University of Melbourne to house Germaine Greer archive

The University of Melbourne will become home to the significant lifetime archive of one of the country’s leading thinkers, Germaine Greer.

Comprised of items filling more than 150 filing cabinet drawers, the archive will join collections of other high profile Australians such as former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Nobel Prize for Physiology winner Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet to make the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) an important repository of biographical collections for research and scholarship.

The archive has been acquired with the support of generous donations, including a significant gift from Melbourne MBA graduate and company director Margaret Jackson, Trawalla Foundation Chair Carol Schwartz, Penny Maclagen and Dr Chris Scown, Sue Morphet, and Pauline Gandel.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said the archive was a wonderful addition to the University’s collections, and would draw scholars from around the world to Melbourne. He paid tribute to Ms Jackson’s work to secure funds to procure the materials, as part of Believe – the Campaign for the University of Melbourne.

“Professor Greer is one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th and early 21st century and she has made a formative contribution to feminist thought,” he said. “It’s very important to us that we’ve been able to provide a permanent home for the archive of one of our leading alumnae. This has been largely due to Margaret’s commitment to put the initial funds in place for the acquisition, and for that I am thankful. We’ll now work toward the total sum required.”

Ms Jackson said she was proud to support this acquisition and encouraged others to do so.

“Germaine Greer has influenced the lives of millions of women across the globe, and while her views are often controversial, her impact has been profound. It is wonderful that the archive can return to the University where her journey began,” she said.

So far Campaign for the University of Melbourne efforts have raised over $900,000 from donors and a contribution from the University. The total sought for the purchase is $3 million to cover shipping, cataloguing, housing and selective digitising of the archive. Professor Greer intends that proceeds she receives from the purchase will go to her charity, The Friends of Gondwana Rainforest.

Speaking at the University recently to launch an exhibition called Protest, which presented items from a range of women’s liberation and anti-war UMA collections Professor Greer said over her adult life she had rarely thrown anything out and noted the importance of all kinds of documents as the primary sources from which history is written.

“Archives are the pay dirt of history,” she said. “Everything else is opinion. At a certain point you actually need documents. ”

University Librarian Philip Kent said the archive contains letters from family, friends, writers, artists, academics, broadcasters, editors, scholars, critics, politicians, neighbours and many others.

“In addition, a large number of unsolicited letters from the public provide a rich vein of social history documenting sexual, social and intellectual challenges and change, many of them personal accounts of how exposure to her ideas had changed their lives,” he said.

University Archivist Dr Katrina Dean had an opportunity to survey the collection in England recently.

“The archive provides deep original research material for scholars in a wide range of subjects, from literature, feminism, theatre, film, art history, social history and the human rights movement to environmental conservation, human contraception and reproduction, politics and the media,” she said.

The archive will be moved to the University from Professor Greer’s UK home in July 2014.

For more information visit the University Library site.