The Australian Music Vault is a new, free exhibition space at Arts Centre Melbourne dedicated to sharing the story of Australian contemporary music and exploring its future, by way of items from artists including AC/DC, Men at Work, Split Enz, Midnight Oil, Ngaiire, Ecca Vandal, Paul Kelly, Courtney Barnett and more. We asked curator Janine Barrand a few questions about this awesome project.
Header image: Guitar used by Ed Kuepper with The Saints and Laughing Clowns, 1972–75. Made by Veleno, Florida, USA, 1972- 1975. Lent by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney. Purchased 1993.
Michael Gudinski, Molly Meldrum, Archie Roach and Kylie Minogue – you couldn’t have a more appropriate and prestigious group of patrons for the Vault! How did the process of collecting these people together occur?
We are thrilled to have such iconic members of the Australian music industry as our founding patrons. The Australian Music Vault has been a passion project for our patrons and many others for decades, particularly Molly and Michael Gudinski – they have wanted a place where Australian music could be celebrated, and for its home to be in Melbourne. When it came time to start planning the Australian Music Vault, it was obvious to us that Michael, Molly, Archie and Kylie were a perfect fit as Founding Patrons – Arts Centre Melbourne has existing relationships with all four, and they are obviously great advocates for Australian music.
Which iconic pieces from your already existing Performing Arts Collection did you know, straight off the bat, simply had to be included in the Music Vault’s exhibition?
Angus Young’s schoolboy suit, Helen Reddy’s Grammy for I Am Woman, Paul Kelly’s lyrics for To Her Door, and Molly Meldrum’s hat.
Angus Young’s schoolboy costume, worn in performance with AC/DC. Photograph by Mark Ashkenasy.
Which new items, from musicians’ personal collections, were you most excited to see join the exhibition?
Rowland S Howard’s guitar, Olivia Newton-John’s costume, Spiderbait’s album artwork and original gig books, and Chrissys Amphlett’s iconic microphone stand.
Which behind-thescenes facets of the music industry were you interested in illuminating?
What we want to do in terms of the Australian Music Vault is to tell the story of Australian music in all its diversity – from songwriters to musicians, promoters and those behind-the-scenes. All those attending the Vault will also get the chance to hear from a roadie, sound engineer and venue manager when they arrive.
What’s the weirdest or most surprising item in the Vault?
A copy of the Cut Lunch EP by Models in a London Police Evidence bag, and Ngaiire’s headdress made of palm fronds.
Dress worn by Kylie Minogue in the In Your Eyes clip, 2002, photograph by Jeremy Dillon; tunic worn by Chrissy Amphlett in performance with Divinyls, late 1980s; suit of armour worn by Ngaiire during performance at Splendour In The Grass, 2016, kindly lent by Ngaiire, costume design and construction by Melaine Knight, 3D print dragons by Alex Polo (Metal Stone Wood Studio).
There’s mention of some interactive digital experiences – are we going to be able to see cubic versions of our own heads spinning around inside Dire Straits’ microwave oven?
What a great idea! No, you won’t be able to do that, but one of the things you will be able to do is be immersed as an audience member at Sunbury festival – with all the mud and grunge that came with that – as well as experiencing Billy Thorpe leading the audience in a singalong; you will really feel that you are amongst the audience! Without giving away all our secrets I can say that the Australian Music Vault will have a large digital component and will include elements that reflect how people listen to/experience music.
Will we get to hold a real ARIA statue?
Unfortunately not, as once items enter the Vault they become museum objects handled with white gloves, and can’t leave the Vault. There will however be an ARIA Hall Of Fame area which will celebrate Daryl Braithwaite as this year’s inductee, and we will have some items from his personal collection on display. Each year a new artist is inducted into the Hall Of Fame we will celebrate their inclusion in this dedicated area.
There is also mention of an ongoing program of events at the Arts Centre but also via outreach – will parts of the collection be travelling, or is it performances which will get to regional areas?
There is a great series of programs associated with the Australian Music Vault that has been developed by the Arts Learning team at Arts Centre Melbourne. It features events for schools and also the general public. We are also planning some outreach activities but cannot reveal these details just yet.
Maracas purchased by Peter Allen in Rio de Janeiro, 1977, gift of Larry Rinehart, 2009.
Is the exhibition going to become a permanent fixture at the Arts Centre?
This first phase of the Australian Music Vault will run for three years – but wouldn’t it be amazing if it was permanent! And please remember, when we open it is just the start of the journey; we will be rotating content and telling new stories, so the celebration of Australian contemporary music has just begun! We recommend regular visits!
The Australian Music Vault is open now at Arts Centre Melbourne; entry is free.
Janine Barrand is the Director of Collections at Arts Centre Melbourne. She has worked in the performing arts and museums for over 30 years and has a special interest in popular music. As Director, Janine is responsible for leading access programs, and the development and management of the Australian Performing Arts Collection, now numbering over 600,000 items documenting the history of circus, dance, music, opera and theatre. Janine has also curated major exhibitions exploring the impact and influence of Australia’s leading performers including Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave along with Rock Chicks: The Story of Women in Australian Music.