IH Photograph and Memorabilia Exhibition

A successful exhibition marked the mid-point of IH's 60th anniversary year.

As part of our sixtieth anniversary celebrations, International House recently hosted an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia documenting life at IH. Most of the material came from International House’s own archival collection. Some photographs were sourced from the collections of the National Archives of Australia and Fairfax. The exhibition, held in the Junior Common Room, included material relating to the fundraising women’s auxiliaries and ‘market fairs’ of the 1950s, early minutes of the International House Council, an original blue academic gown, the prize-winning trike from the inter-college trike race, student publications, and photographs dating from the early 1950s to the present.

Some of the earliest photographs included in the exhibition pre-date the opening of International House and show some of the figures involved in early planning and fundraising activities. One image (from the collection of the National Archives of Australia), shows the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne George Paton broadcasting his thanks to the Government of Singapore for their donation of £14,500 to the International House project.

Another shows Olive Wykes (later Mence) and student performers from the ‘International Revue’ which toured country Victoria in 1954 to raise funds for the International House appeal.

The exhibition also included an album of photographs documenting everyday life at International House in around 1960. Compiled by Soedjadi Satrosoegito and Richard Shiell, the album includes ninety-seven photographs of student life and events. Unlike many early photographs of International House, which were produced for promotional purposes and often show students in posed settings, these images show daily life at IH: study, eating, sitting in the common room, parties, football. The album also includes several informal images of the official opening of International House in May 1958.

An audio-visual display at the exhibition included (as well as several hundred additional archival photographs) a promotional movie produced by Melbourne University Film Society. Produced in 1954, International House Melbourne shows two female students setting out for their new lives as students at the University of Melbourne. ‘Wendy’ travels from country Victoria; ‘Rajeswary’ from Kuala Lumpur. The film reveals much about the goals of the planners of International House. Rajeswary, the narrator tells us, is uncertain about what to expect in Melbourne; ‘she feels lost, bewildered. The whole atmosphere is so very different from home’. She imagines the life she could have:

She sees a house, an ‘international house’, where Australian students and students from Asia live in close contact with each other. Where there’s a friendly welcome that from the start dispels that sense of strangeness, because here the older students have already broken down the insidious barriers of race.

The complete film is now available on YouTube.

Objects included in the exhibition also help to tell the story of student life at International House. The International House trike, for example, was especially popular with those who attended the exhibition opening. The inter-college trike race from Portsea to Melbourne was held each year to raise funds for a chosen charity. The trike is a significant object for the International House community, many of whom remember a long winning streak for International House in the 1970s.

The exhibition was opened on 9 July 2017 by Mrs Vi Peterson, Chair of the International House Council. The opening was attended by past and present residents, Council members, tutors and representatives from the University of Melbourne. Material from the exhibition will become part of a permanent exhibit of International House history in the Mavis Jackson Room.

By IH Librarian and Archivist Dr Caitlin Stone