Madeline Davies

Madeline (she/her) is communications professional and emerging conservator currently completing the Master of Cultural Materials Conservation at the Grimwade Centre. In 2019 she completed a BA at Monash University with a double major in Media and Communications, and Film and Screen Studies, and in 2021 completed the Executive Master of Arts at the University of Melbourne. At present Madeline is a Project and Communications Coordinator at the Mitchell Institute and is part of the academic editorial team at Antithesis Journal. She is passionate about empowering localised change, accessible communications and inclusive media approaches. Drawing on these passions in her current studies, she hopes to contribute to a shift in conservation discourse and practice.


Philosophy Students Compete in Tertiary Ethics Olympiad

In October 2023 two teams of students from the University of Melbourne participated in the inaugural Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics (AAPAE) Tertiary Ethics Olympiad. These ethics athletes or ‘eth-letes’, as they are known in the competition, went up against universities from across Australasia. They were supported by coach Dr Alex Cain (Teaching Associate, Philosophy), who reports here for Forum on the event.

The AAPEA Tertiary Ethics Olympiad is a debate-style competition modelled on the US Ethics Bowl, wherein teams discuss applied ethics cases. There is one major difference between the Olympiad and a conventional debate: the teams do not have to argue on the affirmative or negative side of the issue at hand and are permitted to agree with one another. The result is a competitive but collaborative and productive discussion of hard cases in applied ethics. 

The University of Melbourne ‘Aqua’ team consisted of Jaydon Chai, Joseph Henningsen and Louis Jones. The University of Melbourne ‘Maroon’ team consisted of Milo Coghlan-Smith, Lillian Dalton and Jacob Howie. These students had previously taken the philosophy subject Ethical Theory earlier that year, where they had displayed excellent critical thinking and discussion skills.

Every week throughout Semester 2 last year, the University of Melbourne eth-letes met to prepare. They discussed the cases, came to a team consensus on what they thought were the central moral dimensions of the cases, considered various viewpoints, and participated in several practice heats, with detailed feedback provided by the coach.

On the day, the event was held on Zoom. The cases were read out and then the eth-letes were presented with a question related to the case. While they had been able to study the cases for months, this was the first time they were presented with that specific question.

 Topics under discussion included whether it is appropriate for organisations such as Wimbledon to discriminate against sports players from nations showing military aggression, disallowing them to play under their country’s flag; whether there is a moral case for doing away with drug testing in sports; whether Tweets should be moderated or whether moderation of Tweets is a violation of rights to free speech; what it looks like to be a good parent in 2023; what moral agency minors should have over their own healthcare; and the ethical implications of litigation financing.

Teams are scored on their ability to present in a clear and systematic manner; to identify and thoroughly discuss the central moral dimensions of the case; to show awareness and consideration of other viewpoints, including possible objections to their own viewpoint; and, last but certainly not least, their capacity for respectful dialogue.

Both University of Melbourne teams performed brilliantly against some stiff competition, and were awarded honourable mentions from the judges, with the Maroons placing fourth, narrowly missing out on a medal.

The eth-letes reflected on how their participation had enriched their university experience:

I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere allowing me to develop new friendships with my peers. The Ethics Olympiad competition day was a fantastic experience, as I had the opportunity to engage with students from other university teams, fostering a dynamic environment where I felt both supported and challenged to expand my critical thinking skills.

Lillian Dalton, AAPAE Tertiary Ethics Olympiad team member

President of the AAPAE, Dr Hugh Breakey, was impressed with the standard of argumentation throughout the competition:

Having watched and judged the last two Tertiary Olympiads, the thing that I love about the Ethics Olympiads is how respectful the deliberation is, and how much this impacts on the discussion’s philosophical quality. When students know that they will be scored on responding thoughtfully and sensitively – rather than aggressively and dismissively – to other students’ arguments, they demonstrate impressive capabilities to listen carefully and respond fairly to others’ views. From surveying the quality of arguments in social media, political debate, and most opinion writing in major presses, it’s easy to get the impression that arguing well is a lost art. Too often, arguments are riven with straw person fallacies, ad hominem, rampant confirmation bias, and rhetorical point-scoring. But the Ethics Olympiads show that if people are put into structures that reward constructive argument rather than outrage, they can become models of exemplary argument.

Preparations are now underway in the leadup to the 2024 AAPEA Tertiary Ethics Olympiad, to be held on 10October 2024. The University of Melbourne will again field two teams, with training events planned throughout the year.

