Feedback on History Beyond the Classroom 2019

We were delighted to learn recently that our unit of study, History Beyond the Classroom (HSTY3902), has received a Unit of Study Survey (USS) Commendation for Faculty Wide Units.

These commendations are based entirely on the USS results, and are given to units when the USS items relating directly to student satisfaction of teaching effectiveness and student satisfaction of feedback and engagement were both in the top quartile of the School’s performance.

This news also provides us an opportunity to reflect on our USS student responses, and the responses we received from our community organisations who participated in History Beyond the Classroom in Semester 2, 2019.

Student Responses

Twenty-two of twenty-five enrolled students responded to the USS survey, or roughly 88%. Of these, 100% of responses strongly agreed or agreed that they were satisfied with the quality of the teaching, that they found the work intellectually rewarding, that they had good access to valuable learning resources, and that the assessment tasks challenged them to learn.

In addition, 95% of students strongly agreed or agreed that they had developed relevant critical and analytical thinking skills, and they had been guided by helpful feedback in their learning, with only one student “neutral” on each question.

Finally, 100% of students strongly agreed or agreed that the unit helped them “develop a broader range of ideas, attitudes and approaches to and beyond the subject matter.”

“What have been the best aspects of this unit of study?”

In the qualitative section, students responded to this question with a broad range of answers including the guest speakers, the focus on public history, the field trips, the opportunity to gain real world experience of public history work, and the engaging teaching.

Excerpts from student comments:

  • “Simply, this was a great class. Both of the teachers were excellent and has been my favourite class this semester.”
  • “The teaching and hands-on aspects of the course have been great and really engaging. This course has been incredible in providing opportunities to learn about different options for after graduation and for providing alternatives to more traditional work formats. Mike and Marama have been super helpful in guiding the process as well, and the field trips were really informative.”
  • “Being encouraged to push my boundaries and take what I have learnt as a student of history and use it to engage with groups external to the university.”
  • “The quality of the speakers each week – all impressive, illuminating and engaging. … This really was an exceptional course, unlike any I have undertaken at Sydney Uni. Great preparation for life outside and what you can do with a history degree.”
  • “I also really enjoyed doing the project, it’s a great way to get experience with a major work in a field we’re passionate about. The project has taught me a lot about time management, discussing options with organisations, and realising expectations.”
  • “The best aspect of this unit of study has been gaining real world insight into the world of public, popular and professional history. I was unaware of how many different avenues this degree could take me down, and it has been really valuable and rewarding taking this course and finding out more about history outside university.”
  • “I found the assessment task and volunteer work great complementary work that helped understanding the place of history outside of uni. Overall, it was probably one of, if not the best, history unit I have taken at uni so far.”
  • “This unit of study has been a highlight of my degree. As a history student, I loved this unit’s emphasis on public/community engagement. It has pushed me outside of my comfort zone – of writing essays – into the real world, showing me the real impact and applicability of the skills I have learned over my three years.”
  • “The best aspect of the unit of study by far would be the assessment task. It is one of the most challenging, yet relevant assessment tasks I’ve done. It has been extremely intellectually stimulating and I have enjoyed the freedom and real world connections that it has brought about.”
  • “Mike and Marama were two fantastic teachers and guided our projects where necessary, as well as helping us engage in really thought-provoking discussions. I’ve really loved every part of this unit, so thank you SO much Mike and Marama!”
“What aspects of this unit of study most need improvement?”

Of course, there is always room for improvement. While we were very grateful that some students said they really wouldn’t change anything, we will continue to adjust the unit in response to the constructive feedback we received.

In particular, students asked for more opportunities to share their work on their major project in class. Several pointed to the valuable session late in semester when they shared their ideas and project with each other, and requested that this kind of discussion take place more frequently, and/or earlier in semester.

Each year, some students have difficulties negotiating with their community organisation, and we will continue to think about the guidelines we can provide to the organisations outlining their responsibilities, in order to smooth the way for our students.

Finally, students asked that clearer instructions about the major assessment be provided earlier in the semester. For the majority of our students, this is the first time they are undertaking a major assessment other than an essay. We will continue to work on making sure our expectations and directions for the major project are set out clearly and early, so that students can plan out their semester, and balance the other work required for this unit.

Community Organisation Responses

At the end of last year, we asked our participating community organisations to undertake a brief survey on their experiences of the unit. Out of twenty-four organisations, we received nine responses.

Of these, 100% of organisations agreed that they were satisfied with the way the student participated, and with the research project they developed. Their positive comments spoke to their enthusiasm and experiences working with individual students, with one organisation calling the student they worked with “delightful and highly respected,” and another describing their student as “flexible, supportive and full of creative ideas and skills.”

