Margaret Kiddle and Us

As archivists we “discover” many unexpected things in the collections we process. It is rare to unexpectedly discover ourselves, though. In 2021-2022 as the Miegunyah Archivist working on the papers of prominent University of Melbourne figures, I did just that: records revealing my own brief acquaintance with University of Melbourne historian Margaret Kiddle.

Margaret Kiddle (1914-1958) was an historian and one of the early female academics at the University of Melbourne. In 1946 Kiddle became a tutor (later senior tutor) in the Department of History. She stayed there for the rest of her life, apart from a year (1952) spent document-hunting for Australian historical records in Britain[1] and another (1954) working as a research fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. Her publications included Caroline Chisholm (1950), three books for children Moonbeam Stairs (1945), West of Sunset (1949) and The Candle (1950), and Men of Yesterday, A Social History of the Western District of Victoria 1834-1890.


Sepia photo of two women in period dress holding handbags in front of building.

Image: Margaret Kiddle (on right) with her sister Elizabeth outside Blenheim Palace during record hunting trip 1952. (2008.0047.00004. Elizabeth Bush Scrapbook)

 UMA holds five collections of Kiddle papers: 1964.0002; 1988.0162 (volumes from Kiddle’s library); 1992.0042; 1996.0039; 2008.0047, all of which were reprocessed in the course of the Miegunyah Project. This project, funded by the Miegunyah Fund, has improved the discoverability of over 30 prominent university figures.

A correspondence file in the Margaret Kiddle Collection originally concisely tiled “Philip”, proved on inspection to be an extensive series of letters between my father Philip Brown (1904-1996) and Margaret Kiddle.[2] As a fellow historian of the Western District, Victoria and the editor of the Clyde Company Papers and The Narrative of George Russell, my father shared with Kiddle an encyclopaedic knowledge of the families and properties significant in Western District white settlement.

Always a generous scholar, the letters show my father’s willingness to share his research and knowledge with Kiddle, particularly as she worked on her magnum opus, a “social history” of the Western District of Victoria. Their correspondence began in 1949 and continued to just before her untimely death in 1958, by which time “Miss Kiddle” had become “Dearest Margaret”. [3]

Letters reveal Kiddle stayed at our farm outside Geelong at least once. My older brother recalls an elegant russet haired lady with a beneficent smile, who greeted him with a hug and warmly indulged a small boy’s intense interest in her green Morris Oxford car.

Maybe she also took a shine to the youngest child, a sturdy little girl in gumboots, stumping across the paddocks – a me I recall only from photographs – as I tunelessly intoned my mosquito song which Dad transcribed (embellished I expect) in a letter to Kiddle:

“Skeeto, Skeeto aren’t you bad!…

And the Skeeto said –

“I bounce on your arm,

And I make a little hole,

And I suck your blood,

And I make an itchy bump,

And then I fly away…” [4]

Our father’s elegant script on the “Allanvale, Leopold, Phone 14” letterhead, interleaved with typescript bashed out on his trusty journalist’s Remington, evoke wisps of memory from my early childhood. They take me back to family lore that this was our family’s golden age, a period when Dad was able to be both a farmer and an historian before factors, inexplicable to a young child, moved us into the city.

Man and child on tractor in front of large tree behind fence.

Image: The writer and her father Philip Brown, Allanvale, Leopold

The “Philip” file also houses one letter from my mother, Jean Howatson Brown (1914-2003), a voice almost absent in the public record. “Jymsie” writes to Margaret that she is “going up to town” the next day to see “Separate Tables”, and, showing the interconnected circles of many Victorian families at that time, that she “…shall also be seeing my stepmother about the flat that may interest your sister.” [5] This would have been one of the spacious flats at “Denby Dale”, the Tudor-style apartment block in Glenferrie Road, Kooyong built in 1938, in which our widowed “Grannie” resided.

Sepia toned photo of a woman in blaxer staring directly at the camera.

Image: Margaret Kiddle, photograph by Jack Cato, 1946, University of Melbourne Archives, 1964.0002.00155

Margaret Kiddle’s death on 3 May 1958 from a lifelong congenital kidney disease cut short her work. Her completed manuscript, finished the week before she died and still untitled, was posthumously published. The editing and eventual publication of Men of Yesterday: A Social History of the Western District 1834-1890 by Melbourne University Press in July 1961 was stewarded by her colleagues, notably Professors John La Nauze and Max Crawford. Aware of her impending death Kiddle penned a letter a month before she died stating her wishes for the revision of her book and ending with the blacky humorous comment that “This book has been finished in dramatic circumstances – for publicity purposes cash in on them as much as you like…! [6] Kiddle willed the royalties from Men of Yesterday to the History School and The Margaret Kiddle Prize is awarded annually for the best final honours thesis in History.

