Taking A Walk Down Memory Lane: A Walking Tour of Sutherland

I have been working with the Sutherland Shire Historical Society (SSHS) for a couple of months now and have really enjoyed the experience that I have had there. The society was very welcoming and embraced my project and me with open arms. The society has a museum located in Sutherland which I visited every Saturday morning during opening hours. Initially, I helped file and archive various pieces that the society had come to possess. The office required an overhaul so each week a few ladies from the society and I would work through various newspaper clipping, books and other items to make their system more manageable. I enjoyed this experience both because the ladies were so friendly and because I learnt so much about my local area whilst flicking through different articles. 

Unfortunately, I could not stay digging through these archives forever and my attention was drawn, rather reluctantly, to formulating a major project. I struggled for a couple of weeks, tossing up between different ideas. These included remaking the SSHS’s website, working in the museum to improve displays, digitising documents, working on an interactive display and creating a walking tour. Although some of these projects I was very eager to engage in, it was suggested to me that a walking tour would be very beneficial to the SSHS. Initially, I was worried because I struggled to think of many historical landmarks in Sutherland and thought it would be difficult to create an engaging tour. After further investigation and talking to various members of the society, I began to realise that there were actually many different sites around the area that had historical value.

I slowly began compiling a list of sites, both from my own research and the suggestions made by the SSHS members. Eventually, I settled on fourteen different stops that would take about an hour to travel to. The SSHS has no other published walking tours and so I aimed to cover a wide range of topics to inspire interest in a wide range of people. The walk contains transport, educational, council, medical and recreational buildings, as well as, parks and a cemetery. I also took into consideration the audience for the walking tour. The visitors to the museum are mostly older adults or young families. The walking tour could not be very long as neither of these parties can travel for long periods. The tour takes around one hour to complete and is on mostly flat and paved surfaces. Initially, I began the project by researching each stop and writing a small blurb about its history and any other interesting facts. The format for this project is a brochure and so the amount I could write had to be limited because of the space constraints. I had trouble limiting my text as there was a lot of information on many of the sites. The majority are heritage listed and can be found on government websites and lists. 

The society offered to place my walking tour on their website to make it more accessible to the public and allow people to complete the tour even when the museum is not open. To complement this idea I translated the tour onto a flyer instead of a brochure. In the digital form, the brochure can be difficult and confusing to read, this will make it easier for online users. 

The Sutherland Shire hosts many beautiful nature reserves and national parks, the walking tours on offer are focused on these areas and often neglect the built environment. This walking tour is original because it focuses on one town centre and the built environment that boasts an interesting and unique history. 

The walking tour has a two-part aim. The first is to engage the community with the history of Sutherland. Historical awareness and understanding allow the individual to see their surroundings from a different perspective and understand that place has meaning. Hopefully, this walking tour will inspire a greater appreciation of the Sutherland area. Secondly, the tour aims to attract more people to the Sutherland Shire Museum. This museum is run by the SSHS and is where the tour begins and ends. The museum is open every Saturday morning and often struggles to have a high number of visitors. I really wanted to try and address this problem within the project. By centring the walk around the museum the visitor is opened up to both a history of Sutherland town and that of the wider Sutherland Shire. It creates a more enriching experience and allows the museum to move further into the public sphere.

To gain the most exposure for the walking tour I am also investigating other mediums of advertisement for this project. The Sutherland Shire Council website would provide good exposure for the tour and the museum, hopefully boosting the numbers of visitors. The museum is very interesting and the SSHS has provided a unique space where the history of the Sutherland Shire can be explored. I hope that the museum will thrive and that more people will be able to experience the history that it offers. 

This subject and project have allowed me to be involved in a community that I did not even know existed up until a few months ago. I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent with the SSHS. The walking tour project has come to its completion and I am extremely excited about the possibilities it presents. Although this is the case I am still keen to be involved with the SSHS and the museum. The other projects that were discussed in the earlier stages of the process still need to addressed and I am excited to see where they could take me. I am very grateful for this experience and the SSHS for taking me under their wing and supporting me throughout this project.  

