodes broadcast. These records have undergone conservation treatment (see images above for a before and after shot of the episode ‘Low Down on Communism’) and have been digitised and are available on the University Library’s Digital Repository.
The John Henry Austral program was the centrepiece of the Liberal Party’s public relations campaign in the 1949 federal election. It was created by Solomon (Sim) Rubensohn of the Hansen-Rubensohn advertising firm, written by Percy (Pip) Cogger and the character of Austral was performed by Richard Matthews. The episodes began airing in February 1948 and continued through to the election in December 1949. There were around 200 episodes broadcast on over 80 commercial radio stations throughout Australia. The Liberal Party budgeted £2,300 per month for the broadcasts, making the campaign one of the most expensive in relative terms in Australian history.
The program is regarded as significant in the history of Australian political campaigns because of its centralised structure, its format and its apparent success. Each episode ran for 15 minutes, in the format of a dramatised radio serial. It featured the ‘neighbourly but knowledgeable’ John Henry Austral, who, through dramatisations and dialogues with friends and acquaintances, expounded the Liberal vision for Australia and the perceived failings of the federal Labor government. Many of the episodes focus on the threat of communism and Labor’s apparent weakness in the face of this threat, and its ‘socialist’ leanings. But other issues include high prices and rationing, women’s issues, bank nationalisation and socialisation, education, the role of the British Empire, the activities of youth, the black market and class antagonisms at work.
It is believed that the University of Melbourne Archives holds the only extant copies of the John Henry Austral recordings. There is a complete set of scripts of the program held at the State Library of NSW (call number Q329.2/15-16) and other information in the National Library of Australia’s RG Casey collection (NLA MS 6150). Because the program was dramatised, considerable use was made of accents, and music that are can only be appreciated in the recordings themselves.
Now these gramophone records have been digitised and the episodes available online, modern audiences can now hear and appreciate what is still regarded as a groundbreaking political campaign in Australian politics.
March 29th, 2012
Historian, Honorary Fellow and member of the Archives Advisory Board at the University of Melbourne, Peter Yule recently launched his biography William Laurence Baillieu: Father of Australian Industry (Hardie Grant, 2012) at the Baillieu Library. Much of Peter’s research was carried out at the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA). Some extracts of his speech at the launch of this book give a sense of what he found.
I recall Geoffrey Blainey saying several years ago that the life of WL Baillieu was the great unwritten biography in Australian history. A biography was planned soon after his death in 1936, when his son Clive, the first Lord Baillieu, commissioned preliminary family history research, and work continued after the Second World War with the production of two manuscripts, but they were never published. Strangely, the main reason for the failure of the earlier attempts to write a biography was that there didn’t appear to be enough material to base it on. Before the 1970s virtually none of WL’s letters were available – leading one historian to conclude that he was possibly illiterate. Since that time, however, a vast amount of archival material has become available, largely through the efforts of Darren Baillieu, his son David, the executors of Clive Baillieu’s estate, and Frank Strahan, the founder of the University of Melbourne Archives. There are now literally thousands of WL’s letters in the University Archives and more are held by various family members. Far from being illiterate, WL was an eloquent and creative writer, with a wonderful turn of phrase and a fine sense of humour.
As I researched and wrote this book my appreciation for the extent of WL’s achievements steadily grew. The best brief summary I think is the one by Billy Hughes quoted on the back cover – Billy Hughes, by the way, began as a bitter enemy of WL and accused him of trading with the enemy in the First World War, but came to admire him greatly – Billy Hughes said of WL: ‘He was a dreamer of dreams and, with his genius for constructive enterprise, inexhaustible energy and courage, made them all come true’. No Australian – probably few people anywhere in the world – founded or developed so many new businesses in such a wide range of industries. WL – usually working with one or more of his many close associates – founded or built up many major mining and metals processing companies – most notably the Zinc Corporation (the ancestor of Rio Tinto), North Broken Hill, the lead smelter at Port Pirie, and the zinc works at Hobart; he was the driving force behind manufacturing companies such Metal Manufactures, Dunlop, British Australian Lead Manufacturers (the ancestor of Dulux paints) and APPM, which built the paper mill at Burnie in Tasmania; he and Theodore Fink built the Herald and Weekly Times into Australia’s major media company, and he and Monty Cohen formed Australia’s dominant brewery – Carlton & United. Before 1914 he drove the growth of Melbourne’s major electricity supply company and planned the development of the brown coal deposits of the La Trobe Valley. And there were many more, including, of course, EL&C Baillieu stockbrokers and the Ballieu Allard real estate business which WL started with his brothers. Most people who accumulate large fortunes do it in one industry – think of Frank Lowy in shopping centres, or Rupert Murdoch in media – but WL created successful businesses in many industries. He saw the big picture, planned for the long-term and genuinely saw nation building as a central part of his work. There has never been a business empire in Australia with anything like the breadth or diversity of the Collins House group, and none has made such an important contribution to Australia’s economic development.