Excerpts from community organisation comments:

  • “We can only hope that he gained as much from this Project as we gained from his commitment, enthusiasm & friendship.”
  • “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to engage with this initiative. We gained so much.”
  • “I am very impressed with this program. The injection of new thinking provided ideas and in particular horsepower to both preserve our history and reach a wider audience.”
  • “It has been a rewarding experience for [us] and I hope for [the student] and we look forward to future work together.”
  • “This is a great initiative, with significant rewards for both the student and the community.”
  • “We do congratulate you on this most worthwhile initiative.”
  • “This history project is fantastic. I had a look at the website with all the students’ projects. It’s great to see the research skills brought to life in the telling of the various shards of history which make up the story of this country.”

Thank you again to our fantastic students and community partners for all of their hard work last semester, and to our generous guest speakers: Mark Dunn, Nicole Cama, Breann Fallon, Nathan Sentance, Tamson Pietsch, Madeline Shanahan, Stephen Gapps, and the former HSTY3902 students who came to share their wisdom and experiences.

History Beyond the Classroom was co-taught in 2019 by Prof. Michael McDonnell and Dr. Marama Whyte. You can see examples of student projects developed for this course here.

The Theatre for Children Website Archive and Resources

The Jester: Logo for the Theatre for Children.

For my History Beyond the Classroom project, I collaborated with the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) to create a website that serves as a digital archive and education resources collection. In September 2019, a collection of photographs, plays, letters, newspaper clippings and logbooks were donated to SJM in a cabin sized suitcase which was filled to the brim. This collection, donated by Dr John McIntyre, centres around the Theatre for Children, which was run by a Jewish woman in Sydney from 1937-1957. The director of the Theatre, Rosemarie Benjamin, was extremely passionate about children’s theatre, education and psychology.

Eating, Working, and Learning

What I will remember most from my time spent at SJM is the warm, inviting atmosphere of the museum. Every Friday morning, I was invited to eat traditional Challah bread with the staff and other volunteers. We also went to lunchtime lectures together which helped me to learn more about the Holocaust and Jewish history from the museum’s resident historian and education team.

Two Teams: One Website

My project is particularly innovative as it will be one of the first online resources created for Stage 3 students by the Sydney Jewish Museum. The Education team at SJM were keen for me to make activities and resources for English for Stage 3 students, as this was an area in which they were lacking. This included writing comprehension questions, writing tasks and a questionnaire about the six plays uploaded to the website. These resources were also designed directly from the English Stage 3 Syllabus, to make the activities accessible and simple for teachers.

I was also part of the Curation team, which was why I conducted a lot of research into the collection, Trove and academic articles written by John McIntyre. The collection that was donated easily has three hundred documents in it, and gives a unique picture of Benjamin as an entrepreneur and advocate for children’s theatre.

The main audience for this website is Stage 3 students, in regional and suburban New South Wales. Having this collection of artefacts from the museum published online makes SJM more accessible for teachers and the general public, especially for those who aren’t able to physically visit the museum.

I think the most significant impact I’ve felt with this project is the preservation and dissemination of this otherwise unknown story about children’s theatre in Sydney. The successes and failures of this theatre highlight the economic difficulties experienced by those during the inter-war period, World War II, and the 1950’s. I have become very passionate about retelling the story of this theatre, and in particular, emphasising Rosemarie Benjamin’s passion and advocacy. Her determination to provide entertaining and educational plays for young children is evident in the fact that the theatre was self-funded.. As SJM is yet to upload their database online, the digitisation of this small part of their collection is also an important step in making the museum more accessible. I have also included both PDF and Word Doc versions of the plays, a full character and props list, and the length of the plays. This is to make reading and selecting the plays as smooth and informative for the teachers as possible.

Designed by the Professionals:

I will be passing on my website to SJM’s marketing team, so that they can convert my website onto their own website generating platform. With this in mind, I have tried to mimic SJM’s colour scheme from their website and education booklets, to make the design process more seamless. Once it has been edited by the marketing team, my website will be launched on the new Teacher’s Membership Platform. which will allow students in more rural and regional schools, who can’t visit the museum, to access the collection digitally.

Challenges vs Opportunities:

