Community Project – NSW Writers’ Centre

As the mid-semester break approaches, I’m getting ready to buckle down and make a good start on my major project. I’m working with the New South Wales Writers’ Centre, whose headquarters can be found in the picturesque and historically significant Callan Park in Rozelle. This site was once occupied by the Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, where several prominent writers and poets were patients over the course of its history. How might strolling through the extensive grounds be changed by the knowledge that the likes of Louisa Lawson and Francis Webb may have done just the same decades ago? In consultation with the director of the Centre, my current plan is to write a page for their website exploring the history of writers on the site. I’m hoping, along the way, to gain a better understanding of how the history of a place can influence the way it is used in the present.
So far, much of my work on this project has been done among the shelves of the State Library. I’ve been researching the writers who were residents of the Hospital at one time or another, looking for any scraps of evidence about their lives there. Over the break I hope to be able to do more hands-on research: exploring what remains of the historic buildings in Callan Park, taking photographs, and really getting a sense of what the site used to be like.
I’m also going to be helping out at the Writers’ Centre, and will hopefully be able to chat to some of the members about their knowledge and perceptions of the park’s history. On previous visits to the Centre, over afternoon tea, multiple people have remarked on different aspects of the history, so it’s clearly of an interest to some members. As my project moves along I may expand on my web page idea to include something more interactive that allows visitors to explore the history themselves – perhaps a walking tour? I’m excited to see where this partnership takes me!