The National Library has acquired one of the country’s most important collections on the life and times of Australia’s first international diva, Dame Nellie Melba.

The acquisition, from the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music in Melbourne, includes music manuscripts, sheet music, photographs, programs and clippings, covering the period from 1891 to 2008. The collection also contains records and manuscripts that link Melba’s story with the history of the Conservatorium and musical training in Australia.

The Director-General of the National Library, Jan Fullerton, described the Melba Conservatorium Collection as one of the most valuable in the country, adding that it would complement perfectly the Library’s existing Melba collections and its rich array of Australian music resources. “It will also ensure that the collection is available for all Australians to use and appreciate,” she said.

The Director of the Melba Conservatorium, Professor Mel Waters, said with the closure of the Conservatorium at the end of the year, his primary concern was that all the historical documents, artefacts and memorabilia, collected over its 108 years, remain together as the Melba Conservatorium Collection. To honour her memory, a bold new venture, the Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust, will be created to support the University of Melbourne’s graduate training of opera singers.

“We are delighted that our collection of treasures will be housed at the National Library in perpetuity, and will receive the highest standards of archival and curatorial preservation and presentation for all time,” he said.

The National Library’s Curator of Music, Robyn Holmes, said the Melba acquisition was more than just a musical story. “It depicts not only the musical world of Melba, the international star, but shows Melba’s wider contribution to the development of Australian cultural life,” she said.

To celebrate the acquisition, the Friends of the National Library have organised a special event for this Friday night, 25 July, from 6.30 pm – Nellie Melba: Queen of Song, featuring the talents of soprano Louise Page. It will also feature a viewing of some of the Melba items already held by the National Library. For bookings, call 02 6262 1698. Robyn Holmes is available for interview.

Media contacts: Sally Hopman, 02 6262 1704; shopman@nla.gov.au
Ellen Peterson, 02 6262 1571; epeterson@nla.gov.au