Library

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Library

Information on Trilobites? Blandowski? Coles Book Arcade? The MV Library helps the Museum's curators and researchers find information, and welcomes other scholars by appointment to use its large book and journals collection.

Rare Books wrap-up

Author
by Gemma
Publish date
28 July 2014
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Gemma is a librarian at Museum Victoria.

On Saturday 19 July, a panel of experts came together for an Antiques Roadshow-style event where members of the public were invited to come along and have their books, maps and prints appraised.

The experts were kept busy throughout the event. The experts were kept busy throughout the event.
Image: Gemma Steele
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This is the second year running that Melbourne Museum has run the Rare Book Discovery Day as part of Rare Book Week, and this year was bigger and better. Our panel of experts extended to include Gerry Dorset (Brighton Antique Prints and Maps), Mick Stone (Camberwell Books & Collectibles), and Michael O’Brien (Bradstreet’s Books) who were great additions to rare book sellers Stuart Kells (Books of Kells), Peter Arnold (Peter Arnold Rare Books). Museum Victoria’s paper conservator, Belinda Gourley was on hand again this year, and was kept busy providing advice on caring for books and giving recommendations for correct storage.

paper conservato giving advice on caring for a book Museum Victoria’s paper conservator, Belinda Gourley giving advice on caring for a stunningly-illustrated book of fairy tales.
Image: Gemma Steele
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some interesting items were uncovered, including prints of the Titanic, German calendars from the 1960s, a two-volume English dictionary from the 18th century, and a collection of some very rare serials on migration to British colonies. Many of the items were of high sentimental value rather than high market value, although our highest valuation this year was nearly $5000!

One of the more unusual items on the day: a plan for the removal of the Benevolent Asylum, North Melbourne. One of the more unusual items on the day: a plan for the removal of the Benevolent Asylum, North Melbourne.
Image: Gemma Steele
Source: Museum Victoria
 

If you're a fan of rare books, maps, prints and ephemera, don't miss several items from the Museum Victoria Library’s historic rare book collection on display as part of The Art of Science. This exhibition opens at Melbourne Museum on 19 September 2014 and will run until 1 February 2015.

Taking care of your rare books

Author
by Gemma
Publish date
11 July 2014
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Gemma is a librarian at Museum Victoria.

Of course we all love books, but, if I have learned anything from compulsively reading Pride and Prejudice year on year it is this: sometimes we hurt the ones we love. So with Melbourne Rare Book Week fast approaching, whether you are a keen collector or someone who has come across a hidden gem in the garage, here are five golden rules to follow to take care of your own collection:

1. Wash your hands

When reading or flicking through your books make sure your hands are clean and dry because oils, perspiration, dirt and food residue can cause a lot of damage.

A Book Conservator at Work A conservator carefully handles a book. Preventive conservation protocols protect the lifespan of cultural objects while allowing them to be viewed safely.
Source: Creative Commons via Wikicommons.
 

2. Be gentle!

Some books will not want to lie open at 180 degrees; if the spine does not want to bend in a particular way then it is best not to force it as this can cause damage. Turn pages from the side rather than the corner and when removing books from a shelf always pull it from the sides rather than the top of the spine.

3. Light and temperature

Keep your book collection in a cool place with minimal exposure to light and away from areas with radiators or vents.

4. Storage

Store books either upright or lying flat, not leaning at an angle. Books should be supported on either side by books or book stands of similar size, and it is best not to pack the books in too tightly. Large, heavy folio-size books are best stored flat.

books on a shelf An example of bad book storage!
Image: Jon Sullivan
Source: Books on a shelf by Jon Sullivan
 

5. Dust regularly

Dust your books often as dust can quickly accumulate on books. It is very important to remember that, if the conditions are right, dust can be a food source for mould and mildew!

Another important tip would be not to attempt to carry out any books repairs yourself. While it may be tempting, you may end up damaging the book further and reducing its value. Museum Victoria’s paper conservator will be on hand to offer advice on caring for books and other printed material at our Rare Book Discovery Day on Saturday 19 July. Also on the panel of experts at this free event will be leading antiquarian book, print and map dealers who can assess and appraise your items.

