State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 65 Autumn 2000

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From the Editorial Chair

IT IS pleasing to record that there was so much interest in the last number of The La Trobe Journal that it had to be reprinted. Members of the State Library of Victoria Foundation receive copies of the Journal as part of their membership, and after we have supplied members we always plan to have a small number of copies available to non-members by individual purchase or annual subscription. The best way of making sure of getting a copy of the Journal is to join the Foundation as a donor or a Friend of the State Library (see details on inside back cover), as we reprint only on exceptional occasions. A few of the copies of the extra printing of No. 64 are still available, but intending purchasers should not delay.
The last number focused attention on the extensive holdings of the State Library dealing with the literary and artistic life of Melbourne in the 1940s, especially the painters and writers associated with Angry Penguins and the Heide circle of the Reeds. These holdings continue to grow, with papers of Albert Tucker, who died late last year, soon to be added to those of John and Sunday Reed, Adrian Lawlor, and Barrett Reid.
Albert Tucker is a central figure in the unpublished (and as yet unedited) memoirs of John Yule, from which we published a few brief excerpts in the last number. A reader has pointed out that Yule's brief commentary on Nolan could, without annotation, give a misleading impression of Tucker's opinion of Nolan's achievements as a painter. The remark attributed by Yule to Tucker expressed his reaction at the time to a small group of abstract works by Nolan painted before 1940. When Yule's memoirs are eventually published, and when the correspondence of Tucker and Nolan becomes available in the public domain, scholars will be able to study the interaction of these two great artists, and such comments will be seen in their proper perspective.
In this number of the Journal the emphasis is upon the visual rather than the literary. Thanks to modern technology, it is now possible to reproduce much more easily and cheaply than ever paintings, photographs and drawings. For those users of the State Library who are unaware of the extensive range and variety of its non-book holdings, The La Trobe Journal No. 62 gives a useful introduction to the Picture Collection, to which the current number adds by drawing attention to two little-known areas which that Collection encompasses — garden design and cartoons.
A few of our older readers may remember Mrs E.M. Gibson, both as a garden designer and as a regular writer on horticultural topics in the Melbourne Argus in the years between the World Wars, but as Simon Reeves points out, she has disappeared from the public memory. The research of this young architect who in this, his first article, reintroduces her to a Melbourne public, should change that. The Editorial Committee is grateful to Allom, Lovell and Associates for a generous donation which has made it possible to reproduce in colour some of the illustrations accompanying this article.
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The Millie Gibson story would have been easier to tell if what Simon Reeves calls ‘every historian's worst nightmare’ had not occurred: the drawings and correspondence of half a century were destroyed when in old age she moved to a retirement home. The chances of such papers being preserved may be better now than they were — but I am not so sure. Earlier this year I discovered that only a couple of years ago a college at Cambridge — an ancient centre of learning! — had simply ‘cleared out’ the voluminous papers in the study of a Fellow, a leading political historian, after his death. One would like to think that such a thing would not happen in Melbourne without consultation with the State Library or other institutions that care about cultural heritage.
With the development of ‘cultural studies’ (a phrase of disputed meaning, as Dr Johnson might have said), black-and-white drawings, cartoons of all kinds, even comic books, have become more significant as objects of study. Christine Downer's brief account of the scope of the cartoon collection and how it came into being is likely to be a surprise to many of our readers. Perhaps at a later date it will be possible to devote a whole number of The La Trobe Journal to cartoons. In this number we are privileged to have an article on Stan Cross, who was one of the leading practitioners of the art, by Vane Lindesay, who is both a leading practitioner and an historian of Australian comic art.
Giving this number a distinctively Melbourne flavour are three items on photography — Ewa Narkiewicz's interview with the son of the legendary Jack Cato, which is accompanied by three of the most striking of Cato's images of the city; and the annotations by Alan Elliott and Mary Lewis on the Woodbury panorama of Melbourne, which may be the first photographic panorama in Australia — and Sandra Burt's profile of E.R. Pitt, a former Chief Librarian whose whole working life was spent at the State Library but whose influence was felt far beyond the boundaries of Victoria, thanks to the famous Munn-Pitt Report on Australian libraries.
The production of this number, which has more illustrations than usual, has been very demanding. We are greatly indebted to the State Library photographer, Adrian Flint, and Veronica Peek, our typesetter and designer, for their advice and assistance. Special thanks are also due to Mary Lewis of the Picture Collection for her expert work on the Woodbury panorama and her assistance at several stages during the production process.
Preparations are now well under way for future numbers, which will focus on such themes as: the discovery of gold in Victoria; maps; the history of the State Library building; and the Arts Library. The choice of a focus does not, however, exclude the possibility of articles on other topics in the same number. The Editorial Committee is always interested in hearing from potential contributors whatever their topic.
John Barnes