The highlight of these events is a workshop, planned for mid-year, which will include an exhibition heat performed by past Olympiad participants, aimed at giving other interested students an idea of how an Olympiad heat runs.

The workshop will also include a session by Dr Daniel Burkett, who was a judge at the 2023 AAPAE Tertiary Ethics Olympiad. Dr Burkett is lecturer at Bingham University, The State University of New York, where he researches applied ethics, environmental ethics and the ethics of punishment. Funding from the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies will make these training events possible.

Students who are interested in representing the University of Melbourne at the 2024 AAPAE Tertiary Ethics Olympiad are encouraged to email Alex Cain for more information. More information about the Olympiad is also available on the Ethics Olympiad website. Students interested in studying ethics at the University of Melbourne may like to look into enrolling in Ethics of Capitalism (PHIL20044) (Semester 1, 2024) or Ethical Theory (PHIL20008) (Semester 2, 2024). 

Dr Alex Cain is a Teaching Associate in Philosophy in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. Her research focuses on the political and ethical theory of Hannah Arendt. She mainly teaches ethics, political philosophy and history of philosophy subjects.

Feature image: Screenshot of the 2023 AAPAE Tertiary Ethics Olympiad teams, judges and organisers


Rachelle Madden

Rachelle Madden is an undergraduate student studying History and Philosophy of Science. With 30 years of experience in advertising and marketing, Rachelle recently returned to university to pursue her love of all things science through the HPS Program.


SHAPS Digest (February 2024)

K.O. Chong-Gossard and Larissa Tittl (Classics & Archaeology) shared their thoughts on the enduring relevance of classical myths for an article on contemporary plays on ancient themes for the Melbourne Theatre Company.

Joy Damousi and Carolyn Rasmussen (History) were among those interviewed for an audio walking tour of Melbourne CBD sites associated with the anti-conscription struggle, produced by Alexandra Pierce for the Australian Living Peace Museum.

'Resisting Conscription in World War 1' features six sites: Parliament House, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trades Hall, Old Melbourne Gaol, the former Magistrate’s Court, and the site of the Women’s Peace Army headquarters. The Australian Living Peace Museum is an online museum dedicated to telling the stories of Australia’s heritage of peace and non-violence, and how they are based in social justice, in conjunction with Soundtrails, an Australian company specialising in geolocative walking tours.

Antonia Finnane (Professorial Fellow, History) wrote the article 'Heritage Hunting' for Inside Story, overviewing a new collection of essays discussing migration pathways between Sydney and towns in Zhongshan municipality, in Guangdong province, China. The Chinese-Australia Migration Corridor (Denis Byrne, Ien Ang and Phillip Mar, eds.) was launched in mid-February and results from the Heritage Corridor project, which began in 2017 at Western Sydney University.

Peter McPhee was profiled in the History Council of Victoria's 'Spotlight On ...' feature on Instagram, which celebrates those who have contributed to the practice, teaching, study of and engagement with history in Victoria.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by History Council of Victoria (@historycouncilvic)

Daniel Nellor was interviewed for The Philosophers’ Zone on the ABC about his book, What Are They Thinking? Conversations with Australian Philosophers. The book comprises ten interviews, including with SHAPS philosophers Margaret Cameron, Christopher Cordner, and Daniel Halliday.

Tony Ward (Fellow, History) published an article on the importance of social trust, for Pearls and Irritations.

Academic Publications

Dvir Abramovich (Jewish Culture and Society), The Lost World of Unspoken Horrors: Aharon Appelfeld’s Holocaust Universe (Hybrid Publishers)

This volume offers a close reading of five novels by Aharon Appelfeld (1982–2018), Israel’s most celebrated Shoah author. Fuelled by a desire to introduce this literary giant to foreign language readers, this illuminating collection of essays is a tribute to a prolific writer who, for more than four decades, won international acclaim for his subtle and enigmatic novels, which shimmer with premonitions of the unimaginable horror to come. Overflowing with lucid insights, this deeply reflective study demonstrates how Appelfeld’s stories, usually set in the years immediately before and after the destruction of European Jewry, transform memory into fiction and encase within their midst unfathomable depths in the search for meaning and healing.