Learning About My Local Area: The Watsons Bay Walking Tour

The view of Marine Parade- Watsons Bay (featuring some locals)

The project that I undertook this semester was to compile a comprehensive historical walking tour of Watsons Bay. I have lived in the area all my life, so of course I have a fair degree of sentimental attachment to the subject matter and felt a strong engagement with the project. I worked with the Watsons Bay Association to complete this project. The association drew me in with a professional looking website with a comprehensive history section, which indicated a real passion for the history of the area. Upon meeting Roger Bayliss and his wife Julie, the president and treasurer of the organisation respectively, I learnt that the organisation was relatively small and dormant, and only springs to action during times when community lobbying is needed, like during the successful Save South Head movement.

Roger and Julie suggested I do a walking tour of the area in a PDF or brochure format that could be uploaded to the Association website and that they could circulate via their popular Save South Head Facebook page. They wanted me to do a walking tour because Watsons Bay is such a historical area, especially in a colonial context, as it was the sight of the landing of the First Fleet and one of Australia’s first colonies. It has a long history of indigenous inhabitation going back some 60,000 years. It is now one of the most popular tourist spots in Sydney. Roger and Julie thought a tour that gave a more complete perspective of the area’s history was necessary, as many tours revolve around the typical sites such as The Gap and Macquarie Lighthouse which offer obvious photo opportunities. Roger and Julie gave me a large folder of old newspapers, heritage documents, photos, and historical texts to sort through and gather information from. They also put me in contact with various local community members and local history experts to correspond with and talk to. They sent me a map of the tour circuit and the sights they wanted me to include, and the initial list involved 26 sights with others later added or removed. They included an example walking tour from Canada Bay which they wanted me to base the format on.

I began the project by reading through the documents they gave me and compiling information for each sight, and issues that required clarification. I consulted the online resource Trove and other historical sources such as Robin Derricourt’s South Head Sydney and The Origins of Watsons Bay, and Megan Martin’s A Thematic History of Watsons Bay, when there were gaps in my information. These two publications proved very useful and, along with the old Bay Lief local newspapers, formed the basis of the information for my walking tour. An area where my information was lacking was the Indigenous history, much of which had been destroyed by colonial settlers, or the natural erosion and weathering of the area. I understood this was a sensitive topic and wanted to consult a local Indigenous group about the information. Through research, I found Kadoo Tours, run by Tim Ella, Grant Hyde, and Tim Ella’s daughter Latoya Brown. They were very accommodating and invited me on their Watsons Bay and La Perouse tours which provided me with interesting insights regarding the cultural practices of the Aboriginal people that lived on the South East Coast of Australia. Grant also sent through a long list of all the native flora that can be found around South Head and information on how Indigenous Australians maintained the land. I consulted with Kadoo Tours throughout the project to ensure my information wasn’t encroaching on their tour, and my Indigenous information was historically accurate and sensitive. Ultimately, they were happy with the work I had done and approved of me using it.

One of my most significant challenges was to limit the sites in the tour to a reasonable number, and to keep the information included reasonably concise. Despite cutting the initial word count down by around 2000 words, the tour still was not applicable for a traditional 3 panel brochure. I decided that the best way forward was to format it like the Canada Bay walking tour example and design it as a downloadable pdf booklet. This will hopefully get enough traction through the website and Facebook page which has well over 1000 likes.

My revised scaffold was sent around to a number of knowledgeable local residents and historians of the local area, to see if they could offer more insight. I met with a couple of local residents, Kim Messenger and Terry Wolfe. Both offered valuable insight on the Cove Street residences, a site on the tour. Terry was particularly interesting as he lives in one of the oldest houses in the area which is made from ballast from the first fleet vessels with mortar containing remnants of Aboriginal shell middens. He had a lot of documents and books on the area too, which I read and used for additional information.

Once my scaffold was approved by the Watsons Bay Association I commenced designing the booklet. While trialling the idea of a brochure. I experimented with several programs, like Canva, however I would have had to do a very substantial edit to fit all the sites in and I felt a lot of important and interesting information would have been left out that way. I designed 3 maps for the tour using Google Maps which separate the tour into three distinct parts. When factoring in time spent eating, swimming or using the rest rooms, I think the tour is best suited for a full day trip. This is suitable for tourists as public transport options to and from Watsons Bay run all day long. I also included original photos most of which I took when walking the route. I also included information about the location of refreshments, restrooms and public transport.

