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.

Records of Stadiums Pty Ltd & the Papers of John (Jack) Lockyer O’Brien

In 2023, a number of graduate students looked at the remarkable collection of hundreds of images of inner-Melbourne taken by John (Jack) Lockyer O’Brien in the 1950s and 60s. A resident of Fitzroy and an historian at the University of Melbourne, O’Brien captured urban life at the point at which it was undergoing major change, before social housing and late 20th century capitalism transformed the neighbourhood. The images prompted the students to ask questions about those very changes, from slum clearance, to the decline and fall of the corner grocer’s store, and the O’Briens’ own efforts to save their 19th century home from the wrecking ball.

Several graduate students also explored the Stadiums Pty Ltd collection which encompasses diverse materials relating to the world of professional boxing, wrestling, and stage performance in Melbourne, Sydney, and Queensland from 1914 into the 1980s. The photographic materials contained in the collection are dominated by images of boxing: both naturalistic snapshots of matches and their participants, and many more figured compositions of individual fighters posing.
Two students became fascinated by the more personalized images of one local hero, while another became intrigued by the female spectators active at fighting matches. Another student followed a different strand of this collection which records the significant role that the ‘Stadiums’ venue, Festival Hall, played in hosting the visits of African-American entertainers in Melbourne.

2023 posts:

Fighting as a Family and the Upward Reach of an Underdog

Social and Urban Renewal – Melbourne’s Hidden Slum History

The “Brawny Farmer from Dubbo” turned International Boxer

“Watching the Gladiators”: Feminine Fandom in Mid-Century Melbourne

Shifting Racial Attitudes Through Music: African American Performers at West Melbourne Stadium

Shuttered Histories: The Odyssey of John O’Brien’s Hanover St Residence

The Downfall of the Urban Grocer

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.

2021 posts:

The Fairy Story That Came True: A Tale of Petrol

The Shell Touring Service – Hidden Indigenous Connections

The Many Facets of Ephemera

The Branding Pearl Contained in Shell’s Logo

Shell and Ferrari (Omeka website)

Marvin the Mobot and Shell: robotics history and oil exploration

Discover Australia with Shell: Marketing and Materiality

Australia Discovered with Australian Wildflowers

Discovering the work of Malcom Warner through Shell’s Historical Archive

Pre-2020 blog posts

The Commercial Travellers Association: Plotting an Image of Australia

‘Daub’ 1947, 1948 and 1949: The Magazine Produced by Students of the National Gallery of Art School

The Raymond Priestley diaries

The Frank Tate diaries

Una Porter photograph album

The Una Fraser collection

The Trades Hall Poster collection

The Overland Letter

Aunt Mavis’ Basket Maker: Germaine Greer’s CUNT index cards

First industry steps for those who feed us: The Master Caterers Association