McCoy Seed Fund Projects

The University of Melbourne and Museum Victoria have collaborated on Australian Research Council Linkage and Discovery Project grants, co-supervised many postgraduate students, undertaken visiting fellowships, jointly curated exhibitions, and undertaken joint collection activities.

The McCoy Seed Fund supports projects that are cross-disciplinary, innovative, collaborative and have the potential to have a significant impact beyond academia and the museum environment.

Key statistics

  • 13 ARC Linkage Grants between 2004-2016 (administered by the University, with the Museum as industry partner)
  • 4 PhD Scholarships have been awarded in 2015-2016 through the UoM MV Scholarship Scheme
  • 30 Museum Victoria 1854 Student Scholarships given to University of Melbourne students between 2004-2015
  • 10 Museum staff hold honorary appointments at the University
  • 19 University staff have honorary appointments at the Museum
  • 2017 McCoy Seed Fund Projects
    South Seas

    Melbourne in the south seas

    Museums and cultural collections are sites of cross-cultural interactions over time. Spanning 166 years, Melbourne Museum’s collections materialize historical engagements with the South Seas. Focusing on the Vanuatu collection we explore the specific interactions and connections between Melbourne and the “South Seas” since the 1850s and the significance the collection holds to Vanuatu and South Sea Islands descendants today. This pilot study uses historical collections as a vehicle for contemporary reflection upon the connection between place and transnationalism seeking a rich understanding of intercultural exchange in the past and the present, and consider what this means for Pacific Islanders in the future.


    Dr Elizabeth Bonshek (Joint CI MV) and Dr Kalissa Alexeyeff (UoM Joint CI)

    Early childhood learning in museum experiences

    Museums provide rich learning environments for all children. With the opening of the Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum (MV) there is a unique opportunity for University early childhood education researchers to collaborate with Museum educators to research and evaluate early childhood museum programs, available through incursion (Backyard Bugs) and excursion (Grandad’s Shed) experiences. The research will link the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF), specifically Learning Outcome Children are Effective Communicators, with respect to the language and multi-literacy experiences afforded in ‘hands-on’ museum programs where children participate in interactive storytelling that is animated by scientific, historical and Indigenous artefacts.


    Dr Liz Suda (Joint CI MV) and A/Prof Patricia Eadie (Joint CI UoM)

    Emotion Museum
    Early Childhood Learning

    Emotion and the contemporary museum

    Contemporary museums attempt to design exhibitions that provoke an emotional response in visitors. This is often done with the intention of promoting social change through the fostering of empathy with people whose histories can be difficult to understand. Emotions, however, are harder to evaluate than knowledge or attitudes. This project will employ an innovative method of evaluating the WWI – Love and Sorrow exhibition at Museum Victoria. Based on the techniques of drawing and the walking interview, the project will provide valuable insights into the role of emotions in the museum experience and further theorise emotion as a vehicle for social change.


    Ms Deborah Tout-Smith (Joint CI MV) and Dr Rachel Hughes (Joint CI UoM)

    The museum multiple: understanding older vistors

    Museums are more than their collections – they are spaces that provide social, cultural and cognitive opportunities for their citizens. However, are museums currently fulfilling their potential to offer opportunities for older citizens to participate in contemporary community life? One that could incorporate new experiences, fun, learning and a shared social activity, and to foster health and wellbeing through engagement, social inclusion and participation. We know little about the motivations, drivers and perceptions of older museum visitors or how museums meet their social, emotional and intellectual needs. This research proposes to address this gap with a view to museums optimising their social capacity in the context of ageing populations.


    Dr Carolyn Meehan (Joint CI MV) and Dr Andrew Jamieson (Joint CI UoM)

    The Museum Multiple
    Reflective Learning Experiences

    Understanding reflective learning experiences in musuems

    Learning in museums is dependent on visitors’ personal experiences and how they interpret the exhibitions. As such, a key challenge for museums is connecting exhibitions and visitors in ways that promote reflection and learning. Reflection is an important part of learning and, as in other learning environments, it can be designed and promoted in museums. The aim of this project is to better understand the nature of learning that takes place within exhibition spaces of museums, broadly based on self-regulated learning theories. This project is aligned with the learning and teaching theme, and will contribute to the fields of museum studies, educational psychology, and analytics.


    Mr Cameron Hocking (Joint CI MV) and Professor Gregor Kennedy (Joint CI UoM)

  • 2016 McCoy Seed Fund Projects

    Establishing a multi-purpose Wildlife Pathogen Biobank

    Australia is recognised as one of 17 'mega-diverse' countries, with ecosystems of exceptional variety and uniqueness, yet our biodiversity is in decline, with a 37% increase in threatened species in the decade from 2000. Wildlife pathogens have been identified as a significant threatening process across numerous animal groups; however, we have little understanding of the geographic and temporal fluctuations in manifold wildlife pathogens (e.g. viruses, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes and fungi). Professor Geoff McFadden will use two test cases to investigate variation in important wildlife pathogens, using genetic approaches. A framework will also be established for a collection of wildlife pathogens at Museum Victoria.