The Watsons Bay Association seems very happy with the work I have done for them, and they have been a great organisation to work with. They have been very helpful and accommodating and are enthusiastic and interested about the history of the area, and the importance of history for conservation. The organisation plans to put the tour on their website in the near future. The Association and I have big plans to develop the tour over the summer to reach a wider audience.

When the tour goes live I will add the link to it from their website.

Not Just a Phase: Recording Newcastle’s queer history

Photograph of Newcastle Beach, an area well-known in the gay community for its beats, in the 1950s. Photo: Douglas Brown, [1950s]. Newcastle Living Histories Collection

At the beginning of this year I read an amazing book by Anna Anthropy titled Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form.[1] Part manifesto, part history, part memoir and part manual – Anthropy argues for marginalised groups to hit the keyboard and design videogames to represent their experiences. Reading Anthropy’s work completely changed the way I thought about media forms and storytelling,

 ‘I can imagine – you are invited to imagine with me – a world in which digital games are not manufactured by publishers for the same small audience, but one in which games are authored by you and me for the benefit of our peers. This is something the videogame industry, by its nature, cannot give us. I like to think about zines – self-published, self-distributed magazines and books… I like the idea of games as zines: as transmissions of ideas and culture from person to person, as personal artifacts instead of impersonal creations by teams of forty-five artists and fifteen programmers.’[2]

I can hear you asking – what do videogames have to do with history? Am I in the right place, I thought you were supposed to be talking about a university history project? 

When I first read this book, I never thought it would make me think differently about history. But, what Anthropy argues for in Videogame Zinesters has a lot to do with history and its creation. 

Though we have an understanding of public history as part of our historical consciousness, it’s always been seen as lesser – as capital H history’s younger, dumber brother. But with the rise of social media, podcasting, blogging and the democratisation of website-making (with programs like Wix and Squarespace) there is now even more opportunity for public history to be made – not only by those who work in government funded institutions, or who are able to fund their own works but by those who want to write their own history.[3] This is where videogames and history collide – where history – like videogames – isn’t just the ‘impersonal creation… [of] forty-five artists and fifteen programmers’[4] but can become the work of what Anthropy calls, the ‘freaks, normals, amateurs, artists, dreamers, drop-outs, queers, housewives, and people like you.’[5]

For the past few months I have worked on a public history project to redesign the digital archive of Newcastle queer history group – Hunter Rainbow History (HRH). I have also created a zine featuring some of the main pieces of their archive to act as a portable exhibition of queer history in Newcastle. Both these projects were made with the aim to allow more people to access the archive, as well as to increase awareness of the archive’s existence (through the zine), make the archive more user-friendly, and to create an easy-to-read queer history of Newcastle that would provide entry-points into the more complex material in the archive.

When I first saw the HRH archive I was blown away by the amount of material that was available, but I was also overwhelmed by what each piece meant and how it all connected to a broader history. It was only after spending many hours familiarising myself with the material, doing secondary research and talking to John Witte (a founding member of HRH) that I was able to see how each piece connected and why it was so important to understanding Newcastle’s queer history. When working on my project this became my main aim – to allow people to access the archive and to instantly see the connections between the objects.

However, creating the zine presented a steep learning curve, particularly regarding how personal the creation of public history can be. I found Lorina Barker’s Hangin’ out” and “Yarnin’”: reflecting on the experience of collecting oral histories[6] a very helpful way to understand why this process was difficult – as both an insider to the community (growing up in Newcastle and being queer) and an outsider (as someone who hadn’t lived through the trauma of the AIDs epidemic, police arrests of the 1950s or ongoing violence), I felt incredibly attached to the people whose history I was writing. It often felt like removing a single sentence was wiping out the work which had been done to record LGBTIQ+ history. This was particularly difficult due to the short nature of a zine and at times it felt counterintuitive to have such a large amount of history condensed into under 400 words. However, the process also taught me a lot about what it means to create a historical narrative, and the importance of recognising the place of your work in broader historical writing.