Correspondence and extensive files of drafts and revisions show additional input from other historians, including Noel Butlin, Geoffrey Serle, Manning Clark, Russel Ward, anthropologist Bill Stanner, my father Philip Brown, who contributed to the biographical index and sourcing of illustrations, and many others, all of whom provided “critical comment and corrections”. Their work over the three years prior to publication does raise the question of what changes were made to Kiddle’s text after her death. [7]

It is not possible now to consider the history of the Victorian Western District without acknowledging the terrible price paid by Aboriginal inhabitants as the unceded lands were settled. And I can’t help but wonder how Kiddle and my father, two historians of similar age and background, would have treated this within their research areas now.

Primary source records were of key importance to both researchers, but pastoralists’ letters, diaries and station records hid much from posterity; the dominant narratives they read and edited were those of “advancement”, not dispossession. There was awareness by my father, but a view which from today’s perspective seems informed by a kind of historical determinism. In comments to Kiddle on her draft Chapter 6 “Morality” he noted that “Their impact on the balance of native life [was] not appreciated by the settlers” and “I think that we agree on the inevitability of what happened, and can both bear witness to the helpless unwillingness with which so many settlers saw it happen and contributed to the process.” [8]

Other historians were more overt in their embrace of the dominance of colonial history, the rationale appearing to be for some that Kiddle’s book was intended to be a “social history”. Advising on Chapter 1, John La Nauze commented to Kiddle, “I think you want some beaut quotation of a pioneer coming on the land – Mitchell or a pioneer settler – at the v. beginning…The whole point of the book is the white man in the land.” [9]

In addition to being a comprehensive research collection of primary sources, the Kiddle papers can provide insights into the historiography of the mid twentieth century, relationships between historians, the position of female academics, and the process of research, writing and editing.

And for me they have provided the unexpected personal pleasure of finding myself and my loved ones “in the records”.

Sarah Brown

Miegunyah Archivist (2022)

[1] Typescript “Diary Letters” (originals) by Margaret Kiddle contain detailed descriptions of the “Record hunting” trip, in England, Scotland, Ireland, and travelling in the continent and Scandinavia, often driving herself and her travelling companions, who included her sister Elizabeth Bush, in her Morris Minor car referred to as “Minor”. The UK leg included trying to locate the lost portrait of Caroline Chisholm in Ireland and researching families who had emigrated to the Western District. (2008.0047.00002)

[2] 1964.002.00016 Philip Brown. Passim. The “other half” of this correspondence i.e., Margaret Kiddle’s letters to Philip Brown are held at the Geelong Heritage Centre Archives GRS 2070 – P.L. Brown Manuscript Collection. The P.L. Brown Collection contains many additional records relating to Kiddle’s research and writing.

[3] 1964.0002.128. Original criticisms and notes by friends: MK, March 1957. Kiddle notes “Philip Brown’s comments on plan of book and written chapters. See also his voluminously informative letters in special file (devoted to him) bookcase shelves”

[4] 1964.0002.00016. Philip Brown: Philip Brown/MK, 27 September 1955

[5] 1964.0002.00127. Critical notes on chapters [Margaret Kiddle]: MK, 5 April 1958

[6] 1964.0002.00127. Critical notes on chapters [Margaret Kiddle]: MK, 5 April 1958

[7] 1964.0002.00126. Critical notes on chapters. Passim. See also extensive drafts

[8] 1964.0002.00128. Original criticisms and notes by friends: Philip Brown/MK, 8 June 1954

[9] 1964.0002.00126. Critical notes on chapters: JLN in response to Bill Stanner comments and MK comments, undated

Interview with Madeline Roycroft on the Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre Archive

Madeline Roycroft is working as a Research Assistant in the Louise Hanson-Dyer collection, which sits within our Rare Music collection. Madeline is also currently a Grainger Teaching Fellow, coordinates Context, a music research journal at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and has just submitted her PhD thesis on the reception of the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich in twentieth-century France. Recently, I sat down with Madeline to learn more about her work in Archives and Special Collections.

What is the project you are currently working on in the Rare Music collection?