This project certainly had its challenges, including the complexity and brevity of the collection, my lack of website editing knowledge, and the fact that I am not training to be a teacher. I chose to see this project though as a chance to digitise part of the museum’s artefacts, and as an opportunity to gain some experience in web design and producing education activities. This allowed me to see history through a more modern, digital, and educational lens, and to expand my skill set and understanding of how history is portrayed in the public sphere. It was also quite difficult upon reading some of the plays and guides, as some of them included quite racist and sexist material, despite the young target audience. I have deliberately added a disclaimer to make my, and SJM’s position clear on these issues. Whilst I personally disagree with the racist and sexist remarks in some of the plays, and know that the Sydney Jewish Museum does not support this or any type of discrimination, I felt that it would be historically accurate to preserve the original version. I also believe that it is not right to change what’s written in any play, literature or historical source, despite my lens and perspective on these matters being vastly different to the opinions that Benjamin expresses. In particular, I, and the Sydney Jewish Museum do not condone, endorse or support any racist, sexist or culturally vilifying  behaviour, whether they be verbal or written, and will therefore be writing an ‘updated’ or modern version of the play which removes these words and lines, which will also be available on the website. The remarks made by characters, especially in Martha’s Toyshop and Katherine and Frederick, are a product of their time, and whilst this doesn’t excuse the opinions conveyed in these plays, I will later be amending them so that teachers can decide which versions to teach. I have also provided teachers with a possible activity idea around this topic, linked with Outcome HT3-3 of the History Stage 3 syllabus. This way, the teachers don’t have to perpetuate the vocabulary and opinions from these plays, thereby teaching students the importance of respect, understanding, communication and historical perspective.

The Future:

I’ve discussed staying on with SJM for another couple months to continue transcribing the other seven plays, and to accession the collection into their database called Adlib. I’m glad that this collection will survive in the museum’s database and through the website I’ve created. I’m also planning on providing a guide of how to use Wix and my thought process in designing the website, so that if the museum should want to add to it in the future, or complete a similar type of project, they can do so.

Raising Awareness and Promoting Equal Rights: My Work with Handital

The organisation I have been working with over the past few months is Handital, a non-profitable, voluntary organisation that supports people with disabilities and their carers. I have created a website for Handital and this has made the project quite innovative and distinctive because they have never possessed their own personal site, and have relied significantly on their Facebook page to provide information about the organisation and attract new members. The website marks the first time a detailed account of Handital’s thirty six year history has been presented online. Investigating Handital’s history affirmed the importance of local history because if such community histories are not recognised, historical knowledge will become lost. Overall, the website’s main, yet implicit, argument is to show the public the significant contributions Handital has made for people with disabilities in the past, as well as in the present. It aims to encourage people to acknowledge the importance of non-profitable, charitable organisations like Handital and why they should be supported by the government as well as their local communities. In order to justify these arguments, I incorporated evidence such as old and more recent photographs of fundraising events, information from the Handital President’s 25th anniversary booklet and oral history interviews.  

When I met with one of the Committee Members for the first time, he explained to me the decrease in membership over the years as many members have passed away and others have simply left. Therefore, we agreed that another aim of the website would be to increase membership, particularly from a younger age group. I made the argument on the website that young people have been involved with the organisation and did this through including photos of younger people such as young adults between the ages of 20-30. The additional evidence I used to support this argument was the emphasis on the youth support group by ensuring online viewers they do not need to have a disability to join. Stating that the group meet once a month to enjoy a social outing may help Handital attract more young members. Furthermore, in order to attract a younger online audience, I included an application form in the ‘contact us’ section so people could easily fill in their details and send it through to Handital’s email, instead of sending it through the post. 

The website is divided into seven main themes: ‘home page,’ ‘about us’, ‘history,’ ‘events,’ ‘what’s on,’ ‘team members’ and ‘contact us.’ The ‘about us’ describes the organisation and the services they provide, the ‘history’ section explores the early establishment of Handital and the most significant moments in their history, the ‘events’ page provides information and visuals about Handital’s four main annual events and the ‘what’s on’ page shows individuals the advocacy of Handital and the current campaigns they are supporting. I believe dividing the website into these themes helps structure the website and ensures its clarity, and allows current members and the public to choose what in particular they want to view. For example, current members may only want to view the upcoming ‘events’ and the ‘what’s on’ pages. Each of these themes represent a crucial and fundamental aspect of Handital and dedicating a page to each allows new viewers to achieve a broad and diverse understanding about the organisation. 

Handital Foundation Members in 1983 at NSW Parliament House

Handital Committee members will benefit from this website because their organisation will be able to reach an online audience and fulfil the need of increasing membership which currently stands at around seventy people. Handital does not have a specific age target, however an increase in young people may increase its diversity and allow younger people such as young adults between the ages of 20-35 to become involved and take over the organisation one day. As Handital’s main office is located in Five Dock and their events occur in nearby restaurants, I believe the target region is the local community and Sydney’s Inner west. Furthermore, I am glad that the work I have been doing at Handital has been helpful as the Committee Members admitted to not having the time to scan photographs onto a USB and physically organise and label them into albums. Doing this work voluntarily, including the creation of the website, has saved time for the members. Furthermore, the website was crucial to the promotion and continuance of Handital as currently they are experiencing fear regarding the end of funding by the government in June 2020 which may possibly have an impact on the organisation. Hopefully, the website will attract a wider online audience who will join Handital, or even donate to their cause. 

