The Callaway Centre

Blacking Collection project

Further information

  • Blacking Collection

  • Limited Callaway Centre Catalogue Records are available via TROVE


This project aims to make the internationally recognised John Blacking Collection available to researchers by processing the collection to archival standards and to share materials from the collection for use in educational and public sector settings.

  1. Background
  2. Activities
  3. Project outcomes


The bulk of the John Blacking Collection arrived in Perth from Belfast, Ireland in March 1997. Stored in the Music Department for nearly ten years, in late 2006 the collection was packed and moved from Clifton Street to a room in the Callaway Centre’s current home in the Park Avenue Building. In February 2007, the collection was moved into the Callaway Centre Archive’s climate-controlled storage space. Work began in 2006 on the essential and extensive task of processing the collection using archival standards.

While the material in the Blacking Collection focuses largely on Blacking’s ethnomusicological fieldwork among the Venda people in South Africa in the late 1950s, it also includes fieldwork data from other regions of South Africa, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Uganda, and Ireland. Many of the papers have further significance as a representation of the various professional, academic and civic activities this scholar was engaged in throughout his life.

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To prepare the collection for researchers, staff have concentrated on several key activities related to preservation, access, and promotion of the collection:

  • unpacking and storing the collection in a stable environment
  • shelving the collection on appropriate shelving in a climate-controlled, pest-free environment
  • digitising media and establishing a database for information on contents of audio and video data
  • establishing an organisational framework for the collection
  • creating a preliminary finding aid
  • offering public papers and scholarly publications on aspects of the collection
  • developing an exhibition around an aspect of the collection represented especially in photographic, audio, and video data.
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Project outcomes

The Blacking Collection project has been in place since 2004. Some of the most significant milestones in its history at UWA and at the Callaway Centre include:

  • preliminary preservation of audio, film, and selected photographs completed in 2004, directed by Victoria Rogers
  • publications of research utilising archival materials, and contemporary studies influenced by Blacking’s activities as dance and music scholar, composer, and social activist, directed by Jane Davidson between 2006 and 2013
  • development of sub-project to provide content description of the collection as a whole, and to offer preliminary plans for an organisational structure, developed by Kaye Hill and Brian Dawson between 2007 and 2010
  • establishment of links with communities in which Blacking worked in South Africa, conducted primarily by Andrea Emberly in conjunction with her work as Research Fellow at UWA between 2009 and 2012
  • indexing of audio data produced by Blacking between 1956 and 1966 to provide item-level access to information on recordings, completed in 2013, under the leadership of senior visiting research fellow Jennifer Post
  • an exhibition of photographs and recordings from the Blacking Collection which will open at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery in November 2013.


Music Dance Landscape Image

Experience the sights and sounds of Africa through the lens of world-renowned ethnomusicologist John Blacking.


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