Pride Month in the University of Melbourne Archives

University of Melbourne Archives repository

This Pride Month, the University of Melbourne Archives is showcasing some of its personal archives of our gay and lesbian creators.

UMA is proud to be home to the Victorian Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives and to support continued community involvement with this collection. This archive began as a community archive of women involved in the women’s liberation and lesbian feminist movements, including some papers of the earliest organisations, campaigns and events. We also hold collections from the University of Melbourne Student records which documents the early gay liberation movement, and some individual activists. Much of these documents are described in the Homosexuality and the University of Melbourne subject guide.

These collections document the important and inspiring movements for LGBTIQ+ rights and liberation and it is so rewarding that they are well-used by researchers. But this month we would like to showcase the more personal aspect of Pride Month in the Archive – a celebration of love in all its colours and an acknowledgement of the barriers that some have had to overcome.

Queer personal archives also hold some particular challenges to researchers and archivists. There is something deeply personal and intimate about the need to know and understand archives when it comes to the records of sex and sexuality – the desire to find yourself or people similar to you in the past, represented in the authority of the preserved record. It is important for LGTBIQ+ people to know that other LGBTIQ+ people existed in the past if for no other reason than the refutation of the offensive argument that this is all some sort of post-modern fad.

But the creation of archives is a social process that reflects broader unequal power structures. Marginalised people – by class, race, sexuality or gender – are far less likely to be represented in the collections. And where they are recorded it is often in ways that reinforce their marginalised status.

Historians have attempted to fill this gap or misrepresentation by reading against the grain – uncovering hidden meaning in records, or by using existing records (such as police files) in creative ways.

Archivists have a responsibility to ensure that records relating to LGBTIQ+ people (and other marginalised groups) are organised, described and accessed in appropriate ways. Determining what is appropriate means taking into account our affective responsibility to the record creators, subjects, donors, community, institution and researchers. The interests of these different groups may clash at times, and the conflict is not always able to be resolved. But an important first step is to celebrate the important collections we hold and acknowledge the incredible humanity contained within archives. All their ambiguities, contradictions, and moments of tenderness are as human as the people who created them.

The comparison of Christ with the Roman Pope: A new acquisition for the Print Collection

Image:  The comparison of Christ with the Roman Pope, 1753. Print Collection, The University of Melbourne

A colourful 1753 Calvinist broadsheet published in Amsterdam was purchased by the Print Collection in 2020 to help illustrate the power of the press on the popular imagination. The Protestant Reformation was an era of ideological and cultural change across Europe from the 16th century onwards and Calvinism was a form of Protestantism which developed in the Netherlands. Broadsheets played an important role in the dissemination of information and news during the Reformation and influenced the everyday people who encountered them.

The ephemeral broadsheet features a hand-coloured engraving at the top which depicts a humble Christ on a donkey on the left and on the right, a prideful Pope, who represents the Catholic Church, arrayed in luxury. The left column of letterpress under the image includes a short biblical text, preceded by the biblical reference, presented as Christ telling the reader what he says or does. The right column is presented as the words of the Pope and rhyming with the words of Christ, which say he does just the opposite.

Kerrianne Stone,

Curator, Print Collection

Meet an Archivist: Georgina Ward

Photograph of Georgina Ward

Today is #International Archives Day and we’re profiling Georgina Ward, Assistant Archivist at the University of Melbourne Archives.You might have met Georgina on the front desk of the Reading Room.

What’s been your most surprising discovery in the repository?

Honestly, for me the most surprising discovery in working with historic records is how they reveal injustices of their time that still exist today.  For example, at UMA we have a series of political posters collected by the Victorian Trades Hall Council Arts Office dated 1975-2004; these were produced by many organisations advocating for child care, refugees, sexual harassment, black deaths in custody, renting rights etc. What is surprising for me is to learn how slow progress is, decades on those exact same issues that are still being campaigned.

Is there someone you’ve discovered in your work who you really admire and if so, why?

One archivist I really admire is Kirsten Thorpe (Worimi, Port Stephens NSW) who advocates for a ‘transformation of practice to centre Indigenous priorities and voice in regard to the management of data, records, and collections’.  In recent years I have been involved in improving access to child welfare records held by UMA and have been highly influenced by Kirsten’s recent work on the Charter of Lifelong Rights in Childhood Recordkeeping in Out-of-Home Care for Australians and Indigenous Australian children and care leavers.  She is inspiring because she successfully facilitates change.

What key piece of advice would you give to a student looking at a career in archives?

I would advise that students place importance on networking, seeking out and engaging in professional development and listening to community needs. Having a broad understanding of the political and ethical landscape and being educated in international contemporary archival practice and of archival practice will ground you in what is a really rewarding professional experience.

You can learn more about the Archives and the work of Georgie and her team here.

