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Museum and University join in funding new research

Six new research projects – including an anti-venom bank and a study of cultural stereotypes on Australian television – have emerged from a new partnership between Museum Victoria and the University of Melbourne.


The McCoy Project was established late last year as a vehicle for funding innovative and high impact research projects. It extends a long history of collaboration between Museum Victoria and the University of Melbourne. Unlike other grant programs, the McCoy Project aims to bring experts from both the sciences and humanities together, creating an environment where research based on Museum Victoria’s collections can flourish.

“The project presents great opportunities to produce collaborative and interdisciplinary research, and add new insights to our amazing collections,” said Dr Robin Hirst, Director of Collections and Research, Museum Victoria.

Under the first initiative of the McCoy Project announced on 28 January, seed funding was awarded for six collaborative pilot projects to be run during 2014:

  • From Mavis Bramston to Legally Brown: Cultural Representations in Australian Television – 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.
  • 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.
  • Self-destructive cultural heritage: management of cellulose nitrate materials in museum collections – Dr Petronella Nel and colleagues examine strategies for dealing with the unstable cellulose nitrate sometimes found in films, plastics and adhesives in museum 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 The Museum Victoria Collection.
  • 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.

The McCoy Project takes its name from Frederick McCoy, one of the four founding professors of the university. He was also appointed as honorary Director of the Museums of Natural and Applied Sciences (a predecessor of Museum Victoria) in 1857. They were positions he held until his death in 1899.

McCoy was a leading proponent of research and developing collections across both the museum and university, hence the choice of his name to entitle the new collaboration between the two institutions today.

The next stages of the McCoy Project will see other major research initiatives announced during 2014, and further seed funding provided in 2015 and 2016.