    Dr Jane Melville (MV) (Joint-CI) and Prof. Geoff McFadden (UM) (Joint-CI)

    Investigating the strength of natural invertebrate teeth

    Australia is recognised as one of 17 'mega-diverse' countries, with ecosystems of exceptional variety and uniqueness, yet our biodiversity is in decline, with a 37% increase in threatened species in the decade from 2000. Wildlife pathogens have been identified as a significant threatening process across numerous animal groups; however, we have little understanding of the geographic and temporal fluctuations in manifold wildlife pathogens (e.g. viruses, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes and fungi). Professor Geoff McFadden will use two test cases to investigate variation in important wildlife pathogens, using genetic approaches. A framework will also be established for a collection of wildlife pathogens at Museum Victoria.


    Dr Ken Walker (MV) (Joint-CI) and Dr Devi Stuart-Fox (UM) (Joint-CI)

    insect in dirt
    kids playing

    Interpreting and enabling child and family engagement in museums

    Associate Professor Neryl Jeanneret will generate a theoretical and practical engagement framework to support museum educators/facilitators and other practitioners in interpreting and activating child and family engagement in programmed and family-led museum encounters. This project will collaboratively develop the indicators of and strategies for stimulating engagement in formal and informal learning contexts. The framework will provide an engagement lens that will inform planning, prompt critical reflection and help generate a shared knowledge platform that will guide museum educators/facilitators to interpret engagement and connect with and relate to children and families.


    Dr Liz Suda (MV) (Joint-CI) and A/Prof Neryl Jeanneret (UM) (Joint-CI)

    Indigenous Engagement with the Donald Thomson Collection

    In this project, post-contact histories and biographies will be recorded, and new pathways formed for Indigenous engagement with museum collections. Reconnecting items in the Donald Thomson Collection with the communities of their makers, through a process of consultation and information sharing, will trigger memories, provide insights, generate new ideas, and information. Dr Susan Lowish will bring to light links between objects held in storage at Museum Victoria with Thomson’s notebooks, photographs and films and form a bridge to the last remaining living persons to have met Thomson during his expeditions to the Western Desert region of Australia between 1957-1965.


    Dr Phillip Batty (MV) (Joint-CI) and Dr Susan Lowish (UM) (Joint-CI)

    two older men talking
    Royal exhibition building in Melbourne

    Parks, playgrounds, promenades, pageants and piazzas

    The changing ideas of designed public spaces in Melbourne 1850-2000

    This project will examine the changing nature of the designed public space in Melbourne 1850-2000. The public spaces of leisure – parks, gardens, sportsfields, promenades, playgrounds – and spectacle – expositions, arcades, bandstands, markets, squares, forecourts, performance spaces – formed an important part of the increasingly sophisticated Australian city. Through understanding how these designed spaces have evolved over time, we can reflect upon social change and different sectors of the Australian community.


    Dr Richard Gillespie (MV) (Joint-Supervisor) and Prof. Julie Willis (UM) (Joint-Supervisor)

    Cross-Cultural Encounters

    Ms Nell Ustundag’s research project, titled ‘Cross-Cultural Encounters: Pacific Exhibitions and the Making of Meanings’, will examine object-based learning in relation to Pacific material culture on display in Australian museums. In developing a historiography of Pacific exhibitions in Australia, Ms Ustundag will examine how Pacific exhibitions are developed and delivered, including visitor learning objectives and perceived and/or documented outcomes. By focusing on the value of object based learning in relation to Pacific objects, Ms Ustundag will interrogate the role museum objects play in the facilitation of new learning and the promotion of awareness of multiple perspectives in the cross cultural context of the museum gallery.


    Dr Elizabeth Bonshek (MV) (Joint-Supervisor) , Dr Andrew Jamieson (UM) (Joint-Supervisor) and Ms Nell Ustundag (PhD Student)

    Indigenous artwork
  • 2015 McCoy Seed Fund Projects
    cows being milked

    The Invisible Farmer

    Securing the Place of Farming Women in Victoria’s Historical Narrative - Prof Joy Damousi and Liza Dale-Hallet will document the first cohort of female agricultural graduates from the University of Melbourne and establish a strategic collecting process to document the Rural Women’s Movement.

