Hey, Hey it’s The Monkees!

A visitor experience of the Baillieu Library’s Monkeemania in Australia exhibition

Monkeemania exhibition
Monkeemania exhibition, ground floor, Baillieu Library

Upon entering the Baillieu Library, one is met with two retro televisions from the 1960s, which are playing footage of important global events from 1968. To the left of the ground floor entrance are four rotating displays showcasing puppets of Monkees band members: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork. These puppets were made by master’s students taking the elective subject Popular Architecture and Design. Dr Groves notes in his accompanying exhibition booklet, that the puppets represent the belief that The Monkees were an artificial band, having been formed inorganically through a third party for the purpose of a TV show. There is also a timeline of notable dates during 1968 which are found at the southern end of the ground floor. Instantly evident is the turbulence of the times, with events such as the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King and the American involvement in the Vietnam War coinciding with the year of The Monkees’ tour Down Under. The third floor of the Baillieu library completes the exhibition, with a display of a girl’s bedroom from 1968, furnished with Monkees memorabilia including posters, vinyl record cases, magazines, and stuffed toys. There is also another retro television.

Monkeemania exhibition
Monkeemania exhibition, third floor, Baillieu Library

The use of student work as part of the exhibition is a great way to ensure student engagement with subject material. Furthermore, it presents an insight into what students are learning as part of their studies. This makes the exhibition relatable to the library’s visitors including other students, staff, academics and the general public. The focus on popular culture is a positive way to interest young people in cultural materials, and bring to them directly to the student body through the bright, rotating displays and multimedia. One further strength of the exhibition is the unique opportunity it has provided students to contribute and be a part of an exhibition, something that may prove to be valuable experience in later life.

The layout of the exhibition, spread out on the ground floor, and featuring a cabinet on the third floor of the library, ensures it is visible to a large number of visitors, but without the sometimes intimidating or overwhelming nature of an entire gallery. Visitors can choose to observe only one cabinet, or proceed to the others at their own leisure. Moreover, the absence of text-heavy displays, with the exception of the timeline, makes the exhibition visitor-friendly.

Overall, Monkeemania in Australia is a fun, vibrant, and unpretentious exhibition. Its presentation and unique student-involved contribution makes it relevant to University of Melbourne staff and students, which might in time, lend itself to introducing a new generation of fans to The Monkees.

Monkeemania in Australia will be on display until January 31, 2019. A series of monthly public talks by curator Dr Derham Groves will supplement the exhibition, occurring on Wednesdays 12-1pm in the Dulcie Hollyock room, ground level of the Baillieu library. The lecture titles and dates are presented below:

Wednesday 8 August
Monkeemania in Australia

Wednesday 5 September
The Monkees on television

Wednesday 3 October
Monkees music

Wednesday 7 November
1968: The year of the Monkees

Wednesday 28 November
The Movie, Head (1968)

To register for the public talks, please visit the following link.

Anastasia Vassiliadis

Special Collections & Grainger Museum Blogger

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