Dr Lesley Muir’s distinguished career as a historian and her substantial acquisition of accolades began at the University of Sydney. She studied geography as a part-time student, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1969, followed by a master’s and a PhD in historical geography. These studies ignited a lifelong passion for Australian history and geography, local history and politics, in which she was able to employ her skills and expertise in bringing to life the stories of her communities.
From 1962, Dr Muir worked for the Teachers College Library (initially located in the University grounds and then in charge of the Carillon Avenue Branch). Various amalgamations of the University’s library services meant that by 1990 she was in the employ of the centralised University Library, where she remained until her retirement.
As a librarian she was highly involved in the provision of library services to support the education of teachers and nursing professionals. She enjoyed working closely with staff and students of the Teachers College and the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, and her academic colleagues were always keen to use the professional skills of a librarian in their learning, teaching and research activities.
Dr Muir’s determination to offer her expertise to others was reflected in the support she offered to students and colleagues alike. She actively supported anyone carrying out research, helping them to discover the best resources available, and was renowned as a mentor to her library colleagues. She was particularly known for encouraging the more junior members of staff to obtain professional qualifications that would advance their careers at this university and beyond.
Dr Muir also worked with the Horbury Hunt Club (an architectural history group), the Australian Society for the History of Engineering and Technology, and the Canterbury and District Historical Society. She was a keen researcher, and contributed articles to many publications. She was also in demand as a speaker. She and her husband Brian Madden compiled historical notes for nearly 200 individual and group heritage items in the Canterbury district as part of the Canterbury Heritage Study 1988 and its 2011 review, and other projects for Canterbury City Council. Their exceptional work was honoured in 2007 when they were each awarded the Order of Australia Medal in acknowledgment of their service to recording and preserving local history.
More accolades were to follow. In January 2012, Dr Muir was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society, the highest honour the Royal Australian Historical Society Council could bestow, in recognition of her many years of devoted and outstanding service to Australian history and the community history movement, and as a Councillor, Senior Vice President and Chair of the Affiliated Societies Committee of the Society.
Sadly, Dr Muir passed away in May 2012. But she will not be forgotten. Her legacy will live on through her family, her pioneering work as a historian and librarian, and in the careers of the many colleagues and students she supported.
Her impact at the University of Sydney will also continue, through a generous gift to the Veterinary Science Foundation. Dr Muir loved cats and directed that her gift is used for research and education towards the treatment and prevention of disease in cats.
Professor Rosanne Taylor, Dean at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, said: “This generous gift will directly support ground-breaking research projects that promote the welfare and health of cats. It will enable our future veterinary specialists, who are enrolled in a combined clinical master’s program, to design and undertake research projects that tackle the pressing and emerging problems we see in cats at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
It is gifts like this that have allowed us to identify new viruses implicated in lymphoma in cats, and to identify serious fungal pathogens that afflict cats and other animals, as well as other exciting research directions underway in our Hospital.”