Ruth & Maurie Crow collection

The Crow Collection of approximately 2000 books and 700 pamphlets was donated to Victoria University in 1990 and is housed in the Special Collections Room, P402, of Footscray Park Campus Library.

History of the Crow Collection

Ruth and Maurie Crow

Ruth and Maurie Crow. Photo by Peter Davis

During fifty years of political and social activism in Melbourne, Ruth Crow A.M. (1916 - 1999) and Maurie Crow (1915 - 1988) resourced several generations of urban campaigners, particularly during their residence in North Melbourne.

Their collection of printed material and working papers constitutes an important basis for understanding the wide variety of causes with which they were associated - from Ruth's work with women and children in Brunswick during WWII, and Maurie's in the Clerk's Union, to the pioneering work they did from the 1960's onwards in relation to public participation in urban planning, building neighbourhood communities and creating a sustainable future.

Hugely influential was their pioneering work A Plan for Melbourne: Part I (1969), Part II (1970), and Part III (1972).

In recognition of the Crow's lifetime of achievement, the City of Melbourne unveiled a memorial plaque in the Australian Native Gardens, Royal Park on 16 September 2000. The inscription reads:

"Commemorating the lives and work of Ruth and Maurie Crow. Activists in social and environmental planning. They inspired, guided and encouraged our communities in seeking to make a better world."

The Crow collection has been extended by donations from Mannie Biederberg, Alvie Booth, Jack Cotter, Bert Davies, Lloyd Edmonds, Ken Gott, Rivkah Mathews, Joyce Nicholson, John Reeves, Percy Rogers, and Colin Watson.

Also held are Ruth Crow's papers and biographical material. Many of the publications of Ruth and Maurie Crow were digitised in the 2011 ASHER funded Crow Papers Digitisation Project.

What's in the Collection?

The Crow Collection

The Crow Collection

The Collection includes books, periodicals, reports, working papers, news clippings, educational aids and other miscellaneous materials in the areas of:

  • 305.4 Women's issues
  • 307.74 Suburban communities and neighbourhoods
  • 324.294 Left-wing movements and political parties
  • 327 International co-operation, peace, social justice
  • 331 Unions, wages, employment
  • 333.79 Energy, ecology, conservation
  • 335.4 Marxism and Communism
  • 352 Local Government
  • 361 Social Welfare
  • 362.1 Health
  • 362.7 Children's services
  • 363.5 Housing
  • 370 Education
  • 388.4 Transport
  • 711.4 City Planning (especially Melbourne)

Unpublished documents

Although there are many useful publications in the Crow collection that are included in the Library Catalogue, some of the most important documents for historians are the unpublished working papers such as:

  • alternative plans to the MMBW 1972 Metropolitan Plan
  • material on the campaigns against freeways and urban renewal in the 1970's
  • the inner urban action movement from 1965 to 1990
  • community planning and the preparation and implementation of the Melbourne City Council Strategy Plan from 1973 to 1987
  • the development of community newspapers, community health services and neighbourhood houses
  • the preparation of publications such as Seeds for Change, Nunawading Energy Study and Frayed Nerves or Freight Centres
  • community submissions to various government inquiries and reviews on social issues such as child care and health centres
  • Ecoso (ECOlogical, SOcial and political discourse) Exchange Newsletter published since 1967 (including an index to all issues)
  • Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) documents including minute books of 1953 to 1963, and files from the 1950's onwards were donated to the State Library of Victoria in 2003.

Access to the Collection

Ruth Crow and staff of Childrens' Services at Sunshine

Ruth Crow (centre), Sue Parsons (left) and the staff of Childrens' Services at Sunshine

The books and journals of the Crow collection are included in the Library Catalogue, 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 Linda Forbes by phoning +61 3 8506  or email linda.forbes@vu.edu.au.

Crow Collection Association

In February 1991 the Crow Collection Association was founded "to enhance the comprehensiveness and accessibility of the Crow Collection and encourage the involvement of organisations and individuals in practical tasks associated with such popularisation". From that time on the Association initiated many community-based projects.

The Association published one of Australia's earliest environmental issues journals, the Ecoso Exchange Newsletter. The 2011 Crow Papers Digitisation Project also made available many of the issues of the Ecoso Exchange (1973 - 1999) and its predecessor, Irregular (1967 - 1972).

In 1996 the Crow Collection Association was involved in the Ideas Exchange Project which took up the theme of the 1995 Senate Inquiry, What Sort of Society Do You Want Australia To Be?. The project was launched at a public forum in March which was addressed by Professor Alastair Davidson. Through the year many schools and community groups provided input to the project which culminated in August with the Ideas Exchange Day seminar which drew about 150 participants from all over Victoria.

To commemorate Ruth Crow's death in April 1999 the Crow Collection Association held a memorial celebration of Ruth's life at the North Melbourne Town Hall on 21 May 1999. This event was attended by over 500 people. The tribute booklet produced for the memorial is held in the Crow Collection and is available online.

At the last meeting of the Crow Collection Association on 25 February 2003 the members in attendance voted in favour of winding up the Association and handing over its remaining assets to Victoria University Library. The Library was entrusted to use these funds to promote research in the subject areas that were of interest to Ruth and Maurie Crow. An event was held in the Library on 11 April 2003 to mark the hand over of the funds.

Funds from the Crow Collection Association trust were used to compile an archive of Ruth Crow's papers in 2004, preserving them and assisting researchers.

In 2011 Federal Government funding under the ASHER program was granted to VU Library to undertake a digitisation project of significant unpublished and out of print material from the Crow Papers. These digitised documents can be accessed from the Box List of the Crow Papers or from the Crow Collection on the VU Research Repository.

Other useful resources

  • University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue - this collection contains photographs of many left wing identities including Ruth Crow.
  • Australian Women's Archives Project - a project by the National Foundation for Australian Women. This register includes an entry on Ruth Crow.
  • Australian Trade Union Archives - online gateway for researchers and scholars of labour history. It has been designed to link together historical detail, archival resources, published material and current information about Australian industrial organisations, particularly trade unions, from the late nineteenth century to today.
  • Union Songs - Mark Gregory's collected union songs, including those produced during the Australian 1998 waterfront dispute.
  • Dissent (U.S.) - established in 1962, Dissent is a quarterly left-wing magazine of politics and culture.
  • The Green Left Weekly - a prominent weekly Australian journal. This site also includes links to other left wing web sites.
  • Australian Fabian Society - homepage of the Australian branch of the Fabian Society.
  • U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation - files made available under the Freedom of Information Privacy Act. Includes the investigation into Communist Party infiltration of the motion picture industry.