Women of the Conservatorium: Ruby Gray

Ruby Gray in costume

The above photograph, found in the University of Melbourne’s Rare Music Collection, portrays Ruby Gray in full stage costume and make-up for an unknown role. Gray was a very early alumna of the University (Marshall-Hall) Conservatorium, graduating as a “Musical associate”: a fine soprano, as well as an accomplished pianist and accompanist. Gray was one of fourteen children of Irish emigrees Dr Andrew Sexton Gray, pioneering ocular and aural surgeon and founder of the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and Bessie Gray (nee McNalty), ‘one of the belles of early Melbourne’.[1]

Ruby Gray commenced her studies at the Conservatorium in pianoforte and in 1897 was awarded an Exhibition for Performance, a recognition of her considerable talent.[2] At the time the incumbent of the Chair of Music was George William Louis Marshall-Hall. He was a brilliant, and highly controversial character—a bohemian who outraged ‘strait-laced Melburnians’ with his ‘wild’ public behaviour, ardent denouncement of pedantry and advocacy for the ‘power of emotive discipline’.[3] As Ormond Professor of Music, he devised a syllabus that moved away from the established emphasis on ‘pure technique’ and a strict examination system: in fact, on multiple occasions Marshall-Hall attempted to have these examination systems abolished. Instead, the focus of the Marshall-Hall syllabus was to bring out the ‘interpretive sensibility’ and ‘emotional responsiveness’ of each student-musician, working from a solid foundation of technical skill.[4]

In 1898, following the publication of Marshall-Hall’s blasphemously-titled book of poetry, Hymns Ancient and Modern, the Argus newspaper launched a savage attack on both the text and Marshall-Hall’s character, directly disputing his suitability to the role of ‘lecturer to the Young, especially the Young Women, of Victoria’.[5] Ruby Gray joined many of her fellow students in a letter of public protest against the ‘hostile’ treatment of their great and unorthodox professor.[6]

The Argus, (1898-08-12), ‘Professor Marshall-Hall – His Publications’.

From 1899, Gray began accompanying University Conservatorium concerts on the pianoforte as well as singing in performances of opera.[7] Additionally, from 1901, Gray gave a series of solo vocal and pianoforte performances at the Gray family home in Collins Street.[8] By 1902 Gray, by now associated with the Melbourne or Marshall-Hall (and no longer the University) Conservatorium after Marshall-Hall’s University employment ceased, was again acknowledged for her outstanding work as accompanist in acclaimed student performances, conducted by Marshall-Hall himself and often held in the Town Hall.[9] According to one critic, ‘Ruby Gray “accompanied” the voices, which is the highest praise that can be given to accompanists, whose tendency is to give brilliant solo performances and let the voice wander on as it pleases’.[10]

In tandem with her pianoforte career, Gray continued to develop her skills as a soprano. In December 1903 she starred opposite Lovie Mueller in Vaccai’s ‘Romeo et Guillietta’, a standout for many reviewers of the Marshall-Hall Conservatorium Annual Concert that year.[11] The performances of both Mueller and Gray in Romeo et Guillietta were ‘beyond praise’ and the pair received a ‘perfect ovation at the close’.[12] One critic observed that Gray’s Juliet’s ‘Italian style of beauty and slim youthfullness of figure suited her well for this part’ and praised her ‘light and penetrating soprano’ voice, which ‘gave full effect to the music’.[13]

Punch, (1903-12-17), ‘Miss Lovie Muller & Miss Ruby Gray’.

 By 1916 Gray was teaching both operatic singing and pianoforte at the Melbourne Conservatorium and Allan’s.[14] However, this by no means signalled the conclusion or even the winding down of her career as a performer. Dame Nellie Melba, having seen Gray perform during her student days, became ‘immediately interested in her work’ and in 1917, following a shared holiday in Honolulu, the pair embarked on a concert tour of the United States, with Gray acting as Melba’s accompanist.[15] In an interview with Australian Musical News, Gray described the experience as ‘a great revelation’, continuing that she ‘always feel deeply grateful to Melba for her wonderful kindnesses to me on that tour’.[16]

Following the US tour and a brief sojourn in New Zealand, Gray recommenced her teaching role at the Conservatorium, which was by then was under Melba’s direct patronage. Additionally, Gray continued to perform opera in venues across Melbourne, reinforcing her already considerable reputation as a fine exponent of opera and rousing enthusiastic crowds whenever she sang.[17]

The Australian Musical News, (1923-11-1), ‘Miss Ruby Gray’.

