History Beyond the Classroom!

We are all students of history because, assumingly, we each have a passion for learning about the past in order to consider how it can and will impact on the future. In our many and varied history subjects, we have gained insight into historical events and historiographical debates and continuously attempted ‘to develop original insight’ into a given topic. While I am still doubtful as to whether any of my claims regarding World War 2 were ‘original’ given the breadth of academic intrigue on this subject, my professors were always encouraging which further nurtured the passion I have for history. History: Beyond the Classroom, however, has, in the subtlest and cleverest of ways, forced ‘original insight’ because we were to complete a task that has never been completed before for a community group, many of which it seems, have had sporadic attempts at constructing historical narratives. The brilliance of HSTY3902 is that we are given the freedom to entirely develop ‘original insight’ and as such I honestly feel I am a more complete student of history as a result of the work I have completed for my community group, Cooma Little Theatre.
As I discussed with last year’s History: Beyond the Classroom student, Natalie Leung, I went into this subject in the same way I approach any research project: I wanted to find something in the history of my organisation that would lend itself to developing a interesting discussion. I wanted to “re-write the history of my organization”, exposing the features that would make it interesting to the wider community. Regrettably, what I failed to realise at the outset was that it is exactly what my community group has been dedicated to for 60 years that provides the most interesting and compelling argument I could ever hope to develop. Each production of the Cooma Little Theatre’s past 60 years tells a story and when combined together, they create a history.
I therefore chose to digitally archive the posters and programs from the theatre’s sixty thriving, theatrical years. With every hour that I’ve dedicated to finding, scanning, editing, uploading and cataloguing, I’ve increasingly become more and more aware of the many histories this seemingly simplistic task creates. By looking at these visual sources, not only can you appreciate the multitude of productions performed but one can also see how technology has advanced, how advertising has increased, how cast members have change, how productions have varied and how, at a simplistic level, Cooma Little Theatre has continually remained a central entertainment facility for Snowy audiences in spite of changes in the makeup of the town. Indeed the benefit of completing this project is for me, to give back to the place that has given my family so much enjoyment. But more than this, this project will hopefully bring together past, present and future members of the theatre as they will each be able to visually appreciate the magnitude of the theatre’s achievements. The community of the Cooma Little Theatre expands across Australia and throughout the world and so the choice to use the website to display this history is to enable every member of our far-reaching community to access the site, spark a sense of nostalgia and remember ‘the good-times’ fondly.
I admit, I went into this assignment with the wrong attitude because I was blinded by the expectation to ‘develop original insight’. Little did I realise that the original insight I was so desperately looking for could be found in the most celebrated part of the theatre’s history. History: Beyond The Classroom has led me to look at research in a different light, to focus on the task rather than the product and to concentrate on achieving something that is bigger than just a university mark.
As the semester draws to a close and we prepare to submit the final assessment of our degrees, I think it’s important to reflect on what we’ve achieved and feel proud… We’ve looked ‘beyond the classroom’ and into the real world to find local history. And as we step into that real world, we should continue to appreciate the many histories that surround us every day.
Chookas HSTY3902!