Andrea Witcomb on ‘Collecting the West’

Please join us for our July Cultural Heritage Seminar where Andrea Witcomb will talk about ‘Collecting the West’ 


‘Collecting the West’ is an Australian Research Council funded research project that looks at what’s been collected from Western Australia with a particular focus on collecting practices. This focus enables exploration of the role of collections in identity formation, place making and the production of knowledge. The project’s time span, which reaches as far back as the 1600s and as recently as the present, also locates these collecting practices with the contexts of imperialism, colonialism and the development of State based identities as well as across disciplinary divides. The project is a collaboration between academics and the state’s leading collecting institutions – the Western Australian Museum, the State Library of Western Australia and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, together with an international partner the British Museum – to create a new vision for collecting and display.

In this paper, Andrea Witcomb will talk about the discovery of five photographs in 2018 in the State Library of Western Australia which led to the discovery of a forgotten private museum housing the collection of Captain Matthew McVicker-Smyth in early 20th century Perth. Captain Smyth was responsible for the selling of Nobel explosives used by agriculture and the mining industry. The museum contained mineral specimens in cases alongside extensive, aesthetically organised displays of Australian Aboriginal artifacts, amidst a wide variety of ornaments and decorative paintings. The museum reflects a moment in the history of colonialism that reminds us today of forms of dispossession, of how Aboriginal people were categorised in Australia by Western worldviews, and the ways that collectors operated. The research brings back into existence a significant Western Australian museum and opens up a new discussion of how such private collections came into existence and what their legacy might be today.

Professor Andrea Witcomb
Wednesday 25 July 2018
Date: Wednesday 25 July, 2018
Time: 5.30pm – 6.30pm (please note later start time)
Venue: Deakin Downtown, 727 Collins St, Tower 2, Level 12

Free of charge, all welcome. Bookings not required.

My visit to Australia: Juggling research, networking and traveling

 Anna Dontcova, a PhD student from BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, in Germany, shares her experience of a 3-month research stay at Deakin University and her visits to the historic city of Ballarat

Anna takes part in the Imagine Ballarat East consultation workshop

Three months in Australia flew quickly. There was plenty to do: to get to know Deakin University and its academic staff, to take part in seminars designed for Arts and Education research students, to conduct my field research on implementation of UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape approach in Ballarat and at the same time to enjoy life in vibrant Melbourne and to see the  beautiful nature of Victoria.

It was not an easy task but I am happy I have managed to combine all these activities and significantly progress in my research in community involvement in urban heritage management.

In Ballarat I had a chance to observe several community workshops and to conduct numerous interviews with the City Council, the Mayor and Ballarat active citizens. Back in Germany I will compare the collected data to a German case study in order to find out what benefits HUL approach brings to community participation in heritage management.

I would like to specially thank Steve Cooke and Kristal Buckley from Deakin, as well as Susan Fayad and her team from the City Council of Ballarat for their warm welcome and generous support of my PhD research.

Community Advocacy and Landscapes Internship with the National Trust (Vic)

Heloise Campbell completed her internship with the National Trust (Vic) between August and November 2017.

The objectives of my placement were to assist the National Trust to raise public awareness of cultural landscapes and encourage community involvement by creating content for a web page, writing blog posts for the Trust Advocate, and making an easily accessible format for the community to understand the Victorian Heritage Council’s ‘Landscapes of cultural heritage significance: assessment guidelines’.

I firmly believe in the value of multi-disciplinary, broad-scale conservation planning, rather than the usual site-by-site approach.  As the National Trust’s role in heritage conservation uniquely spans almost the full range of heritage; including natural, cultural, historical, tangible and intangible, it was a highly desirable placement for me. I was also hoping that an internship with the National Trust would give me an understanding of the current acceptance of the cultural landscape concept in heritage practice in Victoria, and enhance my existing, but dormant, skills in cultural landscape assessment.

Before commencing my internship with the National Trust, I had already been working with them for several months as a volunteer, focusing on cultural landscapes. The National Trust is in the initial stages of resurrecting their role in the advocacy of landscapes, and in in March 2017, the Advocacy section established a Landscape Reference Group (LRG), which meets on a quarterly basis. I participated in three of these meetings during my time as a volunteer and as an intern.

As part of my volunteer work, I produced an 86 page draft report on the proposed Great Forest National Park (GFNP) in the format set out in the Guidelines for landscapes of State cultural significance.  It was a demanding task to write a cultural landscape assessment of an area the size of the proposed GFNP, which will stretch from Kinglake, across the Yarra Ranges to Mt Baw Baw, and north to Lake Eildon, and will protect forests around the tourism hubs of Healesville and Warburton. There is no doubt that the Great Forest National Park, if it is ever formally recognised, would be a significant cultural landscape.

In the week before the end of my internship, the draft of my report was tabled for review at theLandscape Reference Group, and received a very favourable response. As far as I am aware, no other organisation has attempted to evaluate both the natural and cultural values of this area as a cultural landscape.  It is expected that the Great Forest National Park will be a substantial and high-profile landscape advocacy project for the National Trust.

In addition to this major report, I was able to complete some other tasks for the National Trust, including: 

  • Histories of three different cultural landscapes: Collins Settlement, Churchill Island and Bickleigh Vale;
  • A draft web page for cultural landscapes, with a summary of the landscape assessment procedure to assist community groups;
  • Work on several advocacy blogs to help to establish the cultural landscape advocacy page;
  • A reference document containing a thorough literature review and bibliography of reports since the 1990s, and earlier, on the Central Highlands of Victoria.

I left my internship with a sense that there are opportunities to specialise in the areas of broad-scale landscape and cultural heritage planning. I felt that I had successfully revived many of my dormant skills in the area, and gained new knowledge, skills and contacts.  I was only too happy to have assisted such talented and genuinely committed people as those I encountered in the Advocacy section at the National Trust.

If Heloise’s work interests you, you can learn more about the Victorian National Trust’s Landscape Advocacy program at https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/advocacy-programs-vic/landscape-protection/.