Arts Discovery at the University of Melbourne

Find your voice, create new knowledge and connect with the world in this core subject of our Bachelor of Arts degree.

What is Arts Discovery?

Arts Discovery is our flagship subject for all commencing Bachelor of Arts (BA) students.

It’s an essential introduction to the diversity and distinction of research in the humanities, social sciences and languages.

Join this transformative learning journey to discover how Arts research drives creative innovation and deepens understanding of societies and environments by constantly asking questions about the world around us.

Bring your own questions and curiosity to the conversation: open up exciting pathways with your individual and collaborative research, gain the tools to thrive in your studies, and take up your place in our community of shared scholarship and inquiry.

An illustration of a short-finned eel. (Image credit: Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions)
The short-finned eel – an item to spark your imagination from the New Futures catalogue. (Image credit: Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions)

Where do we start?

We start with you.

Guided by some of our Faculty’s leading scholars, you’ll develop a collaborative research project inspired by one of more than 30 items from our 'New Futures' catalogue, designed to spark your interest and inspire your thinking about the past, present and future.

A photo of Earth, foregrounded by the moon's horizon, taken on-board the Apollo 8 spacecraft. (Image credit: NASA)
'Earthrise' – an item to spark your imagination from the New Futures catalogue. (Image credit: NASA, 1968)

We’ll support you to expose the fabrications, crimes and wonders of the past. We’ll encourage you to engage with what’s happening right now – with what makes you hopeful or fearful, wary or thrilled to be alive in the present moment. We’ll urge you to envision new futures in bold new ways to change what matters most to you.

You’ll present your collaborative research outcomes, using traditional and experimental methods, in a public forum to maximise your impact – maybe a video essay, a print publication, a podcast, or a group exhibition in a virtual gallery.

You’ll also have space and time to reflect on your own learning journey and to present that experience in individual work.

Where do we end?

That depends on you.

We’ll provide you with a strong foundation to succeed in your Arts degree, no matter which major(s) you choose. We’ll help you build learning strategies and academic skills that will serve you throughout your studies and beyond graduation. We’ll facilitate connections with peers and academics that will set you up to take full advantage of our vibrant Arts community.

'Moon Totem', a work by sculptor Noriko Nakamura. (Credit: Noriko Nakamura)
'Moon Totem'– an item to spark your imagination from the New Futures catalogue. (Credit: Noriko Nakamura, 2015; full acknowledgement and photo credits at bottom of page)

We’ll invite you to make the award-winning Arts West building your home when on campus, where you’ll participate in your Arts Discovery seminars – and from which you’ll venture out into the amazing life and resources of the Parkville campus. We’ll help you navigate the abundance of offerings online and on campus, ranging from University libraries and study spaces to cabinets of curiosities from our cultural collections, and on to the co-curricular programmes that will add to the unforgettable experience of your BA.

You’ll be motivated to:

  • Draw on your own unique experiences and interests in developing your scholarly identity
  • Access university communities and supports during your BA journey
  • Connect your BA to real-world impact
  • Get closer to cutting-edge research projects in the humanities, social sciences and languages
  • Engage, participate and succeed in your other BA subjects
  • Learn what you need to know, now and for the future.

In the end, it’s your adventure. We’re here to help you make it the best it can be.

Arts Discovery is about finding your voice, creating new knowledge, and connecting with the world.

Are you ready?

What you'll do

A photo of a takeaway coffee cup. (Image credit: Mitch Goodwin)
A takeaway coffee cup – an item to spark your imagination from the New Futures catalogue. (Image credit: Mitch Goodwin, 2021)
  • Complete this subject in your first semester in a shared study experience alongside every student commencing their Melbourne BA
  • Broaden your perspectives by connecting with our welcoming, vibrant Arts community, including through interactive seminars and interdisciplinary teamwork
  • Learn how Arts research drives innovation and understanding in areas including sustainability, indigeneity, technology, and diversity and inclusion
  • Develop, pitch and deliver a collaborative research project prompted by an item from our New Futures catalogue
  • Learn directly from academic experts about their own research projects and process
  • Hone research techniques including questioning and analysis, reflection and collaboration
  • Complete Joining Melbourne modules to get the best start to your time at the University of Melbourne
  • Access helpful resources, such as skills and mental health supports, that can help you succeed during your BA journey and assist you in becoming job-ready.

Arts Discovery in action

In the seminars that form the basis of Arts Discovery, we’ll all be asking lots of questions:

How do scholars ask questions about the world?
How do they collaborate to solve problems?
How do they create new knowledge – and how do they share it with broader communities?

A photo of the death mask of Dan Morgan. (Credit: Harry Brookes Allen Museum)
The death mask of Dan Morgan – an item to spark your imagination from the New Futures catalogue. (Full acknowledgement and photo credits at bottom of page)

Contribute to meaningful discussions about the foundations of Arts research, inspired by inquiry-based learning.

Put your understanding into practice as it evolves by conceptualising and completing a research project under the close, expert guidance of your academic teaching team:

  • Begin by letting an item from our New Futures catalogue speak to you – then work with your team to develop a compelling question around it
  • Journey through the semester, investigating the threads that spiral from your choices, and sharing your ideas, prior learning and unique perspective to create new knowledge
  • Select the right vehicle to convey your new knowledge to the world, be it video essay or zine or installation or report to industry
  • Wind up the subject in celebratory style, presenting your team’s project outcomes to a wider audience.

The skills you build throughout the semester won't just help you excel in your degree. You'll emerge from this subject as a stronger communicator and collaborator, with the skills to research, analyse and make sense of your path through life beyond study.

Video: See the world through fresh eyes with Arts Discovery

Want a preview of what it's like to study Arts Discovery?

Discover spaces around our Parkville campus as Professor Jacqueline Dutton and some of our students explore the inspiration embedded in a takeaway coffee cup – one of the New Futures catalogue items you could interrogate in Arts Discovery.

Take the next step

Plan your Melbourne BA

Explore Arts Discovery in the Handbook

Further image credits

Moon Totem

Noriko Nakamura b.1986
Moon Totem, 2015
The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of Michael Caswell and Olivia Poloni, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2019
Photograph by Matthew Stanton

Dan Morgan death mask

Dan Morgan death mask, c. 1865
Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology
Photograph by Gavan Mitchell