University of Melbourne Archives

International Women’s Day 2019

First group of female science students; Ada Lambert, Georgina Sweet and Leonora Little. Photograph of science students and staff, 1894. University of Melbourne Photograph Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2017.0071.00668

In December 1883 Bella Guerin became the first female student to graduate the University of Melbourne. Women had been granted the same right to tertiary education as their male counterparts in 1880, however it would not be until 1913 that women were afforded the right to participate in University government as their fellow graduates. Despite the steady increase of women’s participation in all areas of university life, representation in academia and governance had to wait until 1936 for Dr Georgina Sweet, the University’s first female associate-professor, to be the first women elected to the University Council.

Professor Priscilla Kincaid Smith, undated, University of Melbourne Media and Publications Services Collection, 2003.0003, University of Melbourne Archives BWP/17,784

It was not until 1975, that Priscilla Kincaid-Smith was appointed to a Personal chair; the first female professor at the University. Kincaid-Smith was a Professor of Medicine until 1991, during which time two more women were appointed Chairs, Margaret Manion (Fine Arts, 1979-1995) and Nancy Millis (Microbiology, 1982-1987). Manion was also the first woman to chair the University’s Academic Board in 1987.

1980 saw Margaret Blackwood becoming the first Deputy Chancellor (see her entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography  and in 2001 Fay Marles was installed as Chancellor. Further information on Marles’ life of milestones (including first female pilot for Ansett) can be found in her biography “Aiming for the Skies”.

Fay Marles with her graduating daughter, undated, University of Melbourne Media and Publications Services Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, BWP/16,170


Much can be found about women’s early student life, with a fantastic overview in our Keys to the Past resource, as well as the 1985 publication ‘Degrees of liberation : a short history of women in the University of Melbourne’ by Farley Kelley and Juliet Flesch’s ’40 years/40 women: biographies of University of Melbourne women’ (2015). Further reading about women at the University of Melbourne can be found on UMA’s subject guide Women in the Archives


Professor Nancy Millis with students, undated, University of Melbourne Media and Publications Services Collection, 2003.0003, University of Melbourne Archives, BWP/16,209


Dame Margaret Blackwood, 17 July 1981. University of Melbourne Media and Publications Services Collection, 2003.0003, University of Melbourne Archives, BWP/21,215


Professor Margaret Manion, undated, University of Melbourne Media and Publications Services Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2003.0003.00140

After the Armistice: Longing for the Sunshine

Kelly Lenehan
“Never in my life have I seen such a real demonstration of joy. People were dancing and singing, bands were playing and the gloom that had hung over the world for over four years had completely gone. I felt glad that I had lived to see the day, and it was a sight worth three and a half years of one’s life to see.”[1]

Ray, Dorothy, Vic, and Rosie. London 1919
Figure 1: Ray, Dorothy, Vic, and Rosie. London 1919. UMA Ray Jones Collection Unit 1981.0081.00275

Continue reading “After the Armistice: Longing for the Sunshine”

Soldier Tourism in the Ray Jones Collection

Meghan Conrick

Ray Jones, 1918
Ray Jones, 1918. University of Melbourne Archives, Ray Jones collection, 1981.0081.00004

Over the last century the First World War has fascinated Australians and this interest continues to breathe new life into the personal collections of soldiers of the war. These collections attest to the personal experience of warfare in lands far away from home – of the monotony of soldier life, the exhilaration and terror of battle, as well as the excitement at the prospect of travel offered by military service. The Ray Jones collection allows us not only to explore the war through a personal and intimate lens but lends itself to a consideration of the broader trend of travel enthusiasm that took hold of many Australian service personnel in the First World War. Continue reading “Soldier Tourism in the Ray Jones Collection”

The Raymond Priestley diaries

Raymond Priestley was a significant figure across a number of fields. He was born on 20 July 1886 in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, England. Educated at Tewkesbury Grammar School, where his father was headmaster, Priestley went on to read geology at University College, Bristol (1905-1907). Before the completion of his degree, he was invited to serve as a geologist working in association with Edgeworth David upon the British Antarctica ‘Nimrod’ Expedition (1907-1909) led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.  Continue reading “The Raymond Priestley diaries”

More than a “Degree Shop”


Despite his short period (1935-38) in Melbourne, Sir Raymond Priestley made significant reforms at the University of Melbourne. As the first salaried Vice-Chancellor, his boldness and visionary ideas completely changed the direction of the University during the tumultuous years of the 1930s and established his prominence as the country’s most charismatic, enigmatic, and invigorating educationist. Many stories and achievements shine through his diaries.

