The Grimwade Collection Miegunyah Student Project Awards 2021 - Ian Potter Museum of Art

The Grimwade Collection Miegunyah Student Project Awards 2021

The Miegunyah Student Project Award scheme gives University of Melbourne students the opportunity to research a work, or small group of works from the diverse holdings of the Russell and Mab Grimwade ‘Miegunyah’ Collection, from the perspective of their study area. Our 2021 Awardees included students from Architecture, Art History, Art Curatorship, Dance, Fine Arts, Geography and Law. Their research summaries and other creative outcomes can be viewed below.


Benevolent Asylum | Lachlan Welsh

In the book Pride of Place: Exploring the Grimwade Collection, Alisa Bunbury, curator of the Grimwade Collection, outlines the complexities embedded in the notion of ‘pride’. At once a virtue or recognition for valued abilities or accomplishments; conversely it may be a vice, the unmerited satisfaction in one’s own actions. (Bunbury, 2020) In Grimwade’s installation of Cooks’ Cottage, as well as the Benevolent Asylum, one can discern that architecture is not neutral but a system of subtly operating ideological billboards that make up the appearance, both visual and psychological, of our cities. One comes to understand the ability of a façade to act as proxy for real social change. By distancing themselves from the presence of the poor, Melbourne’s elite washed their hands of any true financial responsibility, congratulating themselves whilst doing nothing to engage with the true dynamics of wealth inequality. The Benevolent Asylum provides a rich case study illustrating at once how architecture can enforce and establish ideology within the society that it is located, whist also providing a link back in time for further investigation. The reanimation of this building affords a clearer view of our local history and a stronger criticality of our public architecture, prompting us to question who such buildings might truly have served behind their façades. 

In(re)fractions: Laws and Light | Angus Vance

The University of Melbourne’s Miegunyah collection is comprised of countless colonial specimens, artifacts and artworks amassed by the late Russell and Mab Grimwade. Within these archives lie a plenitude of photographs, dedicated largely to documenting both the colonial expansion of Melbourne city, and the taxonomy of the eucalypt (Bunbury 2020, pp. 4-9). On one hand, the collection works to champion urban development, whilst on the other promoting environmental conservation (Bunbury 2020, p. 15). These archives also have distinct absences, most strikingly the lack of any substantive material relating to Indigenous peoples. As an Indigenous student of geography and law, it is these dimensions of the collection which intrigue me.


In approaching the Russel and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Collection I chose to home in on Mabel Grimwade’s distinct absence from the collection, despite her being one half of the archive’s namesake.

Walk Through History: Interactive self-guided discovery walking tour of Melbourne based on selected works from the Miegunyah collection | Sarah Fang-Ning Lin

My project, based on the Russell and Mab GrimwadesMiegunyah’ Collection, was inspired by my own experiences exploring Melbourne. I was deeply intrigued by the prints and photographs of Melbourne in the Miegunyah collection, especially the albums by Sir Russell Grimwade, and by Charles Nettleton, at the beginning of my research. I wanted to create a project of comparative narrative on how the city of Melbourne has changed throughout the decades. Combining with my own field of interest- art curatorship, art education museum education, I decided to curate a self-guided walking tour around Melbourne based on works from the collection that can be used by newly-arrived students.  

Obscured Art Histories: C ollection | Bianca ArthurHull 

There is value in the unknowns of a collection like Miegunyah. Art history is not located only in names and dates and the search for these values, but in the recognition that obscurities— whether by way of art history, personal significance, thematic tendencies, or the very visual effect of these little artworks—are fundamental to such a collection. Miegunyah is a collection of silences and secrets: a curiosity befitting the Grimwades’ own passions, and true to the people by whose generous bequest these objects now remain in our care.

A History of the World in a Plate: From Japan to China, From Britain to Australia | Yu-zhen CHENG

In the Russell & Mab Grimwade ‘Miegunyah’ Collection, there is a deliciated and colourful Chinese Imari plate in a floral lotus pattern (Fig.1). This 20-centimetres-wide plate was made by G.M & C.J Mason, an English potter in Staffordshire, and is clobbered in cobalt, iron-red, turquoise and burnt orange. Although in the entire Grimwade collection this lotus plate is quite inconspicuous, it not only has its own position in the collection but contains an infinite space across time and space. This essay aims to demonstrate the story of this plate, which was produced around 1813 to 1820, and to reveal the tangled connection between the object and its history. This essay has three sections. Firstly, discovering the historical background about the development of the Imari-style, from Japanese Imari to Chinese Imari. Secondly, using visual analysis to elaborate the evolution of the pattern on the plate. Finally, this reconstructs the position of this lotus plate in the Grimwade collection.