Global Challenge – Museum Victoria, Blog 3

First week

My first weekend in Melbourne and it was the Cultural Treasures Festival at the University, Open house Melbourne and the Australian Antiquarian Book Fair. The Cultural Treasures Festival showcased an array of Melbourne’s museums and collections, featuring unique exhibitions, talks and tours. I managed to help out at the event as I knew someone working there; I was based in the Old Quadrangle a really pretty part of the University. I then met up with an Alumni of Birmingham who lives in Melbourne. She took me to Chinatown, to a restaurant called The Sharkfin and we had Yum Cha, which means drinking tea. The waiters filled the table with food, much of which I had no idea what it was but everything tasted good! We then went to one of the buildings open for Melbourne’s Open House weekend. It was the CH2 tower, it is occupied by the City of Melbourne council, and was the first purpose-built office building in Australia to achieve a maximum Six Green Star rating – designed in a unique way to save energy and reduce emissions. We had a guided tour and then went on to the roof where the employees have lunch and looked out over Melbourne. Sunday I went to Melbourne’s Zoo and Aquarium and saw lots of Australian animals including koala bears, kangaroo’s and wallabies.

My first week at work I learned my outcomes for the project; they are to update Emu database records for the ‘Aussie’ magazines, focussing on Object Summary, Description, Inscription, Subjects and Associations. I will also complete Drafted narratives for Emu on the magazine and the editor Phillip Harris. I will conduct research into the First World War around the Changing attitudes to authority after the war; changing mood after the war; Depictions or acknowledgement of injury – facial and other and Indigenous people and other representations of diversity. I will also participate in project team meetings, attend departmental meetings and liaise with curators. At the end of my time here I will present a report and also give a talk to my department about my findings.

The magazines I am working with are called ‘Aussie’, (1918- circa 1929) they are commercial magazines of opinion, review and entertainment. They were edited by Phillip Harris and published in France from 1918 – 1919 on a small printing press that Harris brought with him to France. The magazine celebrated a distinctive ‘Aussie’ identity, through their language, their humour and their assertion of what it meant to be an Australian. It allowed news to be distributed, gave the soldiers an outlet to express any dissent or dissatisfaction, thus preventing any greater form of rebellion and promoted Australian authors like Banjo Paterson, C.J. Dennis and Bernard O’Dowd. After the war, Phillip Harris produced a monthly in Sydney and renamed it: ‘Aussie: the Cheerful Monthly’ from 1920. It built a sizeable circulation and for more than a decade it published the major Australian writers and cartoonists of the day. It set out to sustain the digger culture and defending the rights of the veterans, while also embracing the re-adjustment of returned soldiers into civilian life.

When I arrived on my first day I was met by the Senior Curator in Politics and Society – Charlotte smith, who introduced me to the entire department and then took me on a tour of the museum and its collections. While Charlotte took me round she explained how the museum worked and its different departments. I then went into the store rooms and was given object handling training with the magazines. That afternoon, I was taught how to use the museum database – ‘Emu’ which I will be working with a lot to data enhance the magazine collection and then eventually transfer that data onto the Museums online collections. After my induction I got to work on my project, I decided to make a spread sheet to begin with, so I knew what information we had on Emu already and what information I needed to add. I had a look through the magazines to get a better idea of how they are compiled and their layout. The whole of the contents of the magazine were written or drawn by members of the A.I.F. in the Field. Some of the short stories and jokes are really amusing and it is a pleasure to have a read through them, however you do realise how much times have changed and that some of their humour or depictions are quite radical and would be considered unacceptable in today’s magazines. In the middle of the week I met my primary supervisor – Deborah Tout-Smith and we discussed my outcomes for the project. For the rest of the week I conducted research on the magazine and its author and updated the magazines classification, physical description, inscriptions, associations, subjects, historical significance and references. At the end of the week I attended the Humanities department meeting, issues included, research updates; the moving of collections; acquisition updates and department news. The meeting was really interesting and I got a real insight into the museum.

On Friday I went to Melbourne’s Art Fair held in the Royal Exhibition Building next door to the Museum. It is an exhibition of leading contemporary art, presented by over 80 selected national and international galleries. The event features paintings, sculpture, photography, installation and multimedia art works of over 900 artists. I loved seeing all the galleries represented and all the art, the building is amazing inside as well. It definitely gives you a lot of inspiration as you look around.


About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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