State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 68 Spring 2001


From the Editorial Chair

THE MAJOR focus of interest in this number of The La Trobe Journal is the extensive Map Collection of the State Library, one of the largest in Australia. The proposal to focus on maps came from colleagues wishing to honour the memory of Estelle Canning, to whom Map Librarian Judith Scurfield, her closest colleague, pays tribute on the opposite page. Estelle was a Vice-President of the Australian Map Circle, which has generously supported this publication, enabling us to have more colour illustrations than would otherwise have been possible. Supplementing the overview of the Map Section by Judith Scurfield, are two articles by scholars who work with maps. Miles Lewis, Professor of Architecture at the University of Melbourne, describes how maps are used in building research; and Thomas A. Darragh, Curator Emeritus at Museum Victoria, tells the fascinating history of one of the ‘most beautiful geological maps ever produced in Australia.’
Map-making in the early years of white settlement of the continent was preceded by exploration. Among the members of the famous Burke and Wills expedition was the artist and naturalist, Ludwig Becker, a collection of whose drawings is held in the State Library. Gerard Hayes, of Manuscripts, provides a commentary on a sketch, originally omitted from the collection but recently purchased by the State Library with financial help from the Foundation.
The contributions of Susan Ballyn and Frances Thiele represent the kind of exploration done in libraries. Susan Ballyn, who is Executive Director of the Australian Studies Centre at the University of Barcelona, is possibly the first overseas contributor to the Journal — certainly, the first from Spain. Her article describes how research on a specific figure of the colonial period, which she began in the State Library, led to further research on the other side of the world, and eventually to a major research project that she had never envisaged. Frances Thiele, who is Field Historian at the State Library, samples a selection of the the large collection held by the Library of shipboard diaries by ‘lady travellers’ in the nineteenth century.
The Library Profile is a brief account of the association of Sir Keith Murdoch with the institution in which his name is now commemorated. Surprisingly, there is no comprehensive history of the State Library, which will soon celebrate its sesquicentenary. Is this, I wonder, ‘a long-felt want’ which an energetic researcher would like to fill?
John Barnes