I used Wix to create my website and before I began developing it, I spent a few hours over a four day period becoming familiar with Wix and its features and became privy to the types of creativity I could incorporate into the website. I abided by a red, white and green colour scheme throughout as this corresponded with Handital’s logo and also followed specific fonts to make the website flow and enhance the professionalism. I didn’t want to present the photos plainly so I discovered interesting ways to present them such as fades and click through galleries. Furthermore, I was asked by the Handital President to include translations in Italian on the ‘Home’ and ‘About us’ pages for the Italian members. However, the remaining sections were left in English so people can see that even though it was founded by Italian families, the organisation welcomes and accepts different cultures. 

The Handital website was announced at Handital’s annual celebration in honour of the International Day of People with Disability. Once launched, members will be provided with the link and an explanation about how to use it. Committee Members have agreed to place the link of the website onto their Facebook page so people will be able to gain a greater and more in depth understanding about Handital through accessing two different online forms with differing intentions. In order to ensure the sustainability of my project, I aim to teach one specific Committee Member in charge of admin how to update the website, particularly for the ‘events’ and ‘what’s on’ sections. I also need to complete scanning all the photographs I was given onto a USB and organise and label them into photo albums which I will hopefully have completed by the end of the year. Overall, I am very honoured and pleased that I got to work with such a wonderful and caring group of people.

The Tunnel: My work with the Hornsby Shire Historical Society

Throughout this semester I have had the pleasure of working with the Hornsby Shire Historical Society, a historical society that is located just up the street from me in my hometown of Normanhurst. My request to work with the Hornsby Shire Historical Society coincided with the release of their bi-annual journal ‘Local Colour’, so the organisers of the journal thought it would be suitable to contribute a journal article in accordance with my major project.

Two of the organisers and myself brainstormed possible topics for my article until we came up with the idea of the NorthConnex. The NorthConnex is a 9km road tunnel that will link Wahroonga to West Pennant Hills and allow motorists to bypass Pennant Hills road, a road notorious for its traffic and accidents. It is the single biggest construction project in the history of the Hornsby Shire and seeing as the historical society had no records or information on the subject they thought it would be very helpful to not only write a journal article about it for them but also offer them information on the subject that they can look back on for future use.

The fundamental purpose of my major work was to inform the local residents of the Hornsby Shire on the NorthConnex project, to do this I offered an insight into how the NorthConnex was built as well as the benefits and controversies associated with it. Because the NorthConnex is still only in the final stages of construction now, the vast majority of the material I used to write the journal were primary sources which came from the NorthConnex, the building contractors of the NorthConnex as well as the local council and the state and federal governments. Although it was at times difficult to work with sources that were predominantly technical in nature, it taught me how to turn such sources into something creative.

On top of the journal article I also conducted multiple interviews with local residents on the their thoughts on the NorthConnex. This forced me to step out of my comfort zone as I approached random people who were passing by Pennant Hills library and asked them if they lived in the area and then if they were willing to answer a few questions. However daunting it was, this process aloud me to gain an understanding of how local residents felt about the construction of the NorthConnex which I could then pass on to the historical society. After my first meeting with the volunteers of the historical society, I spent most Wednesday mornings coming in and helping them clean out their basement to help them reorganize it and find some forgotten items that could be utilised by their museum. This was dirty work, but it taught me a lot, as I would ask about almost every item that I carried out, most of which were 70 years old or more.

Working alongside the Hornsby Shire Historical Society while completing this unit of study has been a very fulfilling experience that has taught me a lot about my own local history as well as new ways to approach history and allowed me to meet and work with members of my community who I would never have had the opportunity to before this, and I am very grateful for that. It was also very satisfying to see my a name credited in a published journal.

Step 1: Make a plan. Step 2: Scrap that plan. Step 3: Write a History of Club Picnic Point

This unit has been by far the most challenging, most stressful and most rewarding experience I’ve had at university.

As it stands now, my project is both incomplete and almost unrecognisable from my initial goals. That said, it’s grown into something more than an assignment and with it I’ve found my niche within the Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club – I feel like I belong there more than ever.

No longer a series of video interviews or an update to the Club’s webpage, my project has developed into an exercise in writing the history of Club Picnic Point almost from scratch. This shift mostly occurred when preparing for my interviews (which are still scheduled to take place) as I quickly realised I had no place to begin. What history did exist ended around 1971 and was focused on the Club’s foundation years.

Figure 1: a section of the Club’s timeline (in Club colours, of course)

It became clear then that any interviews I did conduct would not be moored in context. With the Club’s history largely unrecorded, I decided to focus on contextualising everything before moving onto the interviews and website updates.

In order to write the history, I relied on a number of secondary sources about the local area (Picnic Point/Panania, Bankstown-Canterbury and the Georges River), the history of bowls in Australia and various histories written by other Clubs as a guideline (and occasional reference through their connections to Club Picnic Point).

