Exploring Tamworth’s Past: A Guide to Researching Our Local History

This has been a challenging, yet also rewarding class experience. It was daunting at first to be thrown straight in with not many boundaries. It was something that I had not yet experienced in my degree. Yet, it was refreshing being able to choose my own project and the organisation that I volunteered with.
I hope the guide that I have created will be of benefit to people, whether they are in their twenties or their sixties who are in the early stages of their research into Tamworth’s history. Perhaps they have an idea, but do not know where to start searching for dates, sources, artefacts or contact details. My project can be used as a constant resource that they can come back to at anytime, and serve a number of different research avenues, whether it is Indigenous History, colonial history, family history or the history of local businesses. I have shaped the project to be appealing to people who do not have a historical background. In using a more informal and personal tone, the project is to be understandable to people from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels. I wanted to make it feel personal and that each of my audience to be engaging with both my and the organisations passion for Tamworth’s history. From conversations with friends and family, I understood that many of them engage with history when it is delivered in a personable and avant-garde way, whether that be through television, film, or a quirky article in the newspaper or on Facebook. This project is about local connections through a love of history and the Tamworth region. My tone and sometimes second person address is to make the audience feel welcome in their own research. I did not want it to sound like a dry history textbook, but something that plants a little seed of curiosity within the reader. Ultimately, my project was to inspire people into digging deeper into their local history. I wanted to craft a resource that would highlight some wonderful organisations around the Tamworth region who are dedicated to helping people investigate the city’s past and how they fit within it.
My final lines of my project read like this;
May this guide be the beginning of your research journey into Tamworth’s history. As it has been shown to you, there are a plethora of exciting historical moments that have happened in Tamworth’s past. History is thriving in this city, we just have to open our eyes and find it. Be inspired and affected by our city’s past and share your discoveries amongst the community.
Thank you again for a wonderful semester.

A Cup of Tea with a Side of History…

This week saw me venture on a six hour train journey to Tamworth, NSW. Not only was it great to see my family, but it was lovely to be surrounded by fellow history lovers from the local community. My chosen organisation is the Tamworth Historical Society. They have a core presence in the Tamworth community and are a part of many historical events throughout the town, for example the recent Tamworth Bicentenary of explorer John Oxley (the first European to reach the area).
My first meeting involved a cup of tea, and another, and another. I was surrounded by many older locals who had been a part of the society since the early years. This particular group was the Collections Committee, who are tasked with collecting donated items, assigning provenance and its historical significance to the area. That morning there was a couple who had dropped in a trophy from the local Business Awards in the ’80s, and were asking about a mysterious sewing device they had, many ladies had ideas of what it was and resulted into a google search, yet it still remains a mystery. After chatting away, one lady named Audrey had brought up a past memory of her and her friend throughout WWII. They both would go to the 102 General Hospital in town and help wounded soldiers write letters for home, and then frequent the Town Hall for weekend dances. There was a warmness to her memory, even through the harsher times. ‘It was just what everyone did’, seemingly simplifying the day to day harshness of war. This reminded me again of Anna Clark’s research into the play between memory and history, and the benefit that nostalgia can bring to people.
My second meeting with the society was with the Library and Archives Committee. I spoke with the ladies about my potential project and there was mention of me completing a brochure for this particular committee. They are assigned with the archiving all of the historical documents that come to the Society. Whether it is published research or a member’s sketch of a local historical site, they will archive it. From this meeting I had the opportunity to begin the process of sorting the archives of the local newspaper, the Northern Daily Leader. This paper had begun in the late 1870s and had changed names throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, until finding its current title. Our job across the day was to chronologically stack the bundles of broadsheet newspapers into their names. We sorted them up until 1910, then moved onto the smaller tabloid bundles from 1980s through to the early 2000s. A challenge was finding the bundles themselves as throughout the moving process the Council had neglected to stack them the way they were previously archived. Also some older bundles that were wrapped in paper had the wrong dates placed on them. We packed up for the day and were covered in dust and grime from the prints. Reflecting upon this experience, it was incredible to be reconnected to a lived community, one that still enjoys the comfort in having a cup of tea and chatting without distraction. You could sense that there was a real passion for the local history amongst the society and I am honoured to be welcomed back into that space.
Although it did not seem like that much work was done, I found it rewarding to be surrounded in so much local history. I aim to continue helping with the archives as well when I return home. Hopefully, I will be able to go through some of the papers too, flicking through their tarnished issues to find some ancestors nestled in their pages.