When interviewed for The Australian Musical News in 1923, Gray reflected on her career as a teacher across the Marshall-Hall and Melba Conservatoriums, as well as her gratitude for the guidance of Nellie Melba throughout her career:

‘I thoroughly enjoy all my work at the Conservatorium… I hold classes there for voice production, concert, and opera work. Much of my career has been identified with the Conservatorium, for I was a student there. Dame Nellie Melba has helped me with my own voice and has given me wonderful hints and assistance in imparting my knowledge to others. Many a time she has come into my room at the Conservatorium and helped me with the placing of a difficult voice in one or other of my pupils… I find that without exception the students who are placed under my care are very enthusiastic and keen to succeed. If a student is not keen, what is the use of it? Nobody can help her. It is most interesting to watch the growth of the young voice. Maybe it is tiny at the first, but with careful handling it blossoms out like a flower. Equally interesting is the knitting together of a broken voice or one that has been recklessly forced. In my opinion, no fault should be allowed to pass on from one lesson to another, for in two or three lessons it becomes a habit all the more difficult to remedy.’[18]

In 1925 Gray was recovering from a bout of appendicitis which prevented her from both teaching and performing.[19] However, following this brief pause in her career, she began performing once more in 1926 in a series of radio broadcasts and in 1927 accepted a post at the New Conservatorium as a singing teacher of the Melba method.[20] In February 1928 she also recommenced studio teaching at Allan’s.[21] In 1937 Gray was still teaching the Melba method to private pupils out of her childhood home on Collins Street.[22] In a career that spanned decades, Ruby Gray earned and maintained a reputation as one of the finest local musicians to come out of the Conservatorium to date. From her impressive technical skill to her riveting stage presence to a voice ‘that in finish, tone and colour would carry her anywhere’, she delighted.[23]

Caroline Colbran

Rare Music Intern


[1] The Argus, 1907-07-11, p. 7; The Home: An Australian Quarterly – Melbourne Musings, v. 51, no. 9, 1928-09-01, p. 12.
[2] Table Talk – ‘Music & Musicians’, 1897-11-26, p. 15.
[3] Radic, T (1986), ‘Marshall-Hall, George William Louis (1862–1915)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography  (Vol. 10).
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] The Argus – ‘Professor Marshall-Hall – His Publications’, 1898-08-12, p. 5.
[7] The Argus – ‘Conservatorium of Music Concert’, 1899-10-19, p. 3; Table Talk – ‘Conservatorium Opera’, 1899-12-14, p. 18.
[8] The Argus – ‘Advertising’, 1901-02-02, p. 16.
[9] The Australasian – ‘Music’, 1902-07-05, p. 24.
[10] The Arena – ’Music & Art‘, 1902-07-10, p. 19.
[11] Australian Town & Country Journal – ’Melbourne Lady’s Letter‘, 1903-12-23, p. 43.
[12] Ibid.
[13] The Arena-Sun – ’Music and Musicians’, 1903-12-17, p. 14.
[14] The Australian Musical News, vol. 4, no. 5 (Nov 1914), p. 136.
[15] The Australian Musical News, vol. 6, no. 8 (February 1917); The Australian Musical News, vol. 6, no. 12 (June 1917); The Herald – ’Woman’s World’, 1922-12-12, p. 10.
[16] The Australian Musical News, vol. 4, no. 8 (November 1923), p. 19.
[17] The Herald – ‘Woman’s World’, 1922-12-12, p. 10.
[18] The Australian Musical News, vol. 4, no. 8 (November, 1923), p. 19.
[19] The Herald – ‘Woman’s World’ 1925-06-06, p. 10.
[20] Advocate – ‘The Ladies Page’ 1927-03-10, p. 32.
[21] The Argus – ‘Classified Advertising’ 1928-02-04, p. 38.
[22] The Argus – ‘Advertising’, 1937-02-24, p. 21.
[23] Punch – ‘Music: Ruby Gray‘, 1920-10-20, p. 34.

Annotation of selected works of Yuyang Shanren 渔洋山人精华录笺注


The Annotation of selected works of Yuyang Shanren (渔洋山人精华录笺注) in the University of Melbourne’s East Asian Collection was the most widely circulated anthology by early Qing poet Wang Shizhen (王士禛, c.1634-1711). Preferring a reclusive life, Wang authored several anthologies under the pseudonym Yuyang Shanren, or simply Yuyang. In his lifetime, Wang wrote more than 3,000 poems 1. As a leading poet of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), these were not only immensely popular, but had a far-reaching impact on the acceptance of Tang Dynasty poetry aesthetics 2. Quite apart from its literary value though, the format of the Annotation provides a fascinating insight into the bitter political struggles of the early Qing Dynasty.

Portrait of Wang Shizhen wearing cone-shaped bamboo hat, The University of Melbourne Collection.

Portrait of Wang Shizhen wearing cone-shaped bamboo hat, The University of Melbourne Collection.

