University of Melbourne Archives

Your Greatest Challenge: An Exhibition to Mark the 60th Anniversary of the Second World War

Marking the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 2 using material from the University of Melbourne Archives

Monday 16 August to Wednesday 15 September 1999
Exhibition area, 1st floor, Baillieu Library, The University of Melbourne
Curator: Dr Mark Richmond

Introduction

As the anniversary of Australia's entry into the Second World War on 3rd September 1939 draws near, I imagine that every one of us will be able to reflect that no family was unaffected by the turmoil of those years.

So it is with the Archives: the records of so many organizations and individuals held in the Archives span the 1930s and 1940s, whether those of the University itself and its members at home and in the field, the many businesses - be they involved in manufacturing, retailing, farming or transport - likewise the large range of trade unions, peak bodies from both capital and labour, the many professional and service organization, and the diverse collections of personal papers.

It is only possible to show a selection of this material, which it is hoped will give an idea of the range and diversity of collections held at the Archives. In a sense, the subject of the exhibition is as much the resources of the University of Melbourne Archives as it is the progress of the War or the unfolding of the war years.

During the 1930s, the portents of another major conflict were increasingly manifest, with a volatile situation in most parts of Europe and the aggressive activities of Japan in China. With hindsight, the seeds of this conflict are apparent in the package put together at Versailles in 1919 (a mistake which US Army Chief of Staff and planner Marshall was at pains to avoid as a scheme for rebuilding European economies was set out in 1947), though the formation of an alliance involving European fascists with Japan was slower to evolve: it was not until November 1936 that Germany and Japan concluded a pact against communism (driving Russia in the direction of the democratic states and leading it in December to adopt a new 'Democratic' Government - at least until August 1939, when the non-aggression pact with German was signed, whereupon Japan abandoned its pact with Germany).

A sequence of momentous events beginning before the end of the First World War, with the withdrawal of Russia to resolve its internal Revolution, the formation of communist parties across the world including Australia (with a branch formed at a meeting in Sydney in October 1920), the rise of fascism in a number of European countries, spiralling inflation, the onset of a severe Depression and years of widespread unemployment and industrial unrest, together with ominous developments in Asia, had helped rebuild a sense of present or impending crisis and the potential for another major military conflict.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue

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