Alexandra Cain (Teaching Associate, Philosophy), ' "The Wheel is Crooked", Hannah Arendt on Action, Success and Public Happiness', Zeitschrift für politisches Denken / Journal for Political Thinking

In 'Action and the "Pursuit of Happiness"', Hannah Arendt tells the story of 'an inveterate gambler' who arrives late in a town and goes straight to the gambling place, where he discovers that the wheel he wishes to gamble on is crooked. He gambles anyway, because there is no other wheel in town. The story, she suggests, 'tells us that there exists such intense happiness in acting that the actor, like the gambler, will accept that all the odds are stacked against him.' In this article I use this story as a motif to investigate references to success in Arendt's work. I argue that Arendt sought to preclude action and happiness from utilitarian notions of success, and that she ultimately presents the human impulse toward action as tragic. I also discuss the role of the historian or poet in this tragedy, concluding that what remains unclear in Arendt's work is how the public happiness of the actor and the pleasure of the historian and poet are related.

Nicole Davis (History/Forum), 'One of the Sights of the Colony', History of Retailing & Consumption, Special Issue on Australian Retail history

The arcade is a nineteenth-century architectural and social form long associated with industrial modernity and consumer culture. Better known in the British and European urban landscape, they were also significant in the Australian colonial context from 1853 onwards, in numbers rivalling those in the so-called ‘metropole’. Australian entrepreneurs, architects and shop owners utilised what was seen as a very European form to represent the progress and civilisation of the Australian colonies and their urban spaces, both in capital cities and smaller regional centres. The arcades, including their presence in the landscape, their architecture, and the commodities and leisure activities found within, were regularly invoked by boosters in order to demonstrate the sophistication of these colonial urban spaces. This article briefly discusses the history of the nineteenth-century Australian arcades, the boosterish discourse that promoted them, and how their representation was a way to express the place of the Australian colonies within a transnational milieu.

Queen Victoria Markets Building (now, QVB), Sydney, 1898. Photographer: Charles Kerry. City of Sydney Archives, SRC18023

Winter Greet (BA Honours, History, 2022), 'Spiritual Armour: Crafting Ukrainian Identity through Vyshyvanka', in Elizaveta Gaufman and Bohdana Kurylo (eds), special issue on Ukraine in Popular Culture, Czech Journal of International Relations.

The brightly coloured and delicately detailed vyshyvanka, the traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt, has long been a marker of Ukrainian ethnic and cultural identity. In recent years in particular, the vyshyvanka has become an internationally recognised symbol of 'Ukrainianness'; and yet despite its importance in Ukrainian identity-building and independence movements, remarkably little scholarship exists on this topic. This lack of academic engagement stems in part from twin forms of domination – colonial domination and gendered domination. Ukrainian history has often been overshadowed by Russo-centrism, while the significance of handicrafts practices such as embroidery has been dismissed because of their association with femininity and 'women’s work'. Yet the sheer number of digital images of vyshyvanka and the proliferation of vyshyvanka-related designs in light of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, make this a topic worthy of our attention. In this article, I explore how and why the uses of vyshyvanka have evolved over time, charting differences in how the vyshyvanka has been depicted, and used, both by Ukrainians and by those seeking to denigrate or deny the existence of the Ukrainian nation. I focus in particular on the explosion of digital images featuring the vyshyvanka, which have been circulating since the Euromaidan of 2013–14, and on the history of the creation of World Vyshyvanka Day, now celebrated on the third Thursday of May and serving as a vehicle for mobilising solidarity with Ukraine from Taiwan to the UK to Israel.

The article features images of objects held in the Ukrainian Museum of Australia's wonderful collection.

Special thanks are due to Dr Yana Ostapenko (Association of Ukrainians in Victoria), Maru Jarockyj (Ukrainian Museum of Australia), and Deanna Ramsey (Monash University library) for their generous assistance and support for this project!

Tom Kehoe and Andy May (History) et al., 'The Past as Present in Health Promotion: The Case for a "Public Health Humanities"', Health Promotion International

Health promotion is conceived as a unifying concept for improving the health of populations. This means addressing the sociocultural, economic and commercial causes of ill-health, which are necessarily informed by past policies and sociocultural contexts. However, historical scholarship has rarely figured in health promotion practice or scholarship. This gap resides in the determinants of health, and notably in the analyses of tobacco control and skin cancer prevention, two long-running campaigns that have shaped modern health promotion in Australia. Both highlight a need for understanding the profound impact of history on the present and the value of learning from past successes and failures. Doing so requires integrating historical analyses into existing health promotion scholarship. To achieve this aim, we present a new 'public health humanities' methodology. This novel interdisciplinary framework is conceived as a spectrum in which historical studies integrate with existing health promotion disciplines to solve complex health problems.

