ICAM Australasia Meeting Melbourne 2011 – Report

Dome of the State Library of Victoria

On the 28 October 2011 we attended the Annual Meeting of Icam Australiasia in Melbourne. The University of Newcastle was represented by Gionni Di Gravio, University Archivist and Chair of the Coal River Working Party and Ms Ann Hardy, Secretary of the Hunter Branch of the National Trust, post graduate scholar at the University studying the historic  James Fletcher Hospital Site and member of the Coal River Working Party.

What is Icam?

icam is the international confederation of architectural museums and an organisation of architectural museums, centres and collections. It is dedicated to fostering links between all those interested in promoting the better understanding of architecture. In 2010 the Architecture Museum University of South Australia became the inaugural Australian institution to participate in a conference of the International Confederation of Architectural Museums (ICAM).  At the invitation of the ICAM Board, the Museum hosted a seminar at UniSA for colleagues from Australasian institutions holding collections of architectural records. This was the first time representatives of these collections had met as a group and engaged in formal discussions. We agreed to continue the collaboration, and to form ICAM Australasia.

Why were we invited to attend?

Our University holds significant holdings of architectural plans, of particular importance is the Pender Archive representing three generations of architects, one of the largest and most comprehensive architectural collections in the country.

What was discussed?

Morning Session was held at RMIT University. Welcome from Harriet Edquist, Officer in charge of the University Design Archives.

Update from Christine Garnaut, Convenor of icamAustralasia

What do we want to achieve and what are we are able to achieve as a group bearing in mind the charter for ICAM is:

• Preserve the architectural record
• Raise the quality and protection of the built environment
• Foster the study of architectural history in the interest of future practice
• Stimulate the public appreciation of architecture
• Promote the exchange of information and professional expertise

– resourcing issues, community engagement, getting collections out there – exhibitions,

– interesting to learn of the archives of Mervyn Ashmore Smith (11/12/1904–14/3/1994), a Collection held in the Museum in SA. Melvyn Smith was an architect and town planner here in Newcastle up until 1953.

– Viewing of the RMIT Design Archives with Harriet Edquist, Building 15. Highlights included the Romberg Archives – designer of the Administration building at Newcastle, and lecturer at the University of Newcastle.


1) Collate our architectural related collections, research output and community contacts – such as Pender, Morton, University, subdivision plans, various architectural projects and mapping across the plan collections, South Maitland Railways (SMR), Les Reedman’s work, Professor Barry Maitland, Bob Donaldson, Ross Deamer, Snowball and other photographic Collections with emphasis on built environment, Architectural firms, involve Architecture staff and students, papers, theses etc.

2) Provide a historic context grid for these collections, e.g. Google Earth mapping of information, utilising subdivisions, photographs to provide context of plan with the historic landscape of the time, Russell Rigby’s overlays.

3) Pull together this architectural related archive into a single portal, incorporating links with our local community networks in the Hunter Heritage Network and National Trust, to provide a Hunter Branch chapter to link in with icam Australasia. Such items include the following:

We have also begun the scanning of the Pender Archive, they will be included here:

Other digitised map/plan/built environment related collections of possible interest include:

Mahlshedt and Gee Surveyors – Newcastle – Jan 1886

The Northumberland and Permanent Building Investment Land and Loan Society

Map Treasures (General scans of interest from across the collections)

The Athel D’Ombrain Collection

4) Promote ongoing activities such as National Trust walks AAA walks http://www.thelockup.info/architecture-walks/ , collaborations between Coal River Working Party and Faculty of Architecture and other areas of the University relating to built environment, adaptive reuse, artistic collaborations e.g. http://www.thenovocastrianfiles.com/2010/07/aa-co-mine-managers-house-1849.html

Following lunch we made our way to the afternoon venue which was the Rare Printed Collections Meeting Room in the State Library of Victoria.

– Welcome from Mary Lewis followed by a session of short presentations followed by discussions convened by Helen McLaughlin

T & G Building Plans

– Professor Miles Lewis, Faculty of Architecture Building & Planning, University of Melbourne.  “Proposal for a short course for Curators: Collecting and interpreting architectural drawings”.

– Peter Johnson, Architect & Heritage Consultant, member of the AIA National Heritage Taskforce. “Proposal to establish a process for Institute State and Territory Chapters to more effectively assist cultural institutions to collect and archive documents of notable Australian architects”.

Topics for further discussion:

Promote the exchange of information and professional expertise:

e.g. Brainstorm ways in which we could engage more actively with each other and also engage researchers with the collections that we hold.

e.g. Discuss whether or not to link to established groups like Museums Australia or the Australian Society of Archivists through their special interest groups.

Foster the study of architectural history in the interest of future practice:

e.g. Discuss whether or not it is worth organising a special session/track of papers at a SAHANZ conference. (The 2012 conference is at University of Tasmania, Launceston, 5-8 July; abstracts are due by Monday 14 November)

Preserve the architectural record

e.g. Discuss implications of digital records and evolving platforms.

Raise the quality and protection of the built environment

e.g. How might we engage with this issue?

Stimulate the public appreciation of architecture

e.g. through our websites and collective activities such as exhibitions

Mary Lewis with participants

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s