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Olive Oliver Collection

Travel Diary – Olive Oliver, 1911

Image: Travel Diary – Olive Oliver, 1911

Source: Museum Victoria

In 1911 Miss Olive Oliver, a wealthy 32 year old woman from Melbourne, embarked on a round-the-world tour of the United States of America, Britain and Europe. The extensive journey took her to many grand cities and places of natural beauty. Olive travelled with her father, William Oliver, her brother, William Donald ('Don'), and her friend, Gretta Nicolls.

Throughout the trip, Olive kept a travel diary and collected brochures, postcards, menus, concert programs and maps from the places she visited. Museum Victoria has acquired these items as well as Olive's large wooden sea chest, and together these make up the Olive Oliver collection. The diary is a small, leather-bound paper diary in which Olive wrote of her daily activities from 9 March 1911 to 31 December 1911. As the trip lasted about a year, it is likely that there would have been a second diary covering the months of the trip during 1912 but unfortunately it has not survived.

The diary and colourful ephemera enable Olive's travels of almost a century ago to come to life. Yet more than simply recording the story of one woman's travels, the collection gives insights into early 20th century Australia and the cultural outlook and identity that Australians engaged with at this time. It demonstrates the desire among early and subsequent generations of Australian settlers to return 'home' to Britain and Europe, as well as visit other 'new world' countries, and it highlights the importance placed on gaining a cultural education outside of Australia through the 'grand tour'.

The collection is also a record of an era when the world was opening up to women, especially middle and upper class women, as they were granted new economic and legal rights, and presented with unheralded opportunities for travel and recreation, as well as for work.

Apart from the details of her journey, little is known of Olive except that she returned to Australia, did not marry or have children and died in Melbourne 1961. If anyone has any further information about Olive Oliver, please contact the Discovery Centre at Museum Victoria.

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