Monday, 11 April 2016

Plomley Foundation

Followers of our Facebook posts will be aware that we were recently granted funding from the Plomley Foundation for volunteer training to catalogue our collection. When catalogued, the collection will become available for the first time on the Australian National Bibliographic Database and through TROVE.

Significantly enhanced access to the collection will support FOLMI's future activities in collection management and interpretation. A catalogued collection will enable research, evaluation and analysis of the collection by allowing multiple access points and faceted searching which is currently not possible. It will also allow FOLMI to maintain its own catalogue as a subset of ANDB.

It is the single most important way FOLMI can improve access to its collection because it provides national and global access to its collection. Information about the collection and individual items will be made available for the first time to all those researchers, students, historians, bibliophiles and readers who may have an interest.

Members will be aware that this cataloguing project received strong endorsement as a priority for our organisation in the Significance Assessment completed by Dr Susan Marsden in 2015.

The Plomley Foundation was established in 1984 by the late N J B (Brian) Plomley, a former Director of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery from 1946 to 1950 and from the early 1980s until his death in 1994, an Honorary Research Associate at QVMAG.

Since its establishment the Foundation has supported a wide variety of research projects on various aspects of Tasmania’s natural and cultural heritage.

While we were aware at the time of our funding application that Brian Plomley had taken an interest in the Launceston Mechanics' Institute collection during his lifetime, and that he had used the collection while researching popular fiction writers such as A E W Mason, Harold Bindloss and C N and A M Williamson, we had no idea that he also had a much closer and more significant personal connection with the whole Mechanics' Institute movement.

Among Brian Plomley's forebears were the Birkbeck's of Settle, in Yorkshire's West Riding, about whom he wrote in Several Generations (1971) Therefore he shares a common ancestry with Dr George Birkbeck, pioneer of the Mechanics' Institute movement and founder and first president of the London Mechanics' Institute. 
One of the treasures in our collection is the first volume of The London Mechanics' Register (1825) into which is bound a six page 'Biographical Memoir of George Birkbeck M.D.'.

LMR, v1, no1

It is fitting then that we draw inspiration in our project both from the direct support of Brian Plomley and the contribution of his close relative.

The following summary of Brian Plomley's career is taken from the introduction to QVMAG's guide to its Plomley archives (CHS53);

Norman James Brian Plomley (known as Brian) was born on 6 November 1912 in Sydney, the elder son of Morris James Plomley, medical practitioner, and his wife Winifred Julia (nee Pickburn).
After graduating B.Sc. from the University of Sydney in 1935, he spent two years in England gaining research experience at the Imperial College of Science, London, and the University of Cambridge. 
Returning to Australia, he spent 1938 as Acting Curator of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston. At the beginning of 1939 he joined the Department of Physics at the University of Tasmania as a research biologist. Later, during the Second World War he worked in the Optical Munitions Annex on the Queen’s Domain, Hobart.

In 1946 he returned to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery as Director. He was awarded the degree of M.Sc. from the University of Tasmania in 1947 for a study of the genetic effects of ultraviolet radiations.

He re-entered the academic world in 1950 when he was appointed Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Sydney. In 1957/58 he worked at the Galton Laboratory, University College, London, researching human genetics, then became a temporary lecturer in the College’s Department of Anatomy.

Back in Australia he was Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy at the University of New South Wales from 1961 until 1965, when he travelled to Paris to study French observations of Tasmanian Aborigines. The following year he joined the staff of the Department of Anatomy and Embryology at the University College, London. He left the College in 1973 returning to Australia where he was Senior Associate in Aboriginal and Oceanic Ethnology in the Department of History, University of Melbourne, until he retired in 1976.

From 1977 he lived in Tasmania, devoting himself to writing. For his services to historical research he was honoured by Membership of the Order of Australia in 1979 and awarded the Clive Lord Medal by the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1983. He lived in Hobart until November 1985, when he moved to Launceston.

In September 1984 the Plomley Foundation was established with his generous support, being one of the most important donations received by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The foundation’s aims are to encourage research and publication about Tasmania’s natural and cultural heritage and the further development of the collections of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

Brian Plomley was an Honorary Research Associate at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery until he died on 8 April 1994.