After the first couple of History Beyond the Classroom classes, I racked my brain to think of somewhere to work with that would yield projects as interesting as some of the past examples we were shown. I remember in a separate unit as an icebreaker, we had to think of something special, or a historical fact, about our area. I thought there was nothing to say about my suburb.
I found the Dural and District Historical Society through a quick search for historical societies in my area. I went to the society’s headquarters during their opening hours on a Sunday to introduce myself and offer my help. The drive out to the History Cottage makes you feel much more than 50 minutes away from the CBD. Despite a lot of new development in my suburb and surrounds, a bit further out in the Dural/Galston area, it still feels quite rural. Situated next to the community park and swimming pool amidst the bush setting of Galston, is the History Cottage, refurbished in 1998 as a visitor centre and museum for the Dural district.
I met Ken, Barbara, and Norm, who were surprised but excited about the possibilities of putting a university student to work on unfinished projects and organisational tasks. We talked about some of the things that the society has looked at over the past few years such as, regarding the centenary of World War I, where they worked on producing profiles of the names on the memorial cenotaph of Dural. I was surprised by the amount of archival material and photographs, extensive books, newspapers from over the years. The first visit seemed very promising.
The next arrangement was a meeting with the committee of the society to discuss in which areas I could help out. I met the president Michael, and other committee members Judy, Diane, Pauline, Michael, and Ken and Barbara once again. Lots of ideas were batted about, with many projects already springing to the minds of the committee members – I had to remind them that first I am there to help them out. They were excited about the prospect of free labour! After being made an honorary member of the society, I was shown the ropes of their computer setup and library system. An official motion was put forward that I work on a history of the ‘township’ of Galston, to be given to new residents to familiarise them with the area, a project that the society had had in mind for a while. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the resources at my disposal, I left the meeting happy that the society could see a good use for me.
My first session of actual research involved a lot of reading to determine which sources would be useful. The society keeps a lot of publications that are specific to some very small niches – so this involved sorting through many documents and self-published books and pamphlets to find information. I’m hoping to be able to help in other areas, particularly relating to making the treasure-trove of information the society has more accessible. My research has already deepened my knowledge of this area. At a picnic on a recent sunny spring Sunday at Fagan Park, I was able to tell my friends just how we are able to enjoy the expanse of themed gardens and greenery (this is land that Bruce Fagan gave back to the Crown to be preserved for use of the public as a park). I’m looking forward to finding many more nuggets of information, and to have an answer to the question, ‘What makes your area interesting?’