Rare Book Discovery Day is part of Melbourne Rare Book Week. Check out the Rare Book Week website for more events around town.

Links

MV Blog: Rare Book Discovery Day 2013

Rare Book Discovery Day

Author
by Hayley
Publish date
23 July 2013
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On Saturday 20 July, four antiquarian booksellers and the museum's paper conservator joined forces to provide a free valuation and conservation service to the public as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week 2013. Peter Arnold (Peter Arnold Antiquarian Booksellers), Justin Healy (Grub Street Bookshop), Stuart Kells (Books of Kells) and Douglas Stewart (Douglas Stewart Fine Books) spent three hours assessing inherited or collected items for their market value. Paper Conservator Belinda Gourley spoke to visitors about appropriate storage and care of old or rare books.

It was interesting to see the variety of material that visitors brought along, which ranged from a Walter Scott novel to an early nineteenth century musical notation book.

Three women looking at a book Conservator Belinda Gourley provides some storage and care advice for a musical notation book dating from 1804.
Image: Hayley Webster
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The find of the day was a 1907 exhibition catalogue of women's work held at the Royal Exhibition Building.

Women's Work catalogue 1907 catalogue of women's work
Source: Kay Craddock
 

This was of particular interest to library staff, as our Rare Book Collection includes a range of exhibition catalogues relating to exhibitions held at the Royal Exhibition Building. We also took the chance to show off a couple of items from our own rare book collection, including the very rare A Monograph of the Psittacidae or Parrot Family of Australia, which is held by only two libraries worldwide.

Three people looking at rare book Library Manager Leonie Cash displaying Monograph of the Psittacidae or Parrot Family of Australia by Rev. J. J. Halley to booksellers Peter Arnold and Justin Healy.
Image: Hayley Webster
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The event was great fun, and it was fantastic to participate in the second Melbourne Rare Book Week. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Links:

Follow Melbourne Rare Book Week on Facebook

View digitised plates from A Monograph of the Psittacidae or Parrot Family of Australia on the Google Art Project

John Abbot’s Lepidoptera

Author
by Hayley
Publish date
8 March 2013
Comments
Comments (1)

The MV Library holds an important collection of 18th and 19th century scientific literature. Many of these books began as working tools for early museum curators studying the local fauna. Now, they form part of our rare book collection and are prized for their beauty and rarity.

The library's collection has an interesting history, forming from the amalgamation of two specialist collections from the National Museum of Victoria and Science Museum. Books have been purchased since the earliest days of the National Museum of Victoria, when the first director, Frederick McCoy, acquired important titles such as the entomological works of Maria Sybilla Merian.

While the library collection at MV is relatively small, it is also surprisingly unique. Library staff are currently working to identify titles unique to Australian libraries, a project which has exposed some real gems in the collection, such as John Abbot’s The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia (1797).

Tab V, ‘American Brimstone Butterfly’ Tab V, ‘American Brimstone Butterfly’ via the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Abbot left his native England in 1773 for the colony of Virginia in North America, in order to procure specimens and make drawings of the local insects. Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, Abbot moved to Georgia, where he spent the rest of his life recording the local insects and birds.

Tab XLIX, ‘Corn Emperor Moth’ Tab XLIX, ‘Corn Emperor Moth’ via the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Although he was a prolific natural history artist and well regarded in his lifetime, Abbot is not as well remembered as some of his contemporaries, who included famous naturalists such as John James Audubon. While he is thought to have created four to five thousand watercolours, most of them were unpublished or uncredited during his lifetime.

The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia includes 104 hand-coloured plates by John Harris, after original artwork by John Abbot. It's an important early work to depict North American butterflies and moths, and has been appreciated by scientists and collectors alike for its accuracy as well as its beauty. The introduction was written by James Edward Smith, a founder of The Linnean Society of London.

