The Ross Steele AM Fellowship is offered annually.
Applications open on 17 May 2021 (and close on 16 July 2021 at 5pm)
About the Fellowship
The Ross Steele AM Fellowship supports research into the State Library of NSW pictorial collections.
The Library has been collecting pictorial material since the 1880s, but the David Scott Mitchell Bequest of 1907, and then even more so the extraordinary generosity of Sir William Dixson, underpinned the compilation of the some of the largest pictorial collections in the country.
The Library’s collections are principally documentary, and their acquisition has operated in a market and context very different to fine art images. The broad history of the compilation of these collections is not well understood. Initially pictures were purchased to illustrate major historical landscapes, events and people, often with a focus on European colonisation. The evolution of the photographic image significantly changed the documentary impetus, however, and we now collect much more broadly, with an understanding that the full diversity of Australian life and culture needs to be recorded.
The recently unveiled oil painting hang in the Mitchell Galleries provides the Library with an opportunity to broadly examine the history of the Library’s pictorial collections and focus in detail on highlighted paintings. While recently cataloguing of the oil painting collection is comparatively comprehensive, overall much of the Library’s pictorial collections could benefit from a significant investment in their description. Indeed it was really only in the 1980s, through the work of Dr Joan Kerr, that many of the Library’s collections received sustained scholarly attention, especially through her Dictionary of Australian Artists 1770-1870. Unfortunately, once Professor Kerr moved away from the field, scholarly attention to the collections has been haphazard and piecemeal, apart from the work of the Library’s own staff.
This Fellowship will initiate the process focusing on key works in the Library’s pictorial collections, within the context of their particular acquisition and exhibition histories. In their diversity of format and their extent, these are some of the most significant and largest pictorial collections in Australia. Understanding the history of their acquisition and description is a vital first step in explaining why these collections are so important and will be fundamental to further publications about them.
The Fellow will be given access to the Library’s records and object files about these paintings. The expectation is that the Fellow will focus on fifty to one hundred images, which will illuminate the quality and diversity of the Library’s collections.
It is expected that Ross Steele AM Fellows will:
- Be experienced researchers who are able to demonstrate a successful record of scholarship, publications and research outcomes.
- Be able to demonstrate a high-level capacity to promote their work through a variety of media channels in collaboration with the State Library.
- Agree that the fellowship is a priority during their tenure and that a concentrated period of effort will be made to deliver the fellowship.
- Actively promote the research undertaken during their tenure.
- Make a presentation about the project at the conclusion of the fellowship.
- Ensure any publications, outcomes or media coverage which result from the fellowship prominently acknowledge the support of the State Library of NSW and the fellowship.
- Contribute to State Library of NSW print and online publications.
- Submit, to the Mitchell Librarian, a four-page summary of their completed project, copies of any research outcomes (presentations and publications) and a bibliography.
- Acquit their fellowship in a timely manner.