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July 26, 2023

Discovering Deakin Library’s Special Collections

When Deakin students Ishya and Jacob started the unit SLE352 – Community Science Project, they were given an assessment task to communicate the value of science by developing a project for a client. Their client was the Deakin Library Special Collections, housed in our Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library. We spoke with Ishya and Jacob about how they tackled the project, and what they learned about our Special Collections in the process!

Can you tell us about the brief for this assessment?

Jacob: So, originally we were given this cool project to dive into the Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library and dig up some fascinating depictions of animals from old texts. The idea was to compare those old drawings with how animals are portrayed nowadays, as a way to promote the library and its contents to the general public that may not have even heard of it before.

Ishya: Instead of just writing a boring research paper or blog post, we decided to jazz things up. We whipped up this super cool promo video that showcases the library’s collection and provides information about the library in general. We did have to stick the original brief however, and somehow add in information about endangered flora and fauna into the project, so we decided to work with the lyrebird and make an eye-catching poster which acted as a hook to get people to visit the library. Our client loved our fresh approach, and we’re stoked that we not only uncovered the evolution of endangered species’ depictions but promoted the Deakin University’s Special Collections archive.

Did you know much about the ADPML before you started your project? Did you discover anything interesting or surprising about ADPML while working on it?

Jacob: Before the project I was not even aware we had facilities like it. I was surprised to learn of its existence. I was surprised at how many cool little historical texts they had available. Old cook books, children’s story books etc.

Ishya: I’ve been studying at Deakin for five years and I honestly had no idea ADPML existed! It’s not something you get to read about unless you’re actively searching for it and I think that aspect of it really inspired the team to create more promotional material for the library. The contents of the library weren’t all that surprising, but I did really like the variety of different types of books available. A really important thing I learned was the potential use of these books in normal study. I’m a big internet user for assignments but the library contains a plethora of information which isn’t available online and if I had known that ADPML exists, I would have definitely used it in the past!

A poster in old newsprint style with the title Deakin News It features a large old illustration of lyrebirds alongside information about the birds and the Deakin University Library Special Collections.

The poster Ishya and Jacob created based on content found in our Special Collections.

Your poster featured information about lyrebirds from a book called The Useful Birds of Southern Australia. Why did you choose this book / information to feature?

Both: I think the book was a good starting point in our research. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to focus on lyrebird’s and Kristen had already pulled all the books she had for us to skim through. This particular book gave a general run down of the bird in a succinct manner rather than having to read through pages and pages of miniscule text that went in depth. We also wanted to name-drop at least one book in the article, in hopes that perhaps it might intrigue a particular reader to visit the library. As I mentioned, the book contained old information on lots of birds, rather than focusing just on the lyrebird. We decided to name-drop this particular book out of all the one’s we read as we thought it would catch the attention of any environmental readers and bird-watching hobbyists.

What was your favourite item from the ADPML collection that you discovered during the project and why?

Jacob: I think the film roll was most interesting, it had a full film on the lyrebirds made by the Victorian government. It was intriguing because it made realise that perhaps general information about the lyre bird was much more commonly known about back then, especially if the government was going to the effort to spend time and resources making a film strip about them. It was interesting to see how the kids would have learned about things like that back then. It must have been quite a hassle to pull out a projector back then and play the movie but that makes it all the more interesting to learn about.

Ishya: The most interesting things I found in the library would definitely have to be the old children’s books. Keep in mind that most them are in a locked, temp-controlled room inside the library and aren’t on the outside shelves. These were so cool to look at and admire the old drawing styles and inking. As an art student, I find the older ways of drawing and colouring and the process of it all very interesting. The style was also so nostalgic and made me think of 2000’s Disney, especially my childhood.

Is there anything you think other students and staff should know about the ADPML?

Jacob: Staff are very friendly and always ready to help, we really enjoyed working with Kristen and the passion she has for the collection is admirable.

Ishya: Mainly, that it exists! I think the majority of students generally don’t know of its existence, and if they do, they don’t really know what’s there. I originally thought, before visiting the library, that it was just a collection of old books on law and politics and maybe a few encyclopaedias/dictionaries. Boy was I wrong! The library is truly a treasure trove of so much fun history. Recipes, art, music, film, old maps/architecture plans, family lineage information, realia, photographs, there is so much to explore! Even if I wasn’t going to research a particular aspect, I think could still spend a whole day in the archive just exploring everything.

The Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial (Special Collections) Library is now open every Tuesday from 10am–4pm, and other days by appointment. Visit our website to find out more

Check out the promotional video created by Ishya and Jacob on Youtube. 

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