We draw on the many calls for more interdisciplinarity in health promotion and derive this methodology from proposals in the medical humanities and cognate fields that have wrestled with combining history and present-focused disciplines. Using tobacco control and skin cancer prevention as case studies, we demonstrate how public health humanities uses interdisciplinary teams and shared research questions to generate valuable new knowledge unavailable with traditional methods. Furthermore, we show how it creates evaluation criteria to consider the powerful impact of issues like colonialism on current inequities that hinder health promotion strategies, and from which lessons may be derived for the future.

Howard Sankey (Philosophy), 'The Objectivity of Science', Journal of Philosophical Investigations

The idea that science is objective, or able to achieve objectivity, is in large part responsible for the role that science plays within society. But what is objectivity? The idea of objectivity is ambiguous. This paper distinguishes between three basic forms of objectivity. The first form of objectivity is ontological objectivity: the world as it is in itself does not depend upon what we think about it; it is independent of human thought, language, conceptual activity or experience. The second form of objectivity is the objectivity of truth: truth does not depend upon what we believe or justifiably believe; truth depends upon the way reality itself is. The third form of objectivity is epistemic objectivity: this form of objectivity resides in the scientific method which ensures that subjective factors are excluded, and only epistemically relevant factors play a role in scientific inquiry.

The paper considers two problems that arise for the notion of epistemic objectivity: the theory-dependence of observation and the variability of the methods of science. It is argued that the use of shared standard procedures ensures the objectivity of observation despite theory-dependence. It is argued that the variability of methods need not lead to an epistemic relativism about science. The paper concludes with the realist suggestion that the best explanation of the success of the sciences is that the methods employed in the sciences are highly reliable truth-conducive tools of inquiry. The objectivity of the methods of the sciences leads to the objective truth about the objective world.

Nicole Tse (Cultural Materials Conservation), with Rosie H Cook, Margaret Kartomi and Luqmanul Chakim, 'Ontology and Knowing: A Framework for Conserving a Rare Musical Instrument within and beyond the Archive', in Janet Bridgland (ed.), ICOM Committee for Conservation 20th Triennial Conference Preprints (International Council of Museums)

Conserving cultures other than one’s own and working from the outside provokes questions of authority and the unknown in materials conservation. This paper focuses on identifying knowledge for cultural materials conservation of world culture objects, specifically a rare Indonesian musical instrument known as a bundengan. The study examines the ambiguous tensions surrounding a rare instrument located in an archive geographically isolated from its source community and how it acts as a social trigger to revive living heritage and performance practices, and to build culturally responsible communities of practice in conservation. An ontological framework to expand the knowledge of objects within and outside the archive is presented. The reiterative ontology draws on four disciplinary domains – archives, ethnomusicology, conservation, and performance – to build upon processual knowledge and networks of care, allowing deep connections with contemporary performance communities to emerge.

Awards & Appointments

We are delighted to announce the following new appointments to continuing positions in the School:

Congratulations also to our newly appointed Graduate Research Teaching Fellows:

Classics & Archaeology:

  • Ronak Alburz
  • Nathan Avis
  • Christian Bagger
  • Christopher Parkinson
  • Anastasia Vassiliadis

History:

  • Felicity Hodgson
  • William Hoff
  • James Hogg
  • Shannon Peters

Philosophy:

  • Callum Alpass
  • Fergus Prien

June Factor (Senior Fellow, History) has been awarded a Member of the Order of Australia medal (AM) for ‘significant service to literature, to history, and to the community’.

Cat Gay (Hansen Trust PhD Scholar, History) has received a Hansen Little Public Humanities Grants to co-curate an exhibition on girls' lives in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Victoria. The exhibition, Traces of Girlhood, is being curated by Cat, together with Annie Muir from Heritage Victoria, Yarra Ranges Council's Sarah Hayes, and the National Trust of Australia (Victoria). It will be on at Como House and Garden, South Yarra, from 23 August–20 October 2024.

Mary Sheehan (PhD Candidate, History) received a commendation in the History Article Award for 'A Grassroots View of Spanish Influenza in Melbourne', Victorian Historical Journal, at the Public Record Office of Victoria 2023 Victorian Community History Awards.

Summer Intensives

This summer the intensive subject Interpreting Material Culture (ANCW20028) ran for the third time. This practical subject introduces students to the interpretation possibilities of everyday items, drawing on the Melbourne Antiquities Collection and the state-of-the-art Object Based Laboratories in Arts West. During daily classes that run over a two-week period, students get acquainted with different specialist fields that engage with ancient artefacts (archaeological conservation, museum studies), and teach them essential skills, such as archaeological drawing; documentation of ceramic, glass and metal artefacts; and stone tool analysis.

