Percy Grainger performing the museum

I visited the Grainger Museum on Tuesday 21 August. As the 2018 recipient of the IMAC award, I have been keen to explore the many collections based on campus at the University of Melbourne. The only knowledge I had of Percy Grainger was that he composed that song about the English country garden, which my friends and I used to sing when we were younger in the playground. Besides this, I had no idea about the sheer extent of Grainger’s extraordinary character. I had anticipated that the museum would provide me with a showcase of important, historical objects relating to this figure in Melbourne. To describe the collection as a showcase is an understatement. I was overwhelmed by the diversity of the objects, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was in an alternative, historic version of Instagram within a museum context. It seems that Grainger was well ahead of the times; he had taken a concept and amplified it, by constructing his life in a way that only he would want it to be seen by the public eye, like his very own beautifully refined and curated Instagram account. Even now, in the days after Grainger’s death, the museum feels very true to his original intention and ethics.

So I began to collect manuscripts, musical sketches, letters, articles, mementos, portraits, photographs, etc., by and of those English-speaking Scandinavian composers that seemed to me the most gifted and progressive – always with the intention of someday putting this collection on permanent display in Melbourne. [1.]

Percy Grainger by Dover Street Studios
Percy Grainger, Dover Street Studios, c.1904-1906, Sepia-toned silver gelatin print mounted on card

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Ukiyo-e under the microscope: Conserving nine Japanese woodblocks from the Baillieu Library Print Collection

Over the past three months conservators at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (GCCMC) have been treating nine Japanese woodblock prints from the Baillieu Library Print Collection. This selection of colourful prints from the Edo period are to be used for teaching at the University of Melbourne in semester two, 2018. Conservation treatment therefore focused on improving the stability and visual appearance of the works for safe handling and display.

Utagawa Kunisada, [Kabuki actors], woodcut
Utagawa Kunisada III, [Kabuki actors], (1891), woodcut, Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959.
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A Ride to Heaven or to Hell? A new Dutch broadsheet in the Baillieu Library’s collection

The Roman Ride to Heaven (Romsche hemel vaert) published by Anthoni van Salingen
The Roman Ride to Heaven (Romsche hemel vaert) published by Anthoni van Salingen, 1621, engraving with letterpress

A bizarre wagon surmounted by a seven-headed beast makes its way across the centre of a tumultuous image. The grotesque central motif of this 1621 broadsheet must have lured the reader to look at its bizarre details and to personally read the text below, or to listen to someone else read it aloud. Viewers of the time would immediately have associated this scene with the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse in the New Testament Book of Revelation, and have understood that this was a work of political and religious propaganda.

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Connecting collections at Manchester and Melbourne

An exciting project afoot is a collaboration between the universities of Melbourne and Manchester to connect these two geographically distant, culturally rich collections. Face-to-face encounters have already taken place between scholars and special collections staff through two workshops: Manchester in July 2017 and Melbourne in April 2018. These workshops saw specialists come together and exchange ideas about the endlessly interesting works of art, books, textiles, maps and objects located in these cities.

The collections are currently being brought together in a virtual space through the ongoing development of a new Connecting Collections website. The site explores the collective’s first major research theme of ‘Foreign Bodies.’ Every month a different collection object is featured, and this month it is the engraving by Francesco Villamena, Blind man with remedy for corns (Cieco da rimedis per i calli) (1597-1601) from the Baillieu Library’s Print Collection.

Francesco Villamena, Blind man
Francesco Villamena, Blind man with remedy for corns (Cieco da rimedis per i calli), (1597-1601), engraving, Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959.

Visitors to the site may also read about previously featured items, such as John Speed’s map of Asia (1627) from the Library’s Map Collection.

John Speed's map of Asia
John Speed, Asia with the islands adioyning described, the atire of the people, & townes of importance (London, 1627), engraving with hand-colouring, Map Collection.

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