Most of my work, however, was guided by primary resources. I began by reading through the entirety of available minutes books from 1956 to 1981 and any other documents (for example letters, voting ballots, invitations, debenture records) I could find. At the same time I undertook digital and physical research into newspaper and newsletter archives that related to the Club’s history while collating a photo archive that allowed me to make connections across time. Quite late into the project (about a month before submission) a whole new series of primary sources were discovered and I worked to integrate these into my knowledge. These sources included newspaper clippings from the 1960s and 1970s, photo albums and some notes written by members on the history of the Club as they remember it. Overall, the investigation (and digitisation) of primary sources took up the majority of the semester.

This research and recording aspect of the project was valuable in that it allowed me to take historical initiative (contacting officials, making public announcements etc.), but it also made me realise how frightening it is to literally ‘construct’ an uncontested history. Arguing that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand caused WWI is one thing, telling a group of people the ‘facts’ about their own organisation is another.

Figure 2: a section of the Club’s themed history

I won’t deny that I’ve developed a small amount of historical anxiety over the course of this project. I’ve checked and rechecked dates and events countless times and have still found something wrong with them; I’m also very aware that I’m selecting the ‘facts’ of the Club based on what I deem important and not what somebody else may deem important. I’ve tried to assuage this fear by discussing with the Club at length the things they value.

That said, there are still some areas of my research I recognise as limited and hope to fix in future. Firstly, I have a relatively simple knowledge of bowls as a sport and have no ability to decide what is an historic victory and what isn’t. Secondly, there is a massive gap in my project from the mid-1960s to the early 2000s, based off the lack of primary evidence that I’ve uncovered about this time. Going forward, I hope to minimalize these limitations by, again, consulting with the Club’s experts (which could possibly take the form of the oral history interviews themselves).

Because of this, I consider the project I am submitting now a draft to be reviewed by my supervisor. As it stands, it involves three main aspects: a chronological timeline, a history based around themes chosen by my supervisor and myself, and a photo archive that has begun to be realised as an historical album.

Naturally, since submitting the project for marking I’ve noticed an embarrassing number of typos that have since been fixed.

Figure 3: two pages from the Club photo album, sourced from the digital archive

My next steps are based around expanding on the history recorded in these three forms through:

  • a social media call-out to members of the Club, asking them to submit photographs, documents or even sign up for oral history interviews (in addition to the members I have already confirmed with)
  • further archival research of my own now that time permits – I have recently been in contact with a representative from Bowls NSW about opening up the digitised archives
  • turning my own (somewhat mismatched) bibliography into an aid for future Club historians
  • conducting the oral history interviews (my original goal) as I still believe that recording the memories of the Club’s oldest members is crucial, especially considering my lack of knowledge about bowls and the archival gaps from 1980 to 2000

Ideally, I will have the core aspects of this project completed by January but in all honesty I don’t see it being finished to the degree I want until well into 2020. Following extensive reviews and approval from the Club, I intend to use all of my work to finally update the Club website. I believe this will ensure that their history is accessible, sustainable and marketable.

Figure 4: a social media call-out which will (hopefully) appear on the Club’s Facebook page in the near future

When browsing through everyone’s projects, I began to grow worried that I hadn’t included certain aspects or maybe hadn’t done enough work. As I post this now I feel less concerned, knowing that everyone’s approach to writing history is as unique as the history they’re writing about.

I want to thank Mike, Marama and Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club for making all this (and what’s to come) possible.

History Student (almost) Becomes Polar Bear

Website: Cronulla Polar Bears Major Project

My journey of learning the histories of a swim club and almost becoming an affiliate member nears it’s final chapters.

The Cronulla Polar Bears is a club rich with over 70 years of history. The stories and memories of the club are all shared and cherished between members both past and present. Oral histories have been a key component of the club’s incredible sense of camaraderie. With the honest and casual nature that oral histories provides, it’s dependence on memory proves as it’s greatest hindrance. Through my work with the club, I began to realize the beauty in talking to members about their experiences and then learning to respect and understand the culture of the club. The downside of course is investigating particular years proves challenging on some of the older members and reignites those memories. Nonetheless, the process of being welcomed into their homes and discussing some of their most cherished memories was incredibly heartwarming as merely a daughter of the cook. Through my work this them, I often caught myself claiming membership to the club by saying ‘our club’ or ‘our members’ which in itself is a testament to their hospitality. Te Bears were very keen to have their stories in the physical form, in addition to leaving the website in my hands and taking it in any direction I saw fit. More importantly, I understood and respected that some stories were better left to be appreciated between members not for publication purposes.

The website is focused on showcasing the camaraderie and rich history of the club for not only members and their family or friends, but also those looking to join the club. Ensuring there was a means of contact was important to me as I wanted people to finish navigating the website and want to become part of the family. That was my aim in relaying their history and stories, for people to see themselves joining the club and actively being able to.

