As part of the exhibition Emily Floyd: The Dawn now showing at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV Australia), College of Arts Librarian Mark Armstrong-Roper and Melbourne-based artist Emily Floyd recently gave a talk on the topic Living Libraries and the preservation of knowledge.
Display materials were sourced from Victoria University Library's Ruth & Maurie Crow collection for parts of Floyd's retrospective exhibition which traces her 15-year career as an artist. Items from the Collection such as giant posters and images projected on the walls can be viewed in the inter-gallery vestibule.
Collection as a source of inspiration
The Ruth & Maurie Crow collection archived in VU Library’s special collections contains 2000 books, 1000 journal issues and over 1500 pamphlets on trade unions, Australian Communist Party, working class children’s health, and grassroots planning activism. As a social and political activist, Ruth Crow worked with women and children in Melbourne including young Emily who participated in children’s workshops designed by Ruth Crow.
Emily Floyd said she was inspired by the primary source and original voice that the Ruth & Maurie Crow collection offers.
The Collection inspired her to:
- create large-scale screen prints, Solve your personal problems socially, 2014, for the exhibition and borrow the title of the screen prints from a poster created by Ruth Crow
- include typewriters for children to create manifestos similar to Ruth’s manifestos.
VU College of Arts Librarian Mark Armstrong-Roper, who helped Emily Floyd source materials from the Ruth & Maurie Crow collection, said the use of collection items for the exhibition fits in with Ruth’s vision. He quoted Ruth Crow from an article for The Age in 1993 outlining her philosophy of the Living Library: “The philosophy of the Living library is based not only on the fact that anyone researching and planning a better future can learn from the past but also that people as much as documents, are invaluable resources for such research”.
Preserving VU Library collections
To ensure that collection items are available for research for decades or even centuries, research collections are stored in non-chemical emitting plastics and acid-free cardboard to prevent deterioration. Mark Armstrong-Roper said that the temperature and humidity in the Special Collections Room are controlled to prolong the life of paper-based collections. Research collections are also kept as ‘closed access’ which is access by appointment only. However, with the digitisation of parts of VU Library’s research collections, including the writings of Ruth & Maurie Crow, there is instant access to the Crows’ work within and beyond Australia.
Access to VU Library collections
The books and journals of the Crow Collection are included in Library search, identified by the prefix FTS CROW COLL. Items cannot be borrowed but may be used in the Footscray Park Library. To access the Collection, contact Mark Armstrong-Roper.
VU Library collections also include:
- Rare & valuable books
- Ray Verrills collection
- PNG and the Pacific collection
- Radical literature collection
- John & Shirley McLaren collection
- The Rationalist collection
- Elda Vaccari collection
- Timor-Leste collection
- Sir Zelman Cowen collection
- Mathematical inequalities & applications (RGMIA)
- Regional archive.