Our History

Winner of the PROV Hamer Award in the Community Archives Category for Taking it to the World – a Jazz Digitisation Project


Australian Jazz Museum

– Proactively Collecting, Archiving and Disseminating Australian Jazz –
Jazz Collectors – The Past

Starting in the 1920s, but especially during the 1940-50s, ad hoc Australian jazz collections began to grow. Musicians, clubs and fans began filling their shelves, spare rooms and sometimes sheds with Australian jazz: recordings, publications, photos, instruments, banners, posters and other memorabilia. Over time, these collectors grew concerned about the future of their collections.

The impetus for creating the Australian Jazz Museum (AJM), originally called the Victorian Jazz Archive (VJA) came from the strongly voiced desire to preserve Australia’s jazz heritage, and for it to be readily accessible to musicians, collectors, donors and others throughout Australia.

Australian Jazz Museum Chronology

1996. Founding of the Australian Jazz Museum (then as Victorian Jazz Archive). Initial meetings were held in Sydney in June and Melbourne in August. Incorporation took place in October.

1997. The VJA started in temporary quarters at the Museum of Victoria, then moved into the current site, a disused motor-vehicle repair workshop in Wantirna, Victoria (23 km East of Melbourne). This was possible by the generous lease from Parks Victoria, financial support from Museum Australia (Victoria), University of Melbourne, Performing Arts Museum, Myer Foundation, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Potter Foundation and other philanthropic trusts, individuals and a grant from the Victorian Government Community Support Fund.

1998. The second annual general meeting was held in November, along with an Open Day. The initial exhibits included: the trombone played by Ade Monsbourgh with the Graeme Bell Band in the late 1940s – donated by Roger Bell, and a clarinet donated by its owner Keith ‘Honk’ Atkins.

1999. In November a third annual meeting and Open Day was held, marking the completion of the major building program. Members met for the first time in the newly completed library & reference area and toured the catalogue room. The display included Bob Barnard’s silver cornet, Des Edwards’ trumpet, the large banner used by Graeme Bell for the All Star performance, and the wind organ played by Willie McIntyre.

2000. The VJA gained Charitable Organisation status and Income Tax exemption and became a registered museum, the first step toward an accredited museum. The Acetate Action program, to transcribe a large number of acetate recording in danger of deterioration, won two awards: the national Australia Bank Community Link Award for Conservation, and the Museums Australia Award for Conservation & Heritage.

2001. The museum held its first ‘outside’ exhibition in January-February at the Victorian Arts Centre in conjunction with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

2002. John Kennedy, then the Museum’s General Manager was awarded the ‘Volunteer of the Year in the Museum Industry’ by Museums Australia.

2003. The VJA won full accreditation as a Museum by Museums Australia, Victoria.

2004. John Kennedy was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for “the preservation of Australian jazz at the Victorian Jazz Archive” (later the Australian Jazz Museum).

2005. The Museum won the Knox Pride Award for Preservation and Conservation, a recognition from the Knox City Council, sponsored by Bendigo Bank.

2007. The ‘Jazz Spans the Decades – ‘A History of jazz in Victoria’ exhibition won the Victoria Community History Award for best exhibit/display. The award was established and sponsored by Information Victoria Bookshop and given by Tourism Australia.

2012. “For aiming for the highest standard in all areas of documentation”, the Museum received the Victoria Museum Award for volunteer-run museums by Museums Australia, Victoria.

2013.  Winner of the PROV Hamer Award in the Community Archives Category for Taking it to the World – a Jazz Digitisation Project

2014. The Victoria Jazz Archive changed its name to Australian Jazz Museum – to reflect the Museum’s Australia-wide mission, collection and membership.

2015. Two 40 foot containers with compactus storage have been installed to increase the capacity of our ever-growing collection.

2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the Victorian Jazz Archive / Australian Jazz Museum founding, a major milestone in the history of the Museum.

2017 saw several significant collections arrive at the Museum from the estates of major Australian jazz entities. The Museum was successful in obtaining grants to enable an acceleration in our efforts to digitise our entire collection.

2018 ?.

The Present & Future

The Australian Jazz Museum continues to seek out collections of rare Australian jazz items and to encourage the younger generation of Australian jazz musicians to add recordings of their music to our collection, as it will become the heritage of the future.