Images from Interpreting Material Culture (ANCW20028). Top: Student Sophia Maggi re-assembling a broken ceramic plate. Bottom: Student Tamara Loh examining Roman glass from the Melbourne Antiquities Collection.

City Visions: Melbourne Intensive (HIST20087), coordinated by Andrew May, ran again this summer. It 'offers an exciting look at the role of people, places, institutions and processes in the historical development of the modern city', with Melbourne as its case study. As part of the course, students visited a number of local cultural collections. These included the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV), City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collections, and the Immigration Museum.


Visiting RHSV, with Collections Manager, Jillian Hiscock (above)

City Visions students take part in a City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collections tour in the Collections Store, Melbourne Town Hall

Visiting the Immigration Museum for City Visions, 2024

SHAPS staff, fellows, students, alumni: if you have news items for the monthly SHAPS digest, email us the details.

Feature image: City Visions students exploring the image collection at RHSV with Collection Officer, Helen Stitt


Leo Palmer

Leo Palmer is graduate researcher in the field of Classics. His current thesis examines fifth-century Athenian democracy in its social, political and religious context, and makes the case for a complex, gradual evolution of Greek democracy, rather than viewing it as a product of revolution. Leo's Honours thesis investigated the social functions and origins of the ritual worship of Dionysus in Greece and was a co-winner of the Alexander Leeper Prize awarded in 2023.


Gen Schiesser

Gen is an emerging conservator studying at the Grimwade Centre. She has an interest in the application of conservation to archaeology and studies of provenance and is currently writing her thesis on the investigation of metrology within the University of Melbourne’s Middle Eastern Manuscript Collection. By understanding how and with what units of measurements these manuscripts were scaled during their production, we may be able to locate them within time and place. Gen has also worked as an exhibition assistant with Museums Victoria and has had volunteering roles with the National Trust and the Melbourne Holocaust Museum.


Ancestral Ties to the Kabayan ‘Fire’ Mummies is Driving Research to Save Them

An unexpected family link to the Philippines’ Kabayan mummies inspired research into environmental changes in the mountain caves that house them. Grimwade Centre students Fen Reyes, Sarah Soltis, and Camille Calanno explore their research on the mummies and their conservation in this article, republished from Pursuit.

Tucked away in rock shelters in the secluded northern mountains of Luzon in the Philippines, the Kabayan ‘fire’ mummies lie at rest.

These mummies are what’s left of a tradition that was carried out for hundreds of years up until the nineteenth century.

More than 200 manmade burial caves have been identified, 15 of which contain preserved human mummies. Photographer: Sarah Soltis

Known popularly as meking or the ‘fire mummies’, these sacred remains are the preserved ancestors of the Ibaloi, one of the distinct ethnolinguistic groups of the mountainous Cordillera Benguet region.

Some of the history of the mummies has been lost over time, but what we do know is that this process of mummification dates back as early as 200 BCE and involved drying and dehydrating human remains using heat and smoke from a fire – giving us the term ‘fire mummy’.

In the municipality of Kabayan, according to UNESCO, “more than 200 man-made burial caves have been identified … 15 of which contain preserved human mummies”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja31lBinT5k
The team travelled to Kabayan to examine and monitor the environmental conditions of these important burial sites. Video: University of Melbourne

While many of the rock shelters that house these unique mummies have been forgotten or purposefully hidden, around ten Kabayan sites remain well known.

Some of these sites have been there for hundreds of years but, due to progressive environmental changes, the mummies are slowly deteriorating. And it was a surprise family link to the Kabayan mummies that helped drive our research into how best to conserve them.

In September 2023, our team from the University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, supported by the National Geographic Society, travelled to Kabayan to examine and monitor the environmental conditions of these important burial sites.

Fen Reyes, Sarah Soltis and Camille Calanno, with the team. Photograph courtesy the authors

Bluetooth Meets Conservation

The Ibaloi believed that interring their ancestors high in the mountains allowed them to be closer to the gods. This means most of the known Kabayan mummies are housed in rock shelters near the peak of the highest mountain in Luzon, which stands at just under 3000 metres.

For hundreds of years, the cooler climate of the mountains helped preserve these mummies.

But climate change, structural leaks in the rock shelters and the modernisation of the Kabayan region mean the mummies and artifacts interred with them are increasingly deteriorating.