 I’m using the Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre Archive, housed in the Rare Music collection, to build a database on the professional network of Louise Hanson-Dyer. Hanson-Dyer was an Australian patron of the arts who established her own publishing press (Les Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre) in Paris in 1932. The label initially specialised in producing fine editions of early and baroque music that had never previously been published, but Hanson-Dyer also published the music of contemporary composers, and from 1938 she employed many musicians from around Europe to record the music she published.

The database I am working on documents not only who worked on each publication and when, but also the relationships between people who worked on each publication. For example, for a sound recording featuring three musicians, I have recorded collaborations between Person 1 and Person 2, Person 1 and Person 3, and Person 2 and Person 3, as well as relationships between Hanson-Dyer and each musician (as she engaged each of them to record on her label), and so on. The database at present has over 600 publications and roughly 2,200 relationships! The next step is to collaborate again with the Melbourne Data Analytics Platform (they helped us with the original set-up of the project) to turn this metadata into an interactive map of Hanson-Dyer’s professional network, which may be useful for researchers working across a variety of areas, such as twentieth-century music composition and publishing, patronage, women in the arts, early recordings, etc.


78 inch record in brown paper sleeve.
’78 rpm vinyl, Les Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre, Rare Music Collection

What would you like people to know about Louise Hanson-Dyer, that you’ve discovered in your time on this project?

Hanson-Dyer is sometimes viewed only as a patron of the arts, which does not account for the work she put into the operations of Les Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre. Hanson-Dyer was not only a source of funds for artists: she was a businesswoman and music publisher with a keen eye for talent and detail. She basically controlled everything, and engaged the best musicologists, performers, sound technicians, engravers, bookbinders and printers to assist with her publishing and recording endeavours. Hanson-Dyer also wanted her publications to serve a timeless aesthetic purpose as well as a musical one: the 12-volume Couperin set, for example, features a striking Art Deco cover design by Rose Adler; the Polyphonies du XIIIe siècle were published with covers made of fine Australian blackwood; while the labels of the 78s feature gold foil against Hanson-Dyer’s favourite shade of purple.

When you are not working at ASC, what other projects are you working on?

I have very recently submitted the project that has kept me busy for the last six years – my PhD thesis! I looked at the reception of the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich in twentieth-century France, which involved translating and analysing hundreds of press sources that discussed Shostakovich’s music between 1930 and 2000. I found that the attitudes of French critics towards Shostakovich tended to evolve in line with the shifting relations between France and the Soviet Union, and also documented how his music was championed by the French Communist Party, particularly in the 1930s and ’40s but also at the time of the Soviet Union’s restructuring in 1989. While I await the examiner reports, I have been editing articles for the new issue of Context, the music research journal I coordinate at the MCM, as well as beginning a proposal for the book I hope to publish based on the material in my thesis.

What current musicians, composers and labels are you excited about in the Australian or international music scene?

This isn’t exactly current but I am excited to play oboe in the orchestra for Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Bendigo next year. It will be the first time that this cycle (of four operas) has been performed in regional Australia, so that’s something special for musical life in Australia in 2023.

Beyond the world of classical music, one of my favourite artists Stromae released a new album earlier this year (after a long hiatus) and I’m still obsessed with it. Stromae is a Belgian artist known mainly for rap and Europop, but the new album borrows instruments and rhythms from diverse musical traditions yet the lyrics cover profound and personal subjects – it’s both very moving and very cool. I will be in Europe during some of his tour in 2023 so I’m hoping I can see a live show.

About the Collection:

In 2013, the Monaco-based music publisher Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre (Lyrebird Press), established by Louise Hanson-Dyer in 1932, closed and its archive arrived at the University. It includes business records and correspondence, including letters from leading composers, artists and writers. There are also personal papers, Louise Hanson-Dyer’s memorabilia, her own library and some artworks. The archive features a “President’s Collection” (previously shelved together in Monaco) comprising one copy of almost every one of the Press’s print publications; a substantial collection of other music manuscript scores, many in the composer’s hand; and printed scores and performance parts. There are also 78 and 33 1/3 rpm audio recordings, publication proofs and press clippings. The Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre archive promises significant new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most important music publishing houses and is an important resource for researchers. You can learn more about the collection here.


Chelsea Harris

Coordinator, Communications and Engagement


Who are these performers and why are they in costume? “Wolfie” to the rescue!

Problem solving was an incidental and unexpected benefit of using our new Wolfvision visualiser last week. Known affectionately as “Wolfie”, it allows objects from Archives and Special Collections to be viewed by students learning wholly online, or through blended learning. It also has great potential in assisting overseas or interstate researchers to view items in our collection on request, assisted by a staff member.