Much of my research for this project came from the book Out in the Valley: Hunter gay and lesbian histories[7] (2010),which is one of the most substantial, and well researched written accounts of Newcastle’s queer history. I used Out in the Valley to generate a broader understanding of the common themes and events which I then used to understand the connections in the HRH archive. I also used the Australian Lesbian and Gay archives[8] as a model for writing queer history. The readings from this unit also helped guide my understanding of how to write public history – most notably The Problem of Belonging: Contested Country in Australian Local History by Frank Bongiorno and Erik Eklund (2014)[9]; and Anna Clark’s Private Lives, Public History (2016)[10]. An essay by Sam Leah and Jessie Lymn titled What Makes An Object Queer[11] made me think critically about the importance of objects to queer history, and how to involve more than one perspective in the writing of a historical narrative. These articles shaped how I approached the project, particularly the importance of considering audience, aim and how my project fit into history as a discipline.

Overall, I am so grateful for this unit for allowing me to make connections with the queer past of Newcastle. I am planning to continue working with HRH over the Summer and hopefully in the following year. Most of all, I hope my project is able to connect others to their own community and increase the visibility of Newcastle’s queer past.

Finally, the introduction to Out in the Valley contained a few key quotes which motivated me to continue this project. Below is one of my favourites, that acted as a constant reminder that queer people deserve more than a history confined to homophobic newspaper articles:

Up until the 1990s, when the hunter gay and lesbian community began to publish its own news magazines, the occasional newspaper article was the only evidence homosexuals of the region could find to tell them that their existence and history had not been completely erased from the consciousness of the community in which they lived. The negative articles at least enabled local homosexuals to see in print the kinds of views about them that were held by the people who were part of their world.’ [12]

You can visit the Hunter Rainbow History new website here.

The zine will be available in the archive pending copyright approval.

[1] Anna Anthropy, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form, (Newcastle: Seven Stories Press, 2012).

[2] Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, 2012, p. 7.

[3] However, there is still a lot to be pessimistic about regarding the democratisation of history. I was only able to undertake this project because I was given time in my university degree, I was able to fund printing and access to a  laptop by myself, I was given access to resources and education through my ability to pay for university and I was able to fund my travel back and forth to Newcastle. There are a lot of privileges that still limit access of the creation of history. But my hope is that forms like zines, like videogames, like podcasting allow more people to access history and that there will continue to be more work done to increase that access. 

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lorina Barker, “Hangin’ out” and “Yarnin’”: reflecting on the experience of collecting oral histories”, History Australia, 5, no. 1, (2008), pp. 1-9.

[7] Jim Wafer, Erica Southgate and Lyndall Coan, Out in the Valley : Hunter gay and lesbian histories . Newcastle, (Newcastle: Newcastle Region Library, 2000).

[8] Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives | Since 1978, collecting and preserving Australia’s very queer history. https://alga.org.au/

[9] Frank Bongiorno and Erik Eklund, “The Problem of Belonging: Contested Country in Australian Local History,” New Journal: An International Journal of the Humanities, Creative Arts and Social Sciences 3, no. 1 (2014), pp. 39-53.

[10] Anna Clark, Public Lives, Private History, (Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 2016).

[11] Sam Leah and Jessie Lymn, “What Makes An Object Queer: Collecting and exhibiting LGBT stories in regional museums and archives,” Information Research, 22, no.4, (December 2017).

[12] Jim Wafer, Erica Southgate and Lyndall Coan, Out in the Valley : Hunter gay and lesbian histories . Newcastle, (Newcastle: Newcastle Region Library, 2000), p. 2.

Back to the Future: Digitising the Nowra Town Band

When I undertook this project, I immediately knew I wanted to work with the Nowra Town Band. With 140 years of history and some incredible resources that the Band has rarely had the means to collate and preserve, it seemed the perfect organisation to work with. My personal connection to the Band helped; I grew up playing cornet with them, and over the years my entire family has been dragged into playing a part, whether in the Band itself or providing vital assistance at band events.