Understanding these changing environmental conditions is essential to help preserve these cultural treasures. Photographer: Margot Fink

These environmental factors have caused the mummies’ skin to become brittle and fostered the growth of mould and insect activity.

While previous projects over the last decade or so have focused on documenting and conserving the mummies, little has been done to study and monitor the environments of the rock shelters themselves.

From a conservation standpoint, understanding these changing environmental conditions is essential to developing effective preventive measures that can help preserve these cultural treasures.

Our aim in travelling to Kabayan was to install weatherproof environmental monitors that measure the relative humidities (RH) and temperatures at seven rock shelters that will record environmental data for the next ten months.

These measurements will tell us the environmental patterns in and around the rock shelters, which can potentially inform future conservation treatments for the preservation of the Kabayan mummies.

The monitors are set up inside the caves, but because they are bluetooth enabled, the local teams collecting and downloading the data each month don’t have to repeatedly access the rock shelters, which could contribute to further deterioration of the mummies.

However, it does mean that one unfortunate local technician has to make the steep hike up to each site every four weeks to get the information from the monitors.

The bluetooth monitors mean teams don’t have to repeatedly access the rock shelters. Photographer: Margot Fink

For us, collaborating with Kabayan Elders was essential for our project’s success. It was vital that there was minimal disturbance of the rock shelters to get approval for our fieldwork, and we’ve worked with community members to ensure that they play an active part in discussions and approvals.

The ancestral significance of mummification

The Ibaloi people are one of seven distinct major Indigenous groups in the Northern Cordilleran region of the Philippines.

Kabayan – a remote municipality in the Benguet province eight-hour drive from the capital city of Manila – is considered the cultural centre of the Ibalois.

The secrets of the Kabayan mummification process have been passed down solely through oral storytelling and anecdotes – but many of the details of the practice have been lost over time.

The mummies are what’s left of a tradition that was carried out for hundreds of years. Photographer: Margot Fink

We do know that the mummification process was a pre-colonial tradition in Benguet, that the process of mummification was labour intensive and that it could take up to two years – with varying results.

If successful, the mummification was so effective it preserved tattoos and hair still visible today.

The mummies remain important to the Ibaloi people, who believe that they are eternally connected to the spirits of their mummified ancestors. This significance has been recognised both nationally and internationally.

In 1973, Presidential Decree 260 designated the Kabayan mummies as ‘National Cultural Treasures’, and in 2006, UNESCO added them to the list of heritage site proposals.

An Unexpected Family Connection

The preservation of the Kabayan mummies became much more personal to one of our team – graduate student, Fen Reyes.

Fen first became aware of the mummies when she was researching Ibaloi culture linked to her great grandmother. While she was gathering oral history records from family, she made an unexpected and personal discovery: her great grandmother, named Kong-eh, was the last in her family to begin the mummification process.

Fen’s great grandmother, Kong-eh (R), with one of her granddaughters Petra Wong Ramon (L). Image: Narvaez Family Collection

Now ‘begin’ is an important word here, as Kong-eh’s descendants ultimately stopped the process to give her a Catholic burial (the main religion in the Philippines) that aligned more closely with their ‘modern’ beliefs.

This connection gave Fen a unique perspective on our research and a personal drive to ensure that the Kabayan mummies are appropriately and respectfully preserved.

Our Changing Environment and Our History

Our environmental monitors are programmed to measure and record the relative humidities and temperatures at each rock shelter every 30 minutes for the next ten months.

During the first week of each month, a technician from the Kabayan Burial Cave Site Museum and Satellite Office of the National Museum of the Philippines visits each and every rock shelter to download the data that will then be analysed by our research team.

Graduate researchers (L to R) Sarah Soltis, Camille Calanno and Fen Reyes. Photographer: Margot Fink

Understanding the environment of the rock shelters that house the mummies is vital; we hope that the data we get will provide insight into why the Kabayan mummies are deteriorating and help inform any future maintenance measures – like the best time of year to remove the mummies from their coffins for ongoing preservation efforts.

We also hope that by including the local community in the fieldwork and collection of data, it will help to improve the management of the rock shelters by local custodians.

Understanding the impact environmental damage is having on the culturally diverse histories of humankind – which includes the unique cultural remains of the Kabayan mummies – is just one step in helping to preserve various cultural traditions and histories for the future.

Fen Reyes. Photograph courtesy the authors

If you’d like to keep up with the latest on the Kabayan mummies, you can follow the team's updates on Instagram.

