Cultural Collections

Redmond Barry Fellowship annual lecture

This year’s Redmond Barry Fellowship lecture will be presented by Dr Michael Davis, and is entitled Making Ethnographic History: Encounters in the Greg Dening Archive. Dr Davis is an Honorary Research Fellow with the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney, and an independent scholar. He has held a post-doctoral research fellowship at Sydney University, and in 2008 a David Scott Mitchell Fellowship at the State Library of NSW. Michael’s research is in Indigenous/European histories and encounters in environment and natural history, ecology and place, and ethics in Indigenous research. His publications include Writing Heritage: the Depiction of Indigenous Heritage in European-Australian Writings (2007).

The lecture will be held on Monday 13 July in the Dulcie Hollyock Room, ground floor, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne, at 6:00pm.

Bookings Essential


Previous Redmond Barry Fellowship Recipients


Dr Michael Davis

The Greg Dening papers: Using ethnographic history in writing about Aboriginal/European environmental encounters

Professor Greg Dening (1931-2008) was a Melbourne academic historian, anthropologist and prominent Pacific Studies scholar. His distinct approach was set out in his many books, including Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land: Marquesas 1774-1880 (1988), The Death of William Gooch: A History's Anthropology (1991), Mr Bligh's Bad Language: Passion, Power and Theater on the Bounty (1992), and his collection of essays in Performances (1996). Professor Dening was one of the pioneers of what came to be called the 'Melbourne School' of ethnographic history. His unique intellectual approach was to develop innovative ways of understanding and interpreting cross-cultural encounters between Europeans and Indigenous Others. Dening's work remains highly influential in colonial and postcolonial studies and Pacific history scholarship.

Through the Redmond Barry Fellowship, Dr Davis proposes to engage closely with the large archive of Professor Dening's unpublished papers held at the State Library of Victoria, and at the University of Melbourne, to seek deeper insights into Dening's historical method, and to inquire into how his particular approach was developed, particularly through his correspondence, and journals and diaries. In addition, Dr Davis will also bring to bear the utility of Dening's approach to his own research and writing on histories of Australian Indigenous/European environmental encounters. Extending on his previous work, Dr Davis plans to use his study of Dening's papers to write a major piece on cross-cultural encounters and environmental history, and will also prepare some writing towards a biography of Dening's work.

Dr Michael Davis has recently completed a three year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of History at Sydney University, and is now an Honorary Research Fellow in the recently-established Sydney Environment Institute at the University. He is writing on histories of 19th century Aboriginal/European environmental encounters in north-eastern Australia, is publishing journal articles, and is working on a book in this area. Before taking up his postdoctoral fellowship, Michael worked for many years as an independent historian and policy specialist, and for some projects worked with Aboriginal communities and organisations in various parts of Australia. His previous publications include Writing Heritage: The Depiction of Indigenous Heritage in European-Australian Writings (2007, Melbourne and Canberra: Australian Scholarly Publishing and National Museum of Australia Press).



Dr Marguerita Stephens

William Thomas & the Kulin people, 1839-1867

William Thomas, a London schoolmaster and Wesleyan lay preacher, was one of the five men appointed by the British Government under the Port Phillip Aboriginal Protectorate, 1839-1850, to protect the Aboriginal people of that newly colonised territory. Officially one of four 'assistants' to Chief Protector G. A. Robinson, Thomas was recognised by Lieutenant Governor La Trobe as the most competent, knowledgeable and determined of the protectors and was appointed as Guardian of Aborigines in 1850 when the Protectorate was dismantled. His wife Susannah was his partner in all the work. Thomas continued as Guardian until just before his death in 1867. Throughout the whole of these 28 years he kept a daily journal.

William Thomas’ journal is a document of international historical importance, illuminating the British evangelical and humanitarian movements in Australia in the pre-1860 era, and on 'Victorian exceptionalism' in regard to the history of race relations in Australia and Aboriginal citizenship. The journal provides a wealth of information about the daily lives of individual Kulin men and women in the early days of colonial occupation, and highlights the economic reliance of colonists on Aboriginal labour.  It reveals the agency of Victorian Aboriginal leaders in the establishment of 'Aboriginal Stations' in the 1860s. Thomas' journal is unmatched in the wealth of detail it contains about Aboriginal lives and deaths in this period, and in its documenting of the attitudes of individual settlers and colonial administrations to Aboriginal people.

Dr Stephens has worked closely with the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) to recover and transcribe the journal in its various iterations. Her three-volume annotated transcription, plus a volume of Thomas' language materials, will be published late in 2013. As the 2013 Redmond Barry Fellow, Dr Stephens’ project is to produce a single volume narrative for the general reader of the interlocked lives of William and Susannah, and the Kulin men and women, whose biographies emerge from the journal. Thomas was both an ally of the Kulin, and a paternal agent of colonialism. Between himself and the Kulin there was mutual respect and mutual antagonism, suspicion, resistance and cooperation. The narrative will explore the complexities of these relationships, and repopulate Victorian history and place with the multidimensional, individual Aboriginal men and women who emerge from Thomas' journal.



