The brochures and pamphlets held in the archived files of University Vice-Chancellor Professor George Paton document the close involvement of the University with the games and reveal a side of the Olympics usually overshadowed by the hype surrounding competitive sports. From 1912 onwards, an Art Competition had been held concurrently with the sporting program, but this changed with the Melbourne games. The proposal to hold an Arts Festival instead of an Art Competition was made by the Melbourne Fine Arts Committee in 1953 and endorsed by the International Olympic Committee at its Congress in Athens in May 1954, when it was also decided that the Festival should be of a national rather than international character (and saving the Committee the expense of transporting exhibits to Australia). This change has had a long-lasting effect on the character of each Olympiad, as organisers seek to express what is particular about their nation.
An exhibition of Architecture and Sculpture was held at the University in the newly built Wilson Hall, itself an example of modern Australian architecture. The work of selecting exhibits was shared by the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and the Victorian Sculptors Society.