Digital Humanities MULT900056
Each year, students from the graduate course Digital Humanities MULT900056 produce blog posts based on various digitised University of Melbourne Archives collections.
Shell Historical Archive
In 2021, students focused on the 800-plus photographs, ephemera and advertisements from Shell Historical Archive that are available on the University of Melbourne Archives digitised item catalogue.
The Shell Historical Archive was, for many, a surprising source of esoteric threads of social history from children’s fairy stories to the development of airmail to robotics. The historical motivation for the company was, of course, selling their various petroleum-based products. Shell was an early adopter of modern advertising techniques including targeting children. They championed a vision of a white Australia prosperous enough to undertake holiday road trips in the family car. Some background on the collection and its documentation of Australian car culture can be found in the Everybody Loves a Roadtrip online exhibition.
Commercial Travellers’ Association
In 2020 the students focused on the Australia Today photographs from the Commercial Travellers Association (CTA) collection, 1979.0162. The 1,000-plus photographs were commissioned for the publication as a means of attracting (mostly British) immigrants to the country, in theory boosting the size of the customer base for the travelling salespeople represented by the CTA. For more general information about the collection, see this Pursuit article.
As university students caught in a long lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the photographs represented an opportunity to escape across Australia. The broad range of themes and research practices represented in the assembled blog posts demonstrate the versatility of a single set of material within UMA’s vast collection. They also show the creativity that UMA’s collections can inspire when used in university subjects.