I decided on the project itself while during preliminary research online, for the precise reason that I was able to find very little. In an age where the internet is one of the primary resources for finding information, this felt like something that I could address. I attended the Annual General Meeting to raise the idea of building a website with both a fleshed-out history section and, just as vitally, information about joining the band. The band committee agreed, and from this, the official Nowra Town Band website was formed.

Part of the reason this project is the right step for the Band is because of membership. While the Band is still thriving 140 years on from its inception, its numbers are dwindling and many of the players are older members of the community. A simple and accessible website broadens the avenues through which people are able to learn about and get involved. Ease of use was one of the main priorities due to the predominance of older people both currently in the Band and that show interest in getting involved- seasoned players who have recently moved or retired to Nowra make up a decent amount of the new additions. A website opens up an extra and very important avenue through which people are able to find out about the Band, its history, and its upcoming events.

Through the website, I aimed to highlight the community nature of the Band in order to create a welcoming atmosphere for potential new members that mirrors the welcoming nature of the Band itself. Throughout its 140-year history, the Band has never been an elitist organisation; many of its members have been beginners or self-taught, with little professional tutelage. This ties in with the accessibility of the site, as it makes it available to the widest range of people possible. An alternative form of presentation would have been increasing its social media reach through sites such as Instagram or YouTube, however without the basis of a simple website, these would have the potential to alienate the people most interested in joining or accessing the history of the Band. These may be a future endeavour for the Band, however they also require more frequent updates than a website which needs only to be updated with upcoming events.

The History section of the website is also a vital part of the project. The internet has become incredibly pertinent in the preservation and presentation of stories. In the process of writing it up, I showed my partner’s mother who grew up in Nowra one of the sources I was using. She read through it, pointing out the families she recognised and the members she went to school with or was taught by, and in an incredible coincidence, we figured out that she was distantly related to the man who had written the book she was reading. It is little moments like these that signify the importance of this project; not only for the future of the Band, but in increasing the visibility of its past and allowing these connections to be made. In small towns like Nowra, the personal connections to community run deep, and the preservation of local stories in easily accessible ways can be incredibly meaningful even to those who are not personally involved.

Nowra Town Band, 1980. Nowra Town Band Archives.

As part of the digitisation work, I scanned a variety of documents and photographs that have been stored in the Band Hall for decades. Many of them are falling apart, fading, or otherwise showing the test of time, and it is for this reason that taking advantage of digitisation technologies is important for organisations like the Nowra Town Band, whose resources for document preservation are limited by money and space. Digitisation requires resources of its own, which is why the Band’s archives had only been partially scanned prior to my involvement. The efforts which had already been undertaken were impressive, however the time-consuming nature of the work has meant that they have not yet been completed. This is something I hope to continue with in the future; working with the Band on this project has been an incredible experience, and it would be a privilege to continue this work with them.

Researching Local History for the Ku-Ring-Gai Historical Society

The main purpose of the project became a way to describe the research I was undertaking in a way that would teach others how to do the same in order to write their own local history. The written project that I have created with and for The Ku-Ring-Gai Historical Society (KHS) has developed from my original proposal and is still a work in progress that I am undertaking.

My time with the KHS has been spent with the land history group that meets on Tuesdays and with the team on Wednesday that digitizes, records and organises the historical collections of the society.  I have been learning how to research local history through the resources of the society, being taught how to use public records to research and assisting with the mailing out of the society’s journal publication called “The Historian”.  I have also assisted in adding to archives on property history and have helped with the digitization of some photographs for the society’s collections. 

One of the challenges that was part of the reason that I wanted to work with the KHS was because everyone there is much older than me, most well over seventy years old.  It is made up of retirees and for many is a source of community as well as being a hobby to involve themselves in.  It has meant I have had a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon either through informal chats or from showing me relevant materials.  It has also meant my understanding of technology and social media and general physical ability has been of use on some occasions. 

In my proposal I stated that I wanted to write three articles for the KHS journal “The Historian” that focused on local history concerning specific areas of the suburb that was being covered in the next publication.  I was also going to attach a summary of the research and ways that I used sources to write the articles.  As I began my research, I recorded what I was drawing upon from my own research skills, but I found I needed to be taught how to navigate specific collections and how to interpret and understand some of the new types of sources I was being introduced to such as land titles.  This was not particularly easy for me and it took me a lot longer to do my research than I had originally expected. 