Feature image: Fen Reyes, Sarah Soltis and Camille Calanno near the caves. Photograph courtesy the authors


Noah Wellington

Noah Wellington is a PhD candidate in Classics & Archaeology. His current research focuses on a tradition of women's subversive discourse in ancient Greek literature from the Archaic through Hellenistic periods. Noah's Honours thesis explored liminal gender identities in Athenian male youth and their repercussion on Athenian literature and politics and was a winner of the D.H. Rankin and Alexander Leeper prizes for 2020.


Professor Mike Arnold: A Vote of Thanks

Professor Michael (Mike) Arnold recently retired as head of SHAPS’s History & Philosophy of Science Program. His longtime colleague, Emeritus Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor, Janet McCalman, AC, reflects here on Mike’s career and legacy.

Mike Arnold has retired from History & Philosophy of Science, leaving it, the social sciences, the university and, indeed, the world, in better intellectual shape. He has been an exemplary academic: a gifted lifelong teacher, an academic collaborator par excellence, and a social scientist of unrelenting originality.

Mike was not merely at the cutting edge; he was one of the sharpest cutters, building the new field of the social study of science and information technology, from the clunky desktop to the mobile phone and the internet. Always he was asking about the relationships between humans and technology, and the technology-mediated relationships between humans and society.

He has an intensely curious mind, puzzling away at the everyday and the big questions around the impact of information technology on the way we live and work, on family life, on the life stages, in particular death, and on the utilisation of IT in healthcare. He is a gifted theoriser, with a knack for unforgettable titles. Cybersociety was his landmark undergraduate subject, but he branched out into the impact of disasters and techno failure on people and their social organisations.

Mike came up the hard way. The son of Ten-Pound Poms; a Geelong suburban high school and then a teacher training Secondary Studentship. He did a Diploma of Teaching, before discovering information technology with a graduate diploma in computer education. He didn’t enrol in a university as such until he commenced his PhD studies at Deakin University, completing his thesis, ‘Educational Cybernetics: Communication and Control With and of Logo’, in 1992.

Young Michael, 1970s

Young Jen, 1970s

Graduation, 1990s

Young Michael, 1970s

With this interdisciplinary interest, Mike came to the University of Melbourne as a teacher of IT for Arts Students and, from that platform in HPS, he took off. By the late 1990s he began his stellar research career and went on to hold Australian Research Council grants for every year of his university career. He was reluctant to seek promotion and needed some persuasion to go for a Chair after two decades of leading publications and grant success.

He wasn’t a loner. His work has been marked by his wide, interdisciplinary collaboration with social scientists, computer engineers, artists and medical professionals. He has significantly advanced the practice and theory of cross-disciplinary research.

Mike, during COVID lockdown, c2021-2022

His curiosity was not dulled by a dire medical diagnosis, but supercharged into filming and analysing his surgery. He goes where most of us fear to tread, into the afterlife of the dead, where we are now immortalised by our digital footprints and our funerals become fodder for social media. And he has contributed to solving the problems associated with disposing of our mortal remains in a space-starved society.

He was a wonderful Head of Program, supervisor and colleague. His rich family life has supported and informed his curiosity and insight into our everyday which is now pervaded with screens, metadata, connectivity and ‘instantness’. HPS and the University of Melbourne have been blessed to have him.

Janet McCalman

Forum also spoke to some of Mike’s previous PhD students, who told us what impact he had on them:

I feel fortunate to have had such a collegial and supportive supervisor, and someone whose intellectual rigour shaped not only my PhD research but how I approach my work now as an academic.

Kate Mannell
(PhD in HPS, 2020. Research Fellow, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence
for the Digital Child, Deakin University)

I’m forever grateful for Mike’s unwavering trust and support in taking me on as a research student. He gave me the freedom to think, and to complete my PhD project on my own terms. Mike has taught me to slow down my thinking, to think with variety, and to thoroughly examine thinking itself. He has transformed me as a researcher, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

Dang Nguyen
(PhD in HPS, 2022. Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence
for Automated Decision Making & Society)

Professor Arnold has retired from teaching and administration in the History & Philosophy of Science program but continues his research with the DeathTech Network.


Grimwade Centre Students Launch Scroll Vol. 3

In December 2023, Student Conservators @ Melbourne (SC@M) hosted an intimate celebration at the Grimwade Centre’s nearby watering hole, The Clyde Hotel, to congratulate the new Master of Cultural Materials Conservation graduates and officially launch Scroll Vol. 3. The student-led journal celebrates its third successful release in three years.