Due to its popularity, many editions of the Annotation circulated, in varying volumes – most commonly 12 juan (scrolls) in either 6, 8, 10 or 12 volumes. Furthermore, among extant editions, some include Wang’s Chronicle (1 juan), Supplement (1 juan), and Appendix (1 juan), which was the compilation of prefaces from Wang’s other anthologies. The University of Melbourne collection has 12 juan in 6 volumes, including the Chronicle and Supplement. Other institutions hold variations on this format: for example Harvard-Yenching Library (HY) holds two copies, one in 8 volumes and the other one in 12 volumes.

Apart from the variance in volume numbers, the differences in content between our copy and the HY copies are noteworthy. The HY 8-volume copy has had all information related to the 17th century literary mogul Qian Qianyi (钱谦益, c. 1582-1664) expunged, including a preface written by Qian, the Appendix in which Wang traced his friendship with Qian, and text in the editorial guide in which Qian is mentioned. The HY 12-volume copy contains Qian’s preface, the Appendix, and retains relevant text in the editorial guide. Our 6-volume copy does not contain Qian’s preface and the Appendix; however, the editorial guide was kept intact.



Left: HY Collection;right: University of Melbourne Collection.

These differences arose due to tensions between the Qing government and Han Chinese literati. Founded by the Manchu people, an ethnic minority, the government was initially keen to engage Han writers and thinkers to help legitimise their rule. When Han Chinese rule collapsed with the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), many Ming officials loyal to the regime committed suicide. Qian did not though 3. Instead, he served as a high-ranking official in the Qing government in c.1646. For that reason, he was initially disdained by Han intellectuals – and then later by the Qing government as well: the regime inevitably felt the need to advocate the virtue of loyalty once they were firmly established. Qian quit the post five months later, and engaged in anti-Qing campaigns during the last decades of his life. Growing furious at the anti-Qing sentiment in Qian’s literary works, in c.1769 Emperor Qianlong ordered all copies of Qian’s two anthologies in public and private collections to be destroyed, including the wooden blocks they were printed from. Furthermore, Qian’s name was listed in the Erchen Zhuan (贰臣传, Biography of turncoat officials in Ming History). Later, in the process of compiling the Siku Quanshu (四库全书, Complete Library in Four Sections), massive amounts of literature were censored, including an estimated 43 anthologies by Qian; another 72 anthologies by others were indirectly impacted 4.

The Annotation was lucky enough to survive. However, the removal of Qian’s information in extant editions illustrates the damage caused by censorship during the 18th century. Nowadays, we can use this information in conjunction with other evidence to tell the approximate date of different editions. For example, volume 1 in our collection seems to be a reprint of an early edition, which was printed between 1734 and 1784, as information about Qian was retained in the editorial guide. Volumes 2-6 are different from volume 1 in at least three aspects: first, the imprint in volumes 2-6 is clearer and more elegant, whilst volume 1 is slightly blurred; second, like other early prints, volumes 2-6 in our collection have the name of the publisher Fenghui Tang (凤翙堂) in the first page of each juan, whilst volume 1 does not; this means that volume 1 could not be the first print. Finally, the height of volumes 2-6 are the same, whilst volume 1 is shorter and has apparently been conserved post-publication – maybe by a book dealer, in order to sell the works as a complete set. Further study is needed to confirm whether volumes 2-6 are a first print or reprint.

left: volume 1, without the publisher’s name in the first page in each juan; right: volume 2, bears the publisher’s name 凤翙堂 at the bottom left.


Xiaoju Liu,

Curator, East Asian Collection


1. Around c.1700, the Selected works of Yuyang Shanren (渔洋山人精华录), which contains about 1,000 poems in 12 juan, was carved and printed based on the handwriting of Wang’s disciple Lin Ji (林佶), who was well known for his elegant calligraphy. It was later annotated by another disciple, Jin Rong (金荣), and initially printed by Fenghui Tang (凤翙堂, Hall of the flying phoenix), which was owned by Jin. According to the editorial guide, Jin finished the Annotation in c.1734, meaning the first print of the Annotation can be dated no earlier than that.

2. Zhang Limin, “论博学鸿词科对王士禛的诗学影响 [The Influence of Boxuehongci Examination on Wang Shizhen’ Poetics],” Wenxue yichan 4, (2019): 156-164.

3.Qian married the famous courtesan Liu Rushi. According to some miscellaneous notes, when the Ming Dynasty collapsed, Liu urged Qian to commit suicide in loyalty to the Ming Dynasty. But Qin refused, saying that ‘the water was too cold’. Chen Yinke has refuted this narrative in his Liu Rushi Biezhuan (柳如是别传, Anecdotal biography of Liu Rushi), however.

4. Zhuang Jifa, “清高宗禁毁钱谦益著述考,” 清史论集 (三) (Taipei: Wenshizhe chubanshe, 1998), 176, quoted in Li Shuang, “清代《钱注杜诗》暗中流传与突破禁毁考述” (Masters thesis, Capital Normal University, China, 2007], 8. China Doctoral Dissertations/Masters Theses Full-text Database.


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