    Ochres, Isotopes and Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge

    Prof Janet Hergt, John Woodhead and Philip Batty study will investigate the benefits of radiogenic Pb-isotope analysis of ochres in determining the provenance (distribution, movement, etc.) of artefacts used by Aboriginal people in Central Australia. Philip Batty will be working with traditional Aboriginal owners including an owner of a traditional Arrernte mine, Mark Inkamala (pictured excavating ochre).

    man digging in dry dirt
    person working in lab

    First Peoples in a Fiery Landscape

    Insights into the timing of Aboriginal presence in south-eastern Australia via a multi-disciplinary, integrated study of Victoria’s recent volcanic past - Dr Erin Matchan and Dermot Henry aim to improve our understanding of the timing of the earliest Aboriginal inhabitation of southeastern Australia by integrating oral histories of the Gunditjmara people with archaeological evidence of human presence in the early volcanic landscape and age constraints for relevant volcanoes as obtained via high-precision 40Ar/39Ar dating studies.

    Mapping and visualising children’s folklore

    Enhancing and connecting Museum Victoria’s Australian Children’s Folklore Collection using network, visualisation and crowd-sourcing tools at the University of Melbourne’s eScholarship Research Centre - A/Prof Gavan McCarthy, Prof Kate Darian-Smith and Richard Gillespie will explore how innovative documentation systems, visualisation tools and crowdsourcing technologies can enhance and interconnect large institutional collections.

    old documents on table
    wooden bee-hive

    Understanding and enhancing urban pollinator biodiversity via wildlife gardening and citizen scientists

    Dr Nicholas Williams and Ken Walker aim to better understand the effectiveness of wildlife gardening for providing pollinator foraging and nesting habitat, and to test ways to enhance the urban matrix to support insect pollinator biodiversity.

    Mapping and visualising children's folklore

    A STRAPA and a $5000 top-up scholarship was awarded to Mr Michael Jones in 2014 as part of the 2015 McCoy Project; "Mapping and visualising children's folklore". Mr Jones will examine the technical and socio-cultural foundations of Museum Victoria’s collections and systems, working with MV staff and drawing on comparative studies at the University of Melbourne (and elsewhere) to develop conceptual and practical approaches to the management and dissemination of interconnected artefactual collections and archives.

    Children playing with marbles
  • 2014 McCoy Seed Fund Projects
    coffee mug

    From Mavis Bramston to Legally Brown

    Cultural Representations in Australian Television,1956-Today – Dr Moya McFadzean and Professor Kate Darian-Smith will lead a study on how diverse cultural groups have been represented on Australian television since the 1950s. This Seed funded project has developed into a successful ARC Linkage project titled: "Migration, cultural diversity and television: reflecting modern Australia" for funding commencing in 2015. This project seeks to continue the collaborative research work of the McCoy Project, documenting the evolving history of popular television and its contribution to national discussions about migration, cultural diversity and citizenship. In association with Museum Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, outcomes are expected to include scholarly publications, exhibitions and public programs.

    Affective encounters

    Teaching and learning for schools and communities through museums and collections – Dr Diane Mulcahy and her team look at how education takes place through several of Museum Victoria’s exhibition spaces.

    school child
    broken fan

    Self-destructive cultural heritage

    Management of cellulose nitrate materials in museum collections – Dr Petronella Nel and colleagues from Museum Victoria, the University of Melbourne and CSIRO examined strategies for dealing with cellulose nitrate, an unstable polymer frequently found in films, plastics and adhesives in museum collections. This Seed funded project was developed into a successful ARC Linkage Project titled:  "A national framework for managing malignant plastics in museum collections", 2017-2020.  This collaborative project brings together a national pool of museum professionals and scientists from the University of Melbourne, Museum Victoria, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences – Powerhouse Museum, Queensland Museum, Art Gallery of NSW, South Australian Museum, University of Technology Sydney and Flinders University. It aims to develop methods for extending the lifespan of at risk malignant plastic or polymer-based materials in museum collections. Outcomes include two PhD scholarships and the provision of a conservation framework and database where information can be shared.  Guidelines provided will enable informed decision-making, reducing risk to vulnerable sections of Australia's massive cultural collections.

    Unravelling the complexity of small animals

    Improving museum exhibits with the use of multi-scale imaging information – Dr David Ackland and co-workers will use state-of-the-art imaging technology to provide information on bioluminescent fishes and blue-ringed octopuses from Museum Victoria’s collection.

    Blue-ringed octopus
    man milking snake

    Establishing a modern, multi-purpose collection of Victorian venomous animals, their tissues and venoms

    Dr Joanna Sumner and a team will develop a collection of marine and terrestrial venomous animals together with samples of their venoms, as a resource for further work.

    Western Port

    A biodiversity assessment to inform environmental decision-making – Dr Robin Wilson and a team of investigators are to use the results of a major environmental survey by the Museum in 1975 along with new evidence, to re-examine the marine fauna biodiversity of Western Port, and help inform the bay’s future management.

    A shell