Considering the countless successes of the club since foundation, there are still many men who describe their swimming as ‘floating like a brick’. Of course, in true character and humour of the club, these gentlemen still continue to swim every Sunday regardless of ability. By removing that sense of competition and introducing the handicap system, they put a greater onus on the mate-ship and character of the club, which proves the uniting force behind its success. Working with this group has been an honour, to not only learn their stories but also help them make their own history for years to come.

Through the website I created, I hope it will be a platform that is easily adaptable for any further work I will be doing with them. For example, in the next few months I’ll be writing summaries about life members and significant characters of the club. I can’t wait to continue my work with the club and help them create something they can be proud of; it’s been a pleasure helping them preserve their history.

Cronulla Polar Bears circa 1960, photo provided by the club.

Romsey Lancefield & Districts Historical Society: Historic Map Database

For my major project I volunteered with the Romsey Lancefield & Districts Historical Society. While volunteering, I sorted through their map collection in the Old Lancefield Courthouse and organised the maps while creating an Excel document to reflect their order. I was asked to create this database to make it easier for the Society’s members to see which maps they have and to locate them. My project is useful mainly internally in the Society as they are often asked to research individual properties. Maps are useful for this research as they can provide information on historic landowners as well as property boundaries and subdivisions. I had the aim with this project to make it easier and quicker to find individual maps as they are ordered to match the spreadsheet. It also makes it easy to see which maps are included in the collection, without the need of searching through all the physical maps. I was not given a template so looked online at websites such as Trove and the US Library of Congress as a guide to see what information they listed for their maps. I then chose to set out the information in the way I believe was the most clear and detailed.

The workbook I created contains four sheets which reflect the order in which the physical maps are organised. These sheets from left to right in the workbook are: Topographic, Parish and Related, Other and Small Maps. The sheets Topographic, Parish and Related, and Other all relate to the large maps. All small maps are contained in the Small Maps sheet.

The physical maps are organised in the same order as they are listed in the Excel spreadsheet. Large maps are ordered with the first map at the top of the first sheet (Topographic) being at the back of the cupboard, then the order of the maps moving forwards follows the order on the Excel spreadsheet, down the sheet and onto the next sheet in order from left to right. Small maps are also ordered on the rack in the order they are listed down the sheet. Maps are arranged into subcategories within the sheets then organised into alphabetical order based on location within each subcategory, going down the sheet.

All categories of the maps include the following headings: Location (eg. Lancefield), Year (eg. 1947), Scale (eg. 1:63360), number of copies, Description (brief notes on what is shown in the map if additionally information is useful) and Other Notes (other text given on the map). Additionally, each category includes details specific to that map type. Topographic maps also include the headings: Map No. (eg. 7823-II SW), Zone (eg. 55H) and Series (eg. R754). However, small maps do not include series numbers. Parish and related maps also include the headings: Township (eg. Kilmore), Parish (eg. Bylands), County (eg. Dalhousie), Shire (eg. Kilmore), Publishing/Production (eg. Drawn and Reproduced at the Department of Lands and Survey. Melbourne. 1961), Authority (By Authority: H. J. Green. Government Printer, Melbourne.) and Gaz. Number (eg. Gaz 61-402).

Small maps are divided into Topographic, Parish and related maps within their sheet and follow the same headings as the associated large maps. Topographic maps are at the top of the page, followed by the Parish and related maps which use separate headings to the Topographic maps. Where information is not present on any individual map, the box for that heading is left blank.

For the “Other Notes” section I directly typed additional text that was given on the maps which in some cases included partial sentences and words or unlabelled numbers. These were included as they may still be of interest to certain readers. This section comprises of multiple columns and continues out to the right of each sheet.

The workbook may be searched using the computer’s search function to locate specific map details, such as any maps for the location of Lancefield or for a specific year. Also, if new maps are added to the collection they can easily be inserted into the document by first identifying the map type, then locating their place alphabetically within that map type, before adding the details of the new map in its correct location. Excel was chosen as the format for this database as documents can be easily rearranged or added in this way, such as if maps are sold or new maps are bought, or if new information is discovered about a particular map which would be useful to note in its listing. This allows the project long term viability.

Alongside the Excel spreadsheet I have written an executive summary to explain how the Excel document and physical maps are organised as well as to explain how to use the document. As the spreadsheet is primarily for internal use by the Society, there is no need to publicly market my work outside the of Society. However, the executive summary functions to give an overview of what is included and how to use it so the document can be used long term without the need to explain it to each individual.

History is where the heart is

As my first blog post explains, I’ve been a member of Caloola Ski Club since birth. Inheriting this membership from my mother, who inherited it from her parents; Caloola is close to my heart as a place that feels like home and carries memories from multiple generations of my family.