I became aware that a concern for the society was that there had been a significant decline in the amount of contributions to the “The Historian” for recent editions and that they had even been reprinting articles from much older issues to fill up space.  I had a meeting with a family friend who had written an article for the society a few years ago as I wanted to know how they had undertaken research.  She had to learn many more skills than I did, and it took her several months to properly research and write the single article.  We spent a good part of the conversation discussing the large amount of digitization of sources online and how while they could be tricky to navigate, they made research much easier and more efficient.

What has also become clear in my time at the KHS is that they want more involvement from people, both from its current members as well as hoping for more interest from the wider community.  I wanted to make this project about making it easier for someone who may be interested but may not know how to start their research of local history.  I am not an expert in researching and writing local history and I have not really been a member of the KHS for long enough to be able to state the exact value and expectations, but what I do hope to demonstrate is a path for others to be able to follow.  The project also tries to draw attention to the collections and types of resources that the society has and recognizes both the journal publication as well as specific research undertaken by the society.  I want to present this project as a draft to the society in the hopes that it can be edited and added to in a more collaborative way and could hopefully be able to entice someone to try writing local history who may not have thought they could before. 

For it to get to that stage it will need a lot more work and it would be required to go through some stages of review with the committee members before it could be used as an internal resource.  There is still a lot more to add, including finishing the articles themselves so that a more holistic explanation of the process from beginning to end can occur.  I would also need a lot of guidance from other members of the society on additional avenues of historical research that I may not have discovered yet. 

This project has challenged me to engage in a community that records and researches local history and to think about the way that we record and describe the people and places that are continually changing.  I want to finish this project in the next few months as I can see the value and the potential of it to benefit the society in the long-term and I would be very excited to see anything I had written being published in their journal.          

Presi for Sydney Jewish Museum Research Project

Traditionally, museums focus on educating their visitors about the past. In today’s age though, this is simply not enough. Institutions are overlooking their obligation to plan for the future. For both locals and international tourists, museums are viewed as leaders and frontrunners when it comes to doing what is best for the people. 

To be sustainable means that we need to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations. Similarly, The Sydney Jewish Museum places a focus on educating their visitors about the Holocaust, to ensure that we are knowledge about the past so we do not compromise future generations. If we are knowledgeable, we should do what is right for those who will come after us. With the large influx of visitors at the SJM, they have the capability to help be a leader of change in museum sustainability.

For my final research project for the Sydney Jewish Museum, I created a working Sustainability Plan. I researched what many of the leading institutions around the world are doing, and I was able to create a personalized plan for the SJM. I broke it down into three main aspects of sustainable development: environment, economy, and society. I outlined both short and long-term goals, educated and informed them about what many of the sustainable practices are, and I gave suggestions for how I would go about attacking these problems based on the research that I conducted. 

I chose to work with the Sydney Jewish Museum, because I didn’t know anything about Judaism in Australia, neither historically nor currently. The museum highlights Sydney’s ties to the Jewish religion, so I was excited to learn more. Additionally, I myself am Jewish and am passionate about the horrors of the Holocaust, the other focal point of the museum, so I was excited to continue to educate myself in that aspect too. The museum helps to educate their visitors about the rich culture and religion of Judaism through both permanent and feature exhibitions, memorials, collections, events, and they even have local survivors who speak there on a weekly basis. 

I didn’t choose to do this project specifically, although I altered it along the way to best suit what I viewed would be most impactful for the museum. I really wanted to do something that would teach me more about this interesting period of history, but I knew it was important for me to do what the museum needed the most. The original idea came from Mrs. Roslyn Sugarman, who is the head curator at the Sydney Jewish Museum. She got the idea for this project after attending a conference that focused on museum sustainability. Museums are leaders in their respective communities and help to set a precedent for change, as people view museums as moral and ethical institutions. We ran with this idea of creating a sustainability campaign, and Ms. Breann Fallon had many insightful ideas along the way as well. 