Seated man and woman dressed in theatrical costumes gaze directly at the camera in a sepia toned image.

Rosa Pinkerton and ?

A recent class on researching music in Australia using archival resources from the Rare Music collection included a mystery: an undated photograph of two young people in costume. Rosa Pinkerton’s signature was clear to read, but the name of the man to her left was not—Victor who? The photograph is undated, so was this from before or after Pinkerton finished studying at the Melbourne Conservatorium in 1923? Perhaps she was already in England and working for the Carl Rosa Opera company?

Photo of large machine with photo lying on book pillow surrounded by screens

Close up of signature

Signature magnified on the Wolfvision machine.

The Wolfvision machine includes a facility for impressive magnification which resolved Victor’s untidy pen strokes into his family name Baxter. And at high levels of magnification, enough of the photographic studio’s blind embossing could be seen to tell us that the image was taken in Melbourne. After that, the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music’s Prospectus for 1924, which records reliable details of the student concerts of the previous year, allowed us to come up with a working theory! Pinkerton and Baxter were on the program of a concert given in June 1923, comprising excerpts from four operas. Our two singers had the lead roles in Wagner’s Lohengrin. As their costumes are medieval in style—and other “Scenes from Opera” concerts were given in costume—it seems that the mystery is, most likely, solved!

Image from book with list of names and parts played in theatrical production

1924 Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Prospectus


Turns out it’s all in the name: wolves do have much better vision than humans!

Read more about the performance at:

“MUSIC.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.: 1864 – 1946) 16 June 1923: 29.


Dr Jen Hill,

Curator, Music

Archives and Special Collections, Student and Scholarly Services



[Photographic portraits of Rosa Pinkerton] (The catalogue record has now been updated to include Victor’s name)

The University Conservatorium of MusicProspectus, 1924 (Carlton, 1924), p. 54.



Bikes, basketballs and books: sport at the University of Melbourne

Image: Melbourne University Intervarsity Hockey Team, Hobart, August 1929, University of Melbourne Archives, 1983.0005.00017.

For many students, participation in sport is an important part of their University of Melbourne education. As social engagement and as a way of supporting their physical and mental health, sport adds an extra dimension to academic life. Interfaculty and inter university competitions in sports like tennis, cricket, lacrosse and athletics continue to add richness to campus life. Records of this aspect of university life are held at UMA and encompass a range of formats, including a large collection of photographs and artefacts.

Key series in the Melbourne University Sports Union collection include minutes of the Sports Union Council from its establishment in 1904, membership registers from the early 20th century and annual reports and yearbooks dating from 1905. The yearbooks are a detailed source of the activities of the Union and its affiliated clubs. Records documenting various University sporting clubs can be found throughout the collection, as well as separate sporting club collections held at the UMA. Collection material from the 1950s and 1960s also record details of the efforts involved to ensure expansion of the University sporting facilities, culminating in the building of the Beaurepaire Centre, initiatives such as the Franz Stampfl coaching clinics, and the Sports Union’s relationship with other university sporting organisations such as the Australian Universities’ Sports Association.

In addition to organisational records dating from its establishment in 1904, the collection includes photographs and items of ephemera donated by members over many years, some reaching back into the 19th century. Amongst photographs dating from the 1880s, are scrolls, scrapbooks, pennants and silver cups, and an oilcloth which records ‘The University of Melbourne Recreation Reserve Rules November 1940’ – ‘gambling not allowed’. The Melbourne University Sports Union collection offers access to the history of a University organisation, and is also a source through which to investigate sport in society and the passion sportspeople hold for their particular sporting pursuits.

In the early 2000s Dr June Senyard published “The Ties That Bind: a history of sport at the University of Melbourne”. The research material used in this publication is held within the MUSU collection.

Adapted from original article written by Sarah Brown which appeared in UMA Bulletin issue 15, 2004

An unexpected discovery: Peeling back the layers in the Old Quad

During the refurbishment of Old Quadrangle’s North Annex from 2017 to 2019, the architecture of the original library was revealed along with two pieces of linoleum flooring (‘lino’). The Old Quadrangle (Quad) is the first building on the University’s Parkville campus, constructed from 1854 -1857, and consists of three wings and an annex forming the core of the present campus. Far from its presentation as an unchanging stone edifice, the Old Quad is architecturally significant. It is not only a vivid presentation of the University’s close link with British universities in the mid-nineteenth century, but also socially as it accommodated and nurtured social and intellectual interactions between the academy and the students[1]. The Old Quad has witnessed the growth and the evolution of the University’s Parkville campus and provides a tangible connection to the University’s fledgling years.