Dr David Pear

Percy Grainger's early years: the formation of an Australian

In the early 1900s, Australian artists and musicians had a tendency to flit between one hemisphere and the other, between the Old World and the New. Torn by the desire for creature comforts at one moment and the will to adventure the next, they were often unable to choose between what some perceived as the narrow, culture-starved glorified-country-town of their upbringing (wherever that might be in Australia), in contrast to the enticing mirage of a progressive, spontaneous, creative and 'anything-is-possible' Europe. While nearly all such individuals identified strongly with Australia, they also harboured an unreconciled relationship with that nation. It might have been 'home', but it wasn't 'Home'.

Dr Pear's project considered the formative years of Percy Grainger, particularly those character traits which he believed marked him specifically as an Australian (despite the British passport he carried and the American one he was later to adopt). It questioned the presumption that 1890s Australia—and Melbourne in particular—was entirely the cultural backwater which drove the culture-seeker overseas in the first place. Dr Pear's research at both the State Library and the Grainger Museum sought to identify more precisely the young Percy's educational milieu in all its manifestations: pedagogically, socially, and even geographically.

It also aspired to identify and tease apart those influences his mother might have had on the child's formation, and those of his talented but oft-neglected father, John Harry Grainger. This latter aspect of the project proved more successful than anticipated, and Dr Pear now has confidence in having established a more rounded portrait of the child Grainger's social and educational development, enhancing (and perhaps at times contradicting) the two biographical accounts (by John Bird and Paddy Dorum) currently heavily relied upon by musicologists and historians. This Fellowship will enable Dr Pear to write the initial chapters of a new biography of the composer.



Associate Professor Jim Davidson

Meanjin, Overland and literary magazine culture in Melbourne: The Christesen and Murray-Smith editorships 1940-1988

Professor Davidson is utilising the Stephen Murray-Smith and Overland magazine papers at the State Library of Victoria, and the records of Clem Christesen and Meanjin at the University of Melbourne Archives. Each of these founding editors filled their post for 34 years, and each journal had a strong connection to the University of Melbourne during that time: although Meanjin began in Brisbane, after four years Christesen arrived at the University of Melbourne.  While Professor Davidson’s research starts with similiarities between the two literary magazines, the differences are likely to prove of greater interest.

Professor Davidson’s research illustrates how literary magazines have played a part in the enunciation of Australian political independence. They also helped in the development of cultural confidence in the period following WWII - Meanjin began as journal featuring poetry written in Queensland and became broader in scope, with internationally recognised authors published alongside Australian ones.

The characters and interests of the two founding editors and the writers with whom they corresponded are clearly seen in the records.  In addition to the personalities and events, Professor Davidson is interested in the kinds of readers who subscribed to the journals and whether it was common to read both, and he is looking at how their readerships expanded.



Colin Holden

Rome in Melbourne: The Piranesi Collections in the Baillieu and State Libraries

Colin Holden’s interest in the work of the remarkable 18th-century architect and printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78) was reinforced when he visited Rome for the first time in 1989 and saw in person various Roman ruins which confirmed how remarkably Piranesi had captured - and sometimes exaggerated - their grandeur.

His project will undertake a major revaluation of Piranesi’s early posthumous printings, unduly neglected until now. The many bound volumes of Piranesi’s prints constitute what Dr Holden considers “one of the most important single collections of eighteenth-century work in the University and State Libraries”.

Dr Holden first fell in love with prints when he was an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne in 1970 studying for an honours degree in Archaeology and Middle Eastern languages. In those days Armenian, Ethiopic and other exotic texts were on display on the first floor of the Baillieu Library.

Winning the 2010 Redmond Barry Fellowship, a $20,000 grant awarded to assist with travel, living and research expenses, will enable Dr Holden to return to the Baillieu, its archives and those of the State Library, to pursue his passion for the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

Read more about Colin Holden's project.



Andrew Dodd

John James Clark

The winner of the 2009 Redmond Barry Fellowship is journalist Andrew Dodd who will pursue his research into the Victorian colonial architect John James Clark who arrived in Melbourne in 1852 at the age of 14 and immediately started designing the colony's important public and civic buildings. His work includes the Royal Mint, the City Baths and the Melbourne Treasury, designed when he was just 19 years old.

Andrew Dodd's biography will reveal the stories behind the man who was a genius in stylistic synthesis and who, after his death in 1915, was hailed as 'Australia's greatest architect'. Andrew also plans to produce a La Trobe Journal article on Clark's role in the development of the Public Libraries of Sydney and Melbourne.



Writer, Dr Danielle Clode

A Future in Flames: Wildfire in a Changing Climate

Drawing on recent major fires across Australia, A Future in Flames will illustrate and explore the major issues involved in fire ecology, behaviour, control, climate and psychology. A Future in Flames will provide a valuable resource for all Australians whose future, dircetly or indirectly, is affected by climate- change induced increases in fire.

