Entrance to Grainger Museum, brick archway

Exhibition: Grainger Amplified

Opened in 1938, the Grainger Museum on the Parkville campus of the University of Melbourne is the culmination of decades of planning by Australian composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882–1961). As the only purpose-built autobiographical museum in Australia, Grainger intended his museum—and his fascinating collection, now holding over 130,000 items—to illustrate his ‘cosmopolitan and universalist outlook on music’. The now heritage-listed and architecturally significant museum, designed by University architect John Gawler, holds a vast collection of archival materials ranging from manuscripts of Australian, British, American and Scandinavian composers, to correspondence, photographs, business and personal papers, autobiographical essays, concert programmes and an extensive audio-visual archive. The accompanying material culture collection ranges from fine arts to textiles (including Grainger’s famous towel suits), musical instruments, furniture and domestic items, to some more unusual objects, such as life-sized papier-mâché mannequins created by Grainger of himself, his wife, and several composer friends. Since Grainger’s death, the Museum has continued to collect material on Australian music, including many fin-de-siècle women composers and other prominent figures in Melbourne musical life.

Our current exhibition, Grainger Amplified, immerses the visitor in the world that Percy Grainger envisaged for his original displays from the 1930s to 1950s. These include collection materials from Grainger’s iconic ‘free music’ machines—both the originals and playable replicas—to items illustrating his life and times. Selections of the provocative collection formed by Grainger are shown in bespoke display cases, specially commissioned by Grainger to fit the museum’s unusual layout. Amplifying Grainger’s original aims to integrate the Museum with the University’s teaching and research, half the museum is also a dynamic space for performances, educational activities, and diverse outcomes of research and creative practice. We host several Creative Researchers in Residence each year, and offer a Grainger Student Composer in Residence program to students, advertised at the start of each academic year.

The Grainger archive is open to researchers and students by appointment and welcomes requests for material for research purposes. Grainger Amplified is open to the public on the first Monday of the month, and to Graduate Researchers through tours offered via Your Cultural Commons and the Researcher Development Unit. Keep an eye out for events, exhibitions, and performances in the Museum throughout the year for further opportunities to explore this remarkable collection.

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