Architectural plan of a historic building with interior courtyard

Image 1: The Sequential development of the Old Quadrangle: core phases, Lovell Chen, 2017


The discovery of the historic lino flooring is unexpected. Invented by Englishman Frederick Walton in 1860, lino flooring was the first form of waterproof floor covering to replace more conventional bare wood or dirt floors[2]. The retrieved lino pieces are dark brown in colour and were designed in yellow/gold geometric patterning with a burlap textile adhered to the back of each piece. These relics reflect the design conventions that were once popular during 19th Century Melbourne. The aim of Old Quad’s renovation project is to largely return the building’s floorplan to its original layout, reaffirming Old Quad’s place as the cultural, civil, engagement and ceremonial centre of the Parkville campus[3]. One of the ways this is achieved in the design is to incorporate the gold and black motif into the overall carpet design in both stories of the building.

Fragment of historic lino, brown with a gold geometic pattern

Image 2: Discovered lino piece, Yuhong Zhang, 2019


The design team had hoped to exhibit the two lino fragments in the Old Quad after renovation as the fragments were in fair condition when discovered. However, after being used and buried under the ground for such a long period of time, each piece has small holes, multiple abrasions, and were roughly cut with a split along the straight edge of the larger piece. It is evident that these two fragments had suffered from surface dirt and structural damage (cracks), and required immediate treatment. Therefore, they were later transported to the Grimwade Conservation Services to regain their structural integrity and were installed into the display.

One of the biggest challenges for the conservation and exhibition design team is that there is no precedent regarding conserving and displaying lino flooring that conservators and curators could consult.  Based on their experience on previous projects, object and paper conservators decided to stabilize, clean, and then attach two pieces to double-wall boards for display purposes. Considering the material composition of the objects, slightly diluted fish glue was used to stabilize the cracks. After the glue dried and its residue removed by warm water, the lino surfaces were cleaned using damp cotton swab rolled on bamboo sticks and in light circulation motions.  After above steps, there was still a small portion protruding from the top corner on the back of the larger lino piece. In this case, Japanese tissue paper was selected to adhere to that small portion for reinforcement. Japanese tissue paper with its superb qualities of strength and durability quality has been used as a support material for a long time[4].


Images: White Tyvek tape & hinging demonstration, Yuhong Zhang, 2019


As for the display design, the two pieces of lino flooring will be attached to two double-wall blue-boards respectively and then placed together onto a new white mount board into the showcase. Heavyweight Japanese kozo paper were cut into wide strips as hinges. They were then adhered to the back of the bigger lino fragment equidistantly using fish glue. A piece of blue double-wall corrugated board was cut to a smaller profile than the lino pieces. To avoid visual distraction, white Tyvek tape was used to seal board edges. Slots were later cut through the blue board and there were hinges pulled through and adhered back down using starch paste. The lino pieces with their supporting blue boards were attached to a white mount board using double-sided tape, which was then attached to a acrylic backing board using double-sided tape.

The Old Quad’s implementation project focused on the adaptation and refurbishment of the North Wing, the north end of the East Wing and the North Annex. Significantly, this project is the first application in Australia of the adaptive passive house principles and introduced an innovative sustainability scheme to help a heritage building meet the requirements of the 21st century[1]. The Old Quad is one of the finest and oldest non-ecclesiastical gothic revival structures in Victoria[2]. And now it becomes a highly efficient and low energy cost building. This project sets up a good example for universities and heritage societies who want to protect their heritage and history through refurbishment and reutilization. Mehmet Murat Ildan once said, “Every time the long-forgotten people of the past are remembered, they are born again!”. The way that the design team tried to reinstate the original planning, conserve fabric and details, and display old lino fragments respect the layers of history of one of the University’s most important buildings.

Yuhong Zhang


The author would like to thank Libby Melzer, Peter Mitchelson, Dr Evan Tindal, and Jordi Casasayas from Grimwade Conservation Services for their kind support and guidance during the housing process, and for sharing their conservation knowledge and treatment steps for this article.

[1]Chen 2017, pp.4-6

[2] Petrovi ́c 2016, p.165

[3] Aurencon 2019

[4] Mills 1988, p.31

Feature image: Interior, Old Quad, photograph by Christian Capurro



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