Mira (Mary) Morris

Senior Collection Manager and Curator, Ethnohistory, Indigenous Collections

Mary Morris is responsible for the management and development of the Ethnohistory Collection. This significant collection comprises photographs, manuscripts, and film and sound material spanning 150 years and represents Indigenous people from all over Australia and internationally. Key areas of her work include the registration and cataloguing, developing and implementing preservation strategies, digitisation of collection material, acquisition and enhancement of the collections with further documentation and research.  

Background

Mary has worked as both curator and collection manager in the Indigenous Collections Department at Museum Victoria for more than 25 years and has developed particular interests in the areas of visual anthropology, photography, and archaeology. Her museum experience also includes exhibition development, publications and research on both the object and anthropology archives. Information management and database management is also an area that Mary has focussed on. 

Always interested in archaeology, history and the classics, Mary completed an Honours Degree in Archaeology at La Trobe University and developed a specific interest the area of Australian Archaeology and Aboriginal History, with her thesis topic based on a Museum collection and early collectors.

In 1989, Mary commenced a contract position in the Aboriginal Studies Department as a Technical Assistant. For the next two years, she was employed as a Curator contributing to a number of cataloguing and information management projects, and public programs including the Women’s Work exhibition and publication. During this time she was also part of a project team that produced the publication, ‘Guide to the Victorian Aboriginal Collections’ in the Museum of Victoria. In 1992 Mary was appointed to her current position. Since her appointment to this role, Mary has introduced and applied fundamental collection management principles to the collection and has, to date, delivered the registration, cataloguing and rehousing of almost 30,000 items. In addition numerous research and documentation projects have been undertaken to enhance these records further.

Mary has developed a keen interest in researching the early collections and photographs, attributing provenance and identifications of people through comparative studies and to develop narratives and biographies of key collectors, photographers, ethnographers and Aboriginal people depicted in the photographic collections. Mary has also spent many years repatriating images to individuals, families and communities for the purposes of photo documentation projects, development of cultural protocols, family history research and community history projects. Mary has also facilitated and supported hundreds of access and research enquiries relating to the Ethnohistory collections for a range of research and publications. Between 2009 and 2013 Mary was a Partner Investigator on an Australian Research Council funded project entitled ‘Reconstructing the Spencer and Gillen Collection: Museums, Indigenous Perspectives and the Production of Cultural Knowledge’. Working with the Australian National University, the project aimed to reunite the collections of Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen, in a digital format and to make collections available online. The project was completed in 2012 and in May 2013 the Spencer and Gillen website was launched.

Other highlights include: the relocation of the collections to the Melbourne Museum Complex, a 6 year project; the South eastern Australian Manuscripts digitisation project, a complex project that digitised approximately 8,800 pages and enhanced over 1000 catalogue records; the digitisation and data enhancement of almost 6000 Southeast Australian photographs. Working with and for the collections; my colleagues and corporate knowledge.

Current activities

  • Preparation of collection records for Collections Online.
  • The preparation and relocation of Indigenous Collections; a two year storage and rehousing plan.
  • Ongoing co-ordination, direction and supervision of the legacy registration project of Ethnohistory collection.
  • Research and publication regarding the relationship between Baldwin Spencer and John Lindt
  • RE Johns collection. Research and possible collaborative project with other institutions
Last updated 8 August 2014