Founded by the Grimwade Centre’s Master of Cultural Materials Conservation students Emma Dacey, Rachel Davis and Joshua Loke in 2020, Scroll is an online journal run by students, for students. Its vision — to provide “an avenue for emerging professionals from a variety of disciplines to share their ideas, projects and passions in the area of cultural materials conservation”. For three consecutive years, this student-led journal has done just that. In December 2023 Scroll’s editorial team, contributors and peers came together at a gathering hosted by SC@M to celebrate the official release of Scroll Vol. 3.

What Makes Scroll, Scroll?

Unlike journals with highly selective submission processes, Scroll places more importance on the potential of a piece and less on its perfection. The editorial team of student volunteers work closely with contributors throughout the writing and editing process, helping to build their skills and confidence as they produce something they can be proud of.

Scroll editors Lauren Wolfram, Joshua Loke, Jonathon van Toor, Holly Brown, Misty Wade and Emily May at the Grimwade Centre, 2023. Photograph courtesy Scroll

One of the key features of Scroll is our willingness to collaborate with authors regardless of their writing skill. It’s okay if a piece is not yet fully developed — as long as you have a great idea, Scroll will work with you toward a high-calibre outcome. We know that it takes courage to put yourself out there; that is why Scroll never takes any submissions for granted.

Joshua Loke, Scroll Editor and Co-Founder

While Scroll works to generate a quality publication for its readers and support its contributors, it also provides an invaluable experience for its editorial team. Editing and publishing, stakeholder and project management, design and administration — Scroll editors strengthen and expand their skillsets in these areas throughout the year, culminating in a high-quality manifestation of their hard work at the release of each publication.

As a first-year conservation student, I wanted to join the Scroll editorial team to enrich my university experience and connect with like-minded folks. Scroll provides the opportunity for editors and contributors alike to apply and develop their skills as emerging heritage professionals in a supportive and constructive way.

Lauren Wolfram

Scroll Vol. 3

Featuring submissions from past and present Grimwade Centre students, as well as established and emerging conservators from institutions across the globe, Scroll Vol. 3 presents a rich collection of stories and perspectives, carefully curated by its dedicated editors.

Scroll Vol. 3 Cover

Among the pieces that make up the latest issue, you will find an essay by first-year student Vicki Car, ‘Welcome to the Lucky Country’. Shaped by her lived experience as the daughter of Croatian immigrants, her piece explores “the preservation of cultural heritage through the lens of immigrant, diasporic and refugee communities” and how conservators “must advocate for access to the conservation knowledge that will allow these communities to care for their heritage”.

Also inspired by her heritage, first-year student Melanie Melnychuk’s submission Golden Fields and Azure Skies: Dedications to a Faraway Homeland is a collection of paintings that showcase Ukrainian nature, traditions and symbolism — things she hopes to “keep alive and celebrate” despite being on the other side of the world.

Diving into the technical (and the dazzling), Sejal Goel highlights the difficulty in conserving glitter, a relatively new and often overlooked aspect of collections. Her piece ‘All That Glitters is a Nightmare: Conserving Pride at Missouri History Museum’ sheds light on the history of glitter, its treatment, and its importance in modern culture.

From conserving mummies to living heritage, tangible to the intangible, from understanding sexual heritage to rural challenges, ecofeminism and ethics, the diverse contributions in Scroll Vol. 3 provide just a taste of the infinitely interesting vastness that is found within the study and practice of cultural materials conservation. This newest generation of conservators are having their ideas, passions and stories heard and platformed thanks to the supportive vehicle that is Scroll.

Read these stories in Scroll Vol. 3

Participate in Scroll

The Scroll team welcomes anyone interested in contributing content to get in touch. You do not need to be a current University of Melbourne student — submissions are encouraged from professionals, graduates, and those with lived experience in the heritage and GLAM sectors. Scroll publishes essays, reviews, interviews, reports and creative pieces. Whether it be a re-work of an assignment, or an idea for something new, Scroll would love to hear about it. Please send all enquiries, pitches and submissions to the team via email.

If you are a current Grimwade Student and have skills in editing, administration or graphic design, consider becoming part of the Scroll editorial team. Send an email introducing yourself and your abilities under the subject line ‘Editorial Team EOI’.

For more information, head to the Participate section of the Scroll website.

Scroll is backed and supported by SC@M. Keep up to date with Scroll and SC@M on social media by following them on Instagram at and Facebook at Student Conservators at Melbourne.

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