Sir Raymond Edward Priestley, 1938
Sir Raymond Edward Priestley, 1938. University of Melbourne Archives Photographs, 2017.0071.00694

Continue reading “More than a “Degree Shop””

Diary Entry Dated February 3rd, 1935

Christopher Orrell

Raymond Priestley's Australian diary, 1935
Raymond Priestley’s Australian diary, 1935. Raymond Priestley collection, 1973.0079.00002

To some a diary may serve as a memory aid, or as a place to collect their innermost thoughts. To others it may function as a type of autobiography, written for an audience with the intention of future publication. Raymond Priestley’s diary is of this latter type. It records the daily happenings of Priestley’s life but they carry the conviction that they will at some time be presented to future readers. Indeed, the diaries were eventually edited and published as The Diary of a Vice-Chancellor.[1] Continue reading “Diary Entry Dated February 3rd, 1935”

An Antarctic joke and the journey to Australia

Alice Margrison

Raymond Priestley's Australian diary, 1935
Raymond Priestley’s Australian diary, 1935. Raymond Priestley collection, 1973.0079.00002

Antarctic explorer and University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Raymond Priestley (1886-1974) kept a meticulous diary detailing his daily activities. This entry comes from the first volume of his “Australian diary” (item no. 1973.0079.00002), covering his activities on Wednesday January 30, 1935. The diary is typewritten, on one side of each page. It appears that Priestly added his own page numbers in handwriting in the top right-hand corner of each page. He also seems have been having trouble with his typewriter, as words have been corrected by hand, with blue ink, replacing letters skipped by the typewriter or cropped by the pages’ edges. Continue reading “An Antarctic joke and the journey to Australia”

Impoverished Artists

Laurence Marvin S. Castillo

The Daub art magazines produced by the students of the National Gallery Art School offer glimpses into the practices of art pedagogy in mid-twentieth century Australia. The magazines feature essays, short stories, poetry and drawings by students that critically and creatively index the contours of, and contradictions in, the learning institution as a cultural field.

The 1948 issue is particularly revealing of how art was viewed and located in the socio-economic grid of industrialisation after the second World War and it registers student concerns about the apparent subordination of the arts in Victoria’s pedagogical ambitions.

Excerpt from “What Then?” Daub 1948
Figure 1. Excerpt from “What Then?” Daub 1948. Lucy Kerley collection, 2007.0060.00151

Lucy Kerley’s article, “What Then?,” for instance, lamented the inadequacy of cultural training in the art school. While most students content themselves with skills-based training, Kerley believed that it was also important to pursue a theoretical and discursive intellectual trajectory that would acquaint students with topics like the history of art. She went on to suggest that such gaps stemmed from the lack of state support. Continue reading “Impoverished Artists”

Vicarious communist: a reflection on the empathetic archivist

Adapted from a presentation given at the symposium ‘Bernie Taft and 1968: Tanks in Prague, Turmoil in Australian Universities’, Friday 24th August 2018 by Jane Beattie, Assistant Archivist, University of Melbourne.

Black and white flyer of an event called Wednesday Night at the CPA. The flyer features cartoon sketches of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx
Wednesday Night at the CPA, flyer, c.1975-1981, Bernie Taft Collection, UMA, 2010.0053.00537


To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 2016, I wrote a blog post about Lloyd Edmonds. Lloyd’s family donated his letters, written mostly to his father, from the battlegrounds in Spain. Lloyd was studying in London when Franco invaded and felt so strongly in the Republican cause, and that Spain should not fall to fascism, that he joined the International brigade, along with 64 other Australians volunteering in Spain. Soon after this anniversary, the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) ran a tutorial for a Hispanic Cultural Studies class, introducing students to the Archives using Lloyd’s letters and other material held at UMA about the war. Continue reading “Vicarious communist: a reflection on the empathetic archivist”

“Well, well! What an unenviable job judging must be!” — dissenting reports from the 1947 Travelling Scholarship and Art School Prizes

Mihai Bacaran   

The Judges’ Report in the 1948 issue of DAUB —  consists of two conflicting assessments of the work submitted by students for the Travelling Scholarship and the National Gallery Art School Prizes for 1947.[1] Three of the judges: Douglas Dundas, Eric Thake and the then director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Daryl Lindsay, sign a report that praises the welcomed diversification of techniques, a trend that encourages “a freer expression of thought in all mediums.” The fourth judge, Alice M. E. Bale, the only woman in the judging panel, concludes in a dissenting report that: “the experimentalizing commended by the other judges is premature,” and recommends that the students should first gain “a sound knowledge of natural appearances and the ability to render them.” This dispute is representative of a larger antagonism between the modern and traditional ways of painting, and their respective supporters which extends beyond the doors of the Art School, to the status of modern art in mid-century Melbourne in collecting institutions, the university and the wider public sphere. Such is the controversy, that the results of the competition generate articles in Melbourne newspapers, for example “Modernist” Picture Wins £900  (The Argus, Melbourne, Vic.: Fri 19 Dec 1947, Page 3) and Problem in Art Awards (The Argus, Melbourne, Vic.: Sat 20 Dec 1947, Page 43).

Page 30 from DAUB 1948
Page 30 from DAUB 1948. Lucy Kerley/National Gallery School Collection, 2007.0060.00151

Continue reading ““Well, well! What an unenviable job judging must be!” — dissenting reports from the 1947 Travelling Scholarship and Art School Prizes”

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