Baillieu treasures on permanent display in Old Arts building

A rejuvenation project by historian Professor John Murphy and Master of Art Curatorship student Anneliese Milk has transformed the interior of the Old Arts building from a typical university corridor to an exhibition of historical treasures.

The previously blank walls have been lined with prints of varying themes and time periods sourced from originals in the University's extensive Baillieu Library collections.

Prof Murphy said the original idea was to seek out and display archived treasures from the Library that represented the diversity of disciplines taught and researched at the Faculty of Arts.
"We looked at maps, prints and rare books in the Baillieu Special Collections and in the Eastern Resource Centre Rare and Historical maps collection. These had connections with our disciplines such as history, literature, art history, cultural studies, politics, to name a few," he said.

"As well as having a pleasing aesthetic value, we aim to enhance students' experience and even inspire them when they encounter the images as they move between classes," said Prof Murphy.
The Faculty advertised the role of Project Manager to Master of Art Curatorship students and Ms Anneliese Milk was the successful applicant.

As well as excelling in her studies, she has previous experience curating exhibitions and completed an internship at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Before taking on this project she was at the University's Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology researching the authenticity and origin of a rare collection item.

"It was exciting to be given the opportunity to go through the huge collection of pictures, books and maps at the Baillieu Library and help find work that would suit the building and capture the attention of students and other visitors. I have been at the University as a student for a long time and spent many hours in Old Arts, so I was pleased to be selected to improve it," she said.
As Project Manager Anneliese made contributions to the selections of the prints, oversaw the printing and production, wrote the wall labels, and designed the plan of where to place the pictures.

"The Old Arts building was not built with this sort of project in mind and does not have a controlled environment like art galleries so curating the prints had different challenges. I had to understand the building layout and work with the space available in the building. I tried to factor in the varying light which changes throughout the day and I needed to understand how people move through the building, such as where students are walking and where they are sitting and studying," she said.

After the prints were selected, they were digitised by the University Digitisation Centre with a state of the art Zeutschel scanner, which creates digital images in very large formats and in very high detail, including the creases and imperfections present in the originals.

The prints have been placed in groups according to theme, period or artist. For example, near the north entrance you can find four watercolour birds selected from John White's Journal of a voyage to New South Wales (1790). Upstairs you can view old maps, including a massive wallpaper reproduction of a map of the world by cartographer Aaron Arrowsmith (1794).

"Near the west entrance in a corridor with a lot of traffic we have placed five pages from an 1868 reproduction of The marriage of heaven and hell by William Blake. On the opposite wall are five pages from another story, The Love Story of Kamrup and Kamlata," said Ms Milk.

Prof Murphy said that as well as representing the Faculty's range of research and teaching areas, the prints will always be a reminder of the generosity of the University's supporters and donors.
"Many of these works were sourced from collections donated to the Baillieu Library, and others were kept in good condition thanks to the support of the Friends of the Baillieu Library. It is a pleasure to see them on display for our students and the visiting public to enjoy and I'm sure the donors would agree," he said.

The Faculty of Arts would like to recognise the contribution of donors who gave some of these treasures to the Baillieu, including:

  • The Ronald and Pamela Walker collection for their donation of rare and beautiful maps
  • The John Orde Poynton collection for his donation of original prints by Albrecht Durer, Jan Georg van Vliet and William Hogarth
  • The George McArthur Bequest, including the journal of John White's voyage to Sydney Cove in 1788
  • The collection of Professor John Bowman, including an illustrated manuscript of an 18th century Mughal Indian version of the (much older) Persian love poem Dastur-i Himmat

Some of these collections have been supported financially by the Friends of the Baillieu Library.

On Monday 7 April the Faculty of Arts officially launched the new display, hosting a morning tea to thank Ms Milk and the University of Melbourne staff involved in the project. Attendees including the Dean of Arts, Professor Mark Considine, were treated to a tour of the 73 exhibited works, which students of the University have already started to enjoy as they pass through the halls of the Old Arts building. The impressive collection reflects both the diversity of the courses offered by the Faculty of Arts, and the quality of the works held by the University's Baillieu Library.

Ms Milk, credits her studies with having helped to really define her interests, and is insistent that she owes her coursework and involvement in this project to helping her gain further employment opportunities. While Ms Milk plans to complete her Master of Art Curatorship at the end of the year, she is becoming increasingly involved in the world of art. In addition to her contribution to this project, she currently holds a number of curatorial roles including work at the Parliamentary Library, St Vincent's Hospital and the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. Ms Milk is keen to pursue her interest further, perhaps, "including a PhD exploring the intersection between the Arts and Medicine". Whatever Ms Milk's next steps, it is clear that this remarkable collection will impact on a great number of students, staff and visitors to the University for years to come.