Not many of us will be ready to tackle the next great unwritten biography of Australian history, but if you have a research idea of your own, big or small, get in touch with UMA to see how we can help.
March 13th, 2012
A new collection item at University of Melbourne Archives, a letter by Superintendant Francis Augusts Hare, reflects on the demise of the Kelly gang. The letter was penned by Hare on 21 July 1880 from Rupertswood, Sunbury where he recuperated from a shot to the arm inflicted less than a month earlier during the capture of Ned Kelly and the destruction of the Kelly gang at Glenrowan. This letter joins the remarkable correspondence associated with Hare which is now available online, along with other digital collections from the UMA:
This new acquisition was made possible by the University Library Endowment Fund.
March 13th, 2012
A garden design within the Bates Smart Collection of architectural materials has been confirmed as being by renowned designer, Edna Walling.
The watercolour sheet shows the final design for a garden to complement a residence built in Upper Heidelberg Road, Heidelberg in 1927 for Mrs J.J. Woolcock, however the designer of the garden is not identified on any of the plans or drawings. Comparison with several preliminary drawings held at the State Library of Victoria for a garden at this address confirms that the design held at University of Melbourne Archives is by Walling. The final garden plan, with some pencil annotations (possibly by the builder) varies from the drawings at SLV, in that a proposed pool is not shown on the final plan.
University of Melbourne Archives holds another watercolour final design by Walling, for a residence built for Mrs. M.A. Cuming, in Kooyong Rd, Toorak in 1938. This design came from the Cuming family along with business records deposited at UMA. Both designs demonstrate Walling’s characteristic colour palette, and feature favoured plantings and garden elements.
University of Melbourne Archives, Bates Smart McCutcheon collection, 1968.0013 and Cuming Smith & Company Limited 1996.0073
State Library of Victoria, H97.270/102; H97.270/62; H40612/1
March 9th, 2012
Above: A.G.M. Michell, Ronald East collection 1975.0084, box 2, University of Melbourne Archives.
In the 150th year of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, the University of Melbourne Archives has received a significant donation of papers relating to one of the School’s most distinguished graduates, A.G.M. Michell.
Anthony George Michell (1870-1959) studied civil and mining engineering at the University, graduating with first-class honours (BCE 1895, MCE 1899). He is most renowned for his brilliant invention of the tilting pad thrust bearing, which allowed for the development of larger, faster and more powerful ships and is still the standard used in shipping today, over one hundred years later.
The Victoria Branch of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) made the recent donation in recognition of the importance of Michell’s contribution to their profession. The material was in the possession of their member Alan H Taylor OAM, a pre-eminent Australian marine engineer and the first non-British President of the international body since it was established in 1889.
The University of Melbourne Archives was selected as the place of deposit because of the existing Michell collections and because of Michell’s lasting association with the University and Melbourne. This association extends to the creation of the Michell Hydraulic Laboratory and permanent exhibition in the School of Engineering and the awarding of the Michell Prize in Engineering.
The donation consists of a box of correspondence, technical data and original blueprints of thrust and journal bearings. The blueprints are of obvious significance, but the correspondence is the first cache of correspondence from Michell that has been donated to a public archive anywhere in the world, as his papers are widely thought to have been destroyed.
(This extract is from an article first published on the University’s Melbourne School of Engineering 150th anniversary blog and was written by Katie Wood from the Unviersity of Melbourne Archives.)