VU Special Collections - How to access and use: John and Shirley McLaren

The John and Shirley McLaren Collection is a research collection donated by Emeritus Professor John David McLaren (1932 - 2015) to Victoria University Library in several stages from 1993 onwards.

The Collection contains rare and valuable books on Australian, New Zealand, and South Pacific fiction (novels, plays and poetry) and criticism. Also included are a number of works on colonial and post-colonial literature in the Asia-Pacific region. These items come from the personal collection of John McLaren.

In 2011 a Federal grant allowed VU Library to undertake a digitisation project of significant unpublished and out of print material from the Archival Papers of John McLaren. These digitised documents can be accessed from the McLaren Papers Collection on the VU Institutional Repository.

John McLaren is remembered in this Overland article, which begins with the words:

"Early in the morning of 4 December, Overland lost a great friend and guide when John McLaren died. John was associate editor of Overland from 1966–1993, editor from 1993–1996, and a board member until 2014, when he stood down for health reasons to become, instead, an official Overland patron."


Shirley & John McLaren 1996                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   





John McLaren BEd BA (Hons) MA (Monash) PhD (Melbourne) was an Emeritus Professor in the College of Arts at Victoria University. A Victoria University and F.I.T. academic staff member for over 30 years, John published widely on Australian Literature, Pacific Studies, Multiculturalism and Education.

In 2014 John was awarded Member (AM) in the General Division of The Order of Australia, for his significant service to education, particularly the humanities and social sciences, as an academic, mentor and teacher.

Professor McLaren tenure at Victoria University included Honorary Professor from 1999-2001; Foundation Chair of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, 1991-1997; and Head of the Department of Humanities, Footscray Institute of Technology, 1976-1991.

John Mclaren was foundation editor of the second series of Australian Book Review, serving as editor from 1978 to 1986. He was associate editor of Overland from 1966, and editor from 1993 to 1997. He was an active member of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies; consulting editor of Overland; Vice-President of the Australian Studies Association for South Asia; an Honorary Life Member of the International Australian Studies Association; a Founding Member of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature; and a Life Member of the Footscray Community Arts Centre.

In 1990 John was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in the Humanities Centre at the University of Oregon in the United States and has published significant works on Australian, Southeast Asian and Pacific literature and politics.

 Shirley McLaren (1930-1999), John's wife, was also active in Australian literary studies. Shirley was a long-time Treasurer of Overland and was also on its Editorial Board.

Notable publications by John McLaren

Archival papers of John McLaren 

Link to box list on VU catalogue

Part of the John and Shirley McLaren Collection.

There are seventy two (72) boxes and three (3) filing cabinets of archival material dating from around the mid 1940s to 2005, received in two major accessions. The 1st accession comprised 50 boxes and 3 filing cabinets. The 2nd accession (22 boxes) was processed in 2007 and has been physically incorporated into and listed with the 1st accession.

Archives in the 1st accession principally reflect the research interests of Professor McLaren during his time at Victoria University and contain some private papers which include correspondence. There are also administrative papers relating to his professorship at Victoria University and his dealings with the University in relation to the Arts Faculty. The 2nd accession includes a new series (Series 7) of papers relating to his English Teaching prior to Victoria University.

The collection includes manuscript proofs of John McLaren’s publications, with corrections and annotations. The 2nd accession includes manuscript proofs and working papers from his most recent publications (2003 and 2005).

There are seven main series. These are:

  • Personal papers - Correspondence (Box A1 to A10 and filing cabinets 1-3)
  • VU related material (Box B1 to B21) 
  • Australia Studies Centre (Box C1 and C2)
  • Manuscripts/Writing (Box D1 to D20)
  • Extra-curricular activities (Box E1 to E3)
  • Miscellaneous and ephemera (Box F1 to F12)
  • English Teaching 1966 – 1971 (Box G1 to G3)