Wilson Hall – An Integral Part of the University

‘Wilson Hall has been an integral part of the University of Melbourne landscape since the first building to bear this name was completed in 1882. Built for the purpose of providing a venue for examinations, conferring of degrees and grand ceremonial occasions, the Hall has been at the very centre of University life for generations of students and staff. The original Hall’s destruction by fire in 1952 and subsequent rebirth in modern form remains one of the more significant events in the history of the University.’ From ‘The art of Wilson Hall’ by Emily Wubben and Jason Benjamin, University of Melbourne Collections, issue 7, December 2010.

This image of the first Wilson Hall, a hand-coloured wood engraving by an unknown artist, was published in The Illustrated London News on 31 May 1879  (reg. no. 2010.0001, Baillieu Library Print Collection).

Wilson Hall was named for Sir Samuel Wilson (1832-1895), a pastoralist from western Victoria, who was also a politician with an interest in higher education. In 1874 he donated ₤30,000 to the University which paid for the hall, and though the original gothic hall was destroyed by fire, the modernist building that replaced it and that we enjoy today retained his name.

Hidden Treasures of the Orient

Along with these colourful magazines from the 1930s, the Chinese rare material includes 7000 publications dating from the 1600s to 1935, as well as scrolls of painting and calligraphy and diaries from the Cultural Revolution period. The Japanese rare collections contain books about history, art, architecture and language learning, and unusual items such as pamphlets and booklets advising the population on how to prepare for the American air raids in World War II. For information and access see www.unimelb.edu.au/culturalcollections/collections/eastasian.html#eastasian.

Pictured: Arts & Life, no. 39, K. & K. Printing Co., June 1937, East Asian Collection, University of Melbourne.

Percy and His Museum

The University’s Grainger Museum holds more than 100,000 archives and artefacts. Newly refurbished, the Museum is open to the public and is well worth visiting for a look into the highly creative, eclectic and unusual life of the Australian-born composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882-1961). For opening times and more information see www.grainger.unimelb.edu.au.

Excitingly, this year’s City of London Festival, which is on this week, features an exhibition, lectures and a performance relating to Percy Grainger as a composer and musician. The exhibition focuses on the time that Percy lived in London in the early 20th century, and shows how significant he was in the social and artistic life of the city. For all of the details see www.colf.org/whats-on.cfm.

Above: Lee McRae, photographer, Interior of the Grainger Museum showing the towelling outfit made by Percy Grainger, c.1934, out of a bath mat and towels, 2010, Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne; above right: Aimé Dupont, photographer, Cordially Yrs Percy Grainger, 1917, Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne.

The First Female Medicine Students Enrolled in 1887

Although women were finally admitted to the University of Melbourne in 1879, they were not permitted to study medicine until 1887. The women pictured were the first to be admitted to study medicine; they are, seated from left to right, Clara Stone, Margaret Whyte, Grace Vale, Elizabeth (or Annie) O’Hara, and standing from left to right, Helen Sexton, Lillian Alexander, Annie (or Elizabeth) O’Hara. In 2011, slightly more than half of the students at the Melbourne Medical School, due to celebrate 150 years in 2012, are women. Many more of these fascinating glimpses into history can be viewed at the University of Melbourne Archives image catalogue. See http://buffy.lib.unimelb.edu.au/cgi-bin/mua-search

Above: Women medical students, University of Melbourne, 1887, photographer unknown, University of Melbourne Archives (UMA/I/2003).

Book Lover, George McArthur, and His Bequest to the University

George McArthur (1842-1903) was born in Scotland and immigrated to Victoria with his family in 1852, moving to Maldon two years later at the height of the Gold Rush. Bookish from an early age and later a  keen traveller, he collected widely, including early printed books, religious texts and Scottish poetry, as well as material from Australia’s early colonial times such as newspapers, handbills, miner’s licences and artefacts.

Being friendly with, and impressed by one John Walter Gregory, Professor of Geology at the University of Melbourne, McArthur decided to leave his book collection to the University. His bequest, which at the time in 1903, represented nearly ten percent of the Library’s total book stock, later became the basis for the Library’s Special Collections. An exhibition, ‘The Baker of Maldon’, commemorating 100 years since this significant bequest, was held in 2003. The catalogue essay describing McArthur’s interesting life can be read in the Special Collections reading room, 3rd floor, Baillieu Library. See http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/search/t?SEARCH=baker+of+Maldon.

Pictured: Title page of Sir Walter Raleigh, History of the World, London: Printed for Walter Burre, 1614. From the George McArthur Bequest, 1903. Special Collections, University of Melbourne Library.

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