I got caught up going to the museum and meeting with many individuals to see how their respective departments run, that I didn’t decide until late for how I would conduct the final project. I thought that a Sustainability Plan is really the best first course of action to help create change, so I thought I would write-up a personalized one myself. During my research, I used action-plan documents that other museums or governing bodies had written up previously. 

I wanted to do this project because I knew it would benefit everyone. It will help to create a better and healthier workplace within the SJM by constantly reminding internal members to make more environmentally friendly choices on a daily basis. Also, the museum has hundreds of visitors each week, and they will be the beneficiary and seeing the museum as a leader of change in this field, and they will hopefully be inspired by the progress the museum is making. 

Sydney Jewish Museum Week 6

Tyler Krantz is documenting his work with the Sydney Jewish Museum for History Beyond the Classroom 2019. Read the other posts in his series here.

This week, I have broken my sustainability plan down into three parts: environment, economy, and society. This approach will give the museum the best holistic overview of a sustainability plan. For each of these three sections I give goals for each, both short-term and long as well. I propose immediate changes for each, and I outline the best course of steps to take to achieve many of these goals that could take 3-5 years.

For the environment, which focuses on how the museum interacts with the surrounding area, I address how they can more efficiently use the energy and resources around them. This covers everything from water usage, to utilities, equipment, and more. I am working to make this plan as easy to follow and achieve as possible, with creating the biggest impact as well. Beyond products, I give tips and guidelines to ensure that they stay on track. Long-term, I propose calculating their annual carbon footprint to better see where their issues are, along with arranging for a sustainability audit as well. Immediate action focuses on finding alternative products that are more environmentally friendly. This is easy, but to ensure that it doesn’t create a burden for them monetarily and logistically for them to switch, is a whole different battle. This is why looking into the economics of it is my next pillar, much of what I talked about last week. 

Finally, “society” looks at relationships within the institution and how they run. This to me is the culture of the place, which is their biggest issue. I propose creating a “Green Team,” reaching out to other museums that are leading in this field, and educating their workers and visitors on what they are trying to accomplish. This is the toughest area, but certainly the most important.

Sydney Jewish Museum Week 5

Tyler Krantz is documenting his work with the Sydney Jewish Museum for History Beyond the Classroom 2019. Read the other posts in his series here.

Over the past few weeks, I had been going to the museum as much as possible to try and best understand how each department with it is run. As the final project is nearing, I had to decide what the best use of my time would be to leave the greatest impact of the institution. While I had some very abstract and ambitious plans in terms of environmentalism, I felt that I was getting a little too ahead of myself. The museum had not even had anything close to a sustainability plan in place to begin with, so that is where I wanted to place the greatest emphasis. I started researching different museum’s sustainability plans not only in NSW and Australia, but around the globe as well. I have been looking into what many of the leading institutions are currently doing. I have started to take the best-of-the-best from each of these plans that would best suit the SJM, and I am bringing them together to create a personalized plan for the museum.

Since I was able to get my hands on tax invoices and catalogues of items that they purchase, I have been researching alternative “green” products that are more environmentally friendly without creating a burden to their pocket. In the office, I have been focusing on alternatives for copy paper and single-use paper cups, two of the biggest issues that Roslyn has stressed to me in this process. Moreover, I have looked into eco-friendly ink cartridges and miscellaneous items around the office such as pens, paper, highlighters, and more. For the kitchen and bathroom, I have focused on straws, napkins, plates, paper towels, exc. Overall, my focus has been on how to best use these resources that we take for granted.

The History of the Black Dog Institute

I first came into contact with members of the Black Dog Institute when my residential college hosted charity events to raise funds for them. My project arose when I began to volunteer for the organization in their media and communications department where I was able to read their annual records. Black Dog had a history which dated back to 1985 and the organization had evolved significantly since then, revealing a clear need for this evolution to be illustrated. Realizing that nobody had ever compiled a comprehensive history of the organization, the head of media expressed an interest in my proposal.

During my weekly volunteer days I reflected on the questions we had asked ourselves in class: Who or what has commissioned product? Who is the audience? What are the challenges of using different approaches? What opportunities are possible when using different formats to present history that are not possible via books or articles? How does audience influence form and content? I found the answers to these questions revealed implicitly through my project. The timeline of the history of Black Dog