That said, until now, those memories – the history of Caloola – remained a mystery to me. I’d heard theories on the meaning of the name (“it’s an Indigenous word meaning ‘high place’”), who designed the logo (“it was Noni’s daughter Louise – no, it was the architect Keith!”), and even when the club was established (“1963, that’s what the plaque on the front door says”). But none of these theories seemed to align, because in the more than fifty years since Caloola’s establishment, little to no efforts have been made to formally preserve its history.

Building Caloola in 1962 and 1963.

As a member of the club, I have a responsibility to maintain it, and I’ve done so at many summer work parties – helping to repaint, refresh and otherwise repair the lodge. But in embarking upon this project, I reconsidered my idea of club maintenance; and realised that by putting together a history of the club, I can preserve its memory and legacy.

Diving into Caloola’s history has been invigorating and rewarding, but it hasn’t been free of challenges. I certainly underestimated the difficulty of piecing together a history that has never before been written. Being such a small club, with only 80-odd members, it’s not the sort of thing you can find at a local library, or a state library, or the digitised National Archives, or even via a well-placed Google search.

To find the information I did, I talked to foundational members, current Board members, scoured old documents like shares records and rulebooks. In addition to the primary sources I utilised, I also relied heavily on the work of the Perisher Historical Society, who are the main keepers of the history of the Mountains and its inhabitants. Eventually, I pieced together enough of the puzzle to create a basic history. It isn’t super-in-depth, because that would take many more months than I had; but it is a history that has never been recorded before, and for that I’m pretty proud.

The project took shape in the form of a new website, designed with the Caloola membership in mind as the primary audience. I tried to be informative yet concise and incorporated a lot of imagery to intrigue the audience. I considered the things that I, as a member, have long been fascinated by: who created what, and when, and why.

The website is broken up into sections. The “About” section takes the reader to pages exploring the history of Caloola, the history of Smiggin Holes (where the lodge is located), and a series of photo galleries. Additionally, there is a page exploring the Indigenous heritage of Caloola. It describes the significance of the Snowy Mountains to various Indigenous nations and explores the actual definition of Caloola’s name, which I discovered is a Dharug word (the language of the Wiradjuri nation) that can be interpreted both as “to climb” or “an old battlefield”.

The “Resources” section of the website is currently used for making important documents easily accessible to members. This allows for the necessary information – like booking forms and the current rulebook – to be easily accessed, whilst maintaining privacy for the club, which is only available for members and their friends and family to visit.

The new Caloola website is a pastiche of new and old information about a very niche history. This project has highlighted both the significance and difficulties of niche histories: the way that the smaller stories of history can be the hardest to uncover and the easiest to forget.

At times, the project was frustrating, due to the gaps in information; but I was encouraged by the support of club members. Their enthusiasm for a history of the lodge they, like me, have known and loved for the majority of their life proved to me the importance of niche histories. Grand, sweeping stories of how nations and entire cities came to be are important; but so too are the small, intimate stories of how shared interests brought together small communities such as Caloola.

Through this project I’ve learned that everyone can create history, and that is what the members of Caloola have been doing since they came together in 1961: through stories told over drinks at Christmas parties; the preservation of old documents in home filing cabinets; and the sharing of family photographs.

Now, they finally have the beginnings of a collated history; one that tells the story of a group of people who wanted to spend time with family and friends in one of Australia’s most beautiful locations. It is one that matters to the members of Caloola whose early responses to the site included statements like “I never knew that story!” or “wow, I’ve never seen those photos from that era!”. It is one that I aim to keep working at over my future years as a Caloola member.

You can discover that story below at the new Caloola website.

The hidden gem down the road: Hammondville Public School

Website: Hammondville Public School Major Project

When I began my project, I didn’t expect to know so much–not just about the school, but Hammondville itself and the rich history that it has. I wasn’t aware I was going to have so many resources to work with and I was truly surprised when I saw the amount of information and primary sources kept.

The reason I picked Hammondville Public School is because it’s a great school where all of my siblings have attended, and I really wanted to know more about the school. Once I started to go through the archives, I knew that I made a great choice by choosing Hammondville. Picking a local organisation for this project was rewarding. I was able to connect with people in the community who attended the school years ago who had great stories.  As a past student who did not know anything about the history, I was interested in knowing about it, and doing something significant. I have lived in Hammondville since 1997 when I was 3 years old. There is a big sense of community in Hammondville where everyone knows everyone and you are friends with your neighbours.

I believe that doing this project with Hammondville Public School is an achievement in itself. The opportunity to have gone through years of history which were stored in multiple boxes and discover new things about the school that I didn’t know, nor did other people. Going through the archives there were student records, images of the school before it was made, images of students, and student work and year books. One of the greatest achievement was my first blog post on History Matters which had a huge reach. Many people read it and left comments stating that they were themselves past students. 

It’s important to have done this project for Hammondville Public School as it will allow current students and past students to have access to the school’s history. Times have changed, and technology is the main source for research. I hope that when searching “History of Hammondville,” my site will appear. This website will benefit the school, as they can use it as an education tool to teach students about the history of Hammondville.