The fellowship was used for the research for this project, which requires extensive use of the pictorial and textual resources of the collections at the University and the State Library.



Writer and bookseller, Ms Kristin Otto

Capital: Melbourne when it was the capital of Australia 1901-1927

Capital: Melbourne when it was the capital of Australia 1901-1927 is to be published as a trade paperback by Text Publishing in 2009. The Redmond Barry Fellowship was used to research and write a substantial section of this book. The bulk of material used for the project is held by the State Library of Victoria in Books, Newspapers, Manuscripts, and Pictures; and by the University of Melbourne Special Collections and Archives. The story of Melbourne then is an intriguing web of extraordinary people and events.



Historian, Dr Kathleen Fennessy

Ploughing with One Heifer: Colonial Victorians Learning the Land
Research for a book

Dr Kathleen Fennessy was awarded the third Redmond Barry Fellowship for her historical research project, ‘Ploughing with One Heifer: Colonial Victorians Learning the Land’. The project focused on the way settlers, who were often inexperienced, learned about the land and learned to use it productively during the period when the Colony of Victoria’s Selection Acts attempted to establish an independent yeomanry. It was not primarily concerned with the way the Land Acts worked or with the development of agricultural production or with the establishment of formal agricultural education. Rather, it aimed to understand informal agricultural learning during the 1860s and 1870s, and the movement towards more structured agricultural education.

Research for the project was undertaken at the State Library of Victoria, and principally focused on rare books, manuscripts and newspapers in the Heritage Collection. The following broad areas were investigated:

The Fellowship provided a wonderful opportunity to undertake a sustained period of research for a proposed book manuscript. The State Library is not only a remarkable storehouse of learning but also a convivial place. The Fellowship allowed for the solitariness of research to be relieved by the stimulating companionship of the Library’s Creative Fellows and by the thoughtful assistance of the staff.



Poet and Essayist, Olivier Burckhardt

Pencilled Lines on Poetry

As an independent essayist and poet without formal academic background, the opportunity to undertake research and work on “Pencilled Lines on Poetry: Essays on East-West Poetics” was exhilarating. The Redmond Barry Fellowship enabled me to carry out the extensive preliminary research required for the overall plan of the book-length project. The time, workspace, extensive access to both libraries and research facilities of The University of Melbourne and The State Library of Victoria, and the opportunity to interact with the academic community and general public, enabled me to undertake an intensive and challenging work period. Though a series of public seminars/talks at both institutions I was able to present various facets of the project as a work-in-progress, the resulting interaction and feedback that this generated enabled me to fine-tune and hone both specific and general aspects of the project which revolves around a cross-cultural definition of the scope or essential qualities of poetry.

In terms of professional development, the Fellowship enabled me to more confidently identify and address specific audiences, and establish links with a professional network that is ongoing.



Historian, Dr Leonarda Kovacic

From ‘Lubras’ to ‘Belles’: Representations of Aboriginal Women, 1850 - 1950

The original title of my project was ‘From “Lubras” to “Belles”: Representations of Aboriginal Women in Photography, 1850-1950’. I identified and analysed (mostly colonial) photographs of Aboriginal women in the La Trobe Picture Collection. Towards the end of my time at the SLV, I became aware of three sets of images of Aboriginal women in the nude and semi-nude, taken by different photographers from the 1890s through to the late 1930s. The interpretation of these images from aesthetic and artistic (rather than purely historical or anthropological) perspectives has come to form the basis of my first academic monograph, Aboriginal Nudes, which is now nearing completion (as at July 2007).

Other research outcomes include three conference papers: 1) ‘Aboriginal Nudes’, presented at the ‘Sex in History’ Symposium at the University of Melbourne in 2004; 2) ‘Strewn Beauty: Clara Phillips and La Perouse in the Early 1900s’, given at the ‘Narrative Research’ Symposium at Victoria University in 2006; and 3) ‘An Aboriginal Belle of La Perouse’, delivered at the 2006 annual conference of the Australian Historical Association at the Australian National University in Canberra.

The project further developed into a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian National University in 2005-2006, and turned into an investigation of the lives of some of the Aboriginal women who posed for these photographs. This has resulted in the findings and discoveries that—once published—will undoubtedly enrich the knowledge base of the La Trobe Picture Collection (not much is known about these images) as well as that of Australian colonial scholarship in general. In 2006 I presented a seminar paper at the Humanities Research Centre at the ANU, entitled ‘Beauty, Passion, Sex and Desire Across Borders: Writing Women’s Lives from a Transcultural Perspective’. The paper, which crossed and explored the (fluid) boundaries between local and national history, transnational biography, oral history, photography and creative writing, linked lives of two—otherwise unrelated—women from the opposite sides of the world: a Croatian woman from the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia and an Aboriginal woman from La Perouse.

The Redmond Barry Fellowship was invaluable in that it provided me with financial and physical resources to conduct my research and granted me unlimited access to the otherwise restricted areas of the State Library.

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