While it is exciting to encounter rare material in our collection, it is also nice to be able to share it. Luckily, the work has been digitised and is now freely accessible through the Biodiversity Heritage Library, so have a browse online or download your own copy of this rare work!

References

Gilbert, P. & Hamilton, C., Entomology: A Guide to Information Sources, London & New York: Mansell, 1990.

Gilbert, P., John Abbot: Birds, Butterflies and Other Wonders, London: Merrell Holberton and Natural History Museum, 1998.

Job, Frank, “The Library of Museum Victoria” in Rasmussen, C. (ed.), A Museum for the People: A History of Museum Victoria and its Predecessors, 1854-2000, Carlton North, Vic.: Scribe Publications, 2001.

Rogers-Price, Vivian & Griffin, William W., "John Abbot: Pioneer-Naturalist of Georgia," Magazine Antiques (October 1983): 768-75.

Reed necklace

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
11 September 2012
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173 years ago today, on 11 September 1839, a reed necklace held in the MV Collection was collected in the Melbourne area by George Augustus Robinson. The necklace is one of five he collected during his tenure as Chief Protector of Aborigines for Port Phillip (1839-1849).

reed necklace Reed necklace collected by GA Robinson in 1839. It is made from 162 hollow reed segments strung on vegetable string. (X84452)
Image: Photograph: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The necklace belonged to a man from Port Phillip whose name was recorded as Po.un.deet (elsewhere spelled Wo.un.deek or Porrundeet). In his later journals, Robinson recorded the name for the reed necklace as teer.er.rer.gone.burt, and observed the local custom of presenting necklaces as a greeting to friends. In an entry from 6 June 1841 he described what happened when a family visited his station:

Mar.ke, the native woman at Tulloh's [property], after some mutual exploration appeared highly pleased at meeting with my native attendants. She recognized an old acquaintance and, without ceremony, took the kangaroo teeth ornaments that adorned his hair and reed necklace that adorned his neck and decorated her child therewith. This I observed to be the custom of the natives when meeting with friends.

The wonderful story of Porrundeet's teer.er.rer.gone.burt will feature in the Many Nations section of the new First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

Links:

GA Robinson, Protector of Aborigines (State Library of NSW)

New Indigenous culture books

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
7 November 2011
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Each year, the MV library develops a particular area of the book collection. This year it's the Indigenous section receiving attention, which will assist the team working on the redevelopment of Bunjilaka and the researchers of the Indigenous Cultures Department. Over 50 books, many of them out-of-print and very rare, were purchased from Grants Bookshop for an average price of less than a modern day paperback. With increasing costs for interlibrary loans, purchasing our own copies for MV makes sound financial sense, too.

Display of new Indigenous culture books Display in the MV Library of the newly-aquired books about Indigenous culture and history.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Research associate Jason Gibson talked about the nature of these books, some of which date back to the 1940s. "They often take a classical anthropological perspective, that you don't see much of any more. There were problems with this approach but in terms of the detail captured, it's fantastic." He explained that these books were largely written by non-Indigenous anthropologists attempting an objective, scientific analysis of Indigenous people. "It was often the first time Indigenous languages, traditions and cultural practices had been documented in written form and therefore these texts have become very important for Native Title research as well as museum studies."

Librarian Leonie Cash laments the closure of many of Melbourne's second-hand bookshops that makes these books even harder to obtain. Even now when books are becoming available in electronic form, physical books are still popular for researchers who spend much of their day looking at a computer screen and would prefer to read from paper.

Jason, Emma and Rose with new books L-R: Jason Gibson, Hayley Webster and Rose Bollen looking at the new books.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The books are on display in the MV Library for staff to peruse and borrow. Of particular interest is the acquisition of the first edition of an American Philosophical Society publication of 1941 Aboriginal Australian String Figures, including string figure illustrations of the bandicoot, python, boomerang, and canoe.

Links:

Indigenous Cultures collections

MV Blog: Following the travelling Tjitingalla

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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