The aim for the project was to create a website about the History of Hammondville Public School including an excerpt of the history, images, student works, year books, letters from past students, and more. The website is an easy way for students both past and present to read about the school. There were different formats, and I explored with creating something online for the students to interact with. I’ve chosen to use WIX to create my website, as I tried to use Prezi and other platforms but they didn’t work for me.

When you first go on the site you are welcomed with images of Hammondville Public School with their first students and Canon Hammondville. Scrolling through the home page you will see images that will direct you to pages with the history of Hammondville and the school, images, newspaper articles, etc. It’s easy to use the site and it will be easy for students to explore the site and read about the history of Hammondville itself and the school.

Hammondville Public School website
One of the pages that contains newspaper articles

There were a few challenges that were brought up, especially when picking what platform to create the website with, as there are so many. I tried to play around with a couple of sites to see which was easier for me to use, and also wasn’t complicated for students to use. 

The last couple of weeks have been an experience which has opened my eyes to what Hammondville was, and the great accomplishment the school has achieved in the last 86 years. The rich history of the school has not been acknowledged by past or present students. 

My goal for this project is to complete it before school starts in 2020. I am presenting merely a draft of the website which will contain all of the information about the area and school. I will continue researching and finding more information and images. 

Small Shed, Big Heart: A History of Breakfast Point Men’s Shed

In October of this year I had the fortune to choose Breakfast Point Men’s Shed (BPMS) as my non-profit organisation of choice. Tasked with volunteering for a group, the eventual aim was to collaborate with them to form a historical project of some sort, to complete a product that would be of use to them. My initial conversations with the men at the Shed highlighted the need for a distinct “record” of sorts. Although the guys had thousands of photos recording the actions their organisation had taken – most notably woodwork projects for their surrounding community – they lacked a formalised story of how the Shed came into existence. As a group focussed on men’s mental health, physical wellbeing and charity, this was hardly on the list of their priorities. Fortunately, these stories remained in the minds of the members themselves, given the relatively recent formation of the organisation. 

By becoming increasingly exposed to the community work at BPMS, and through conversations with members within the group, I was inspired and encouraged to record the short history of the Shed. This formed my primary aim of the project: to detail the history and significance of the organisation. I was struck by the group’s generosity in time and resources to both myself and their wider community. Hence, the project I have conducted seeks to show, both implicitly and explicitly, that BPMS is an integral part of the Breakfast Point Community. 

A view of the The Men’s Shed surrounded by palm trees. 2013.

But who was this project meant for? Shed Members? The Public? My decision to create a website to display this history enabled it to target both. Although not yet on the BPMS website, my hope is that an attachment can be made there, linking to my project. In so doing, this project has the capacity to reach all Shed members, many of whom frequent their own website to keep up to date with weekly scheduled events. It also has the added benefit of being accessible to the general public, or indeed anyone looking to join the Shed itself. The website itself targets the varying aspects of organisation. Initially, it details how the Shed originated and grew. In the retelling of this history, I attempt here to convey the group as constantly updating and improving upon itself and its space. I also expanded upon two further themes. Firstly, the huge support the Shed brings its wider community. This was a must in highlighting the history of the organisation, it has remained one of their core goals. Secondly, the value the Shed has towards the members themselves. From firsthand experience, I have seen how committed the men are towards fostering a community that can talk openly towards one another, tackling Men’s mental health a conversation at a time. 

How was I sourcing my content? What was my evidence? In this regard, a secondary reading that I had read within this university unit – M. Scott Momaday’s  The Way to Rainy Mountain – drastically altered my perception of what counted as valid historical practice. Within his work, Momaday utilizes personal experience, myth and oral testimony to record the history of his native american community. Ultimately this concept informed the creation of my own project, and the value oral testimony has in mapping intimate, local histories. It is for this reason that I have relied heavily on the words of the people that constitute the Shed. For the purposes of this short history, these men have lived through and consciously facilitated the growth and attitude of the organisation. They were my greatest source. Thankfully, key members at Breakfast Point generously gave me access to many photos, along with a few documents, which complemented the image of what the Shed was and how it had changed.

My hope is that by creating this website, I have made a place where current members can come to reflect upon the story of their organisation so far. As new generations are inducted as Men’s Shed members, I also hope this project will have a longer lasting effect. My wish is that it can inform successive generations about the humbles beginnings from which the Shed started and importance the group has had upon Breakfast Point, the Community Association and the members themselves.

I want to extend a sincere thank you to Tony, Gerrard, Vince, Ugo, Kevin, Ron V, Ron S, Chris, Bruce, Ross and many other members that were so accommodating and generous with their time. Without your insight, warmth and knowledge this project would not have been possible.  Thanks for making my time there enjoyable.

You can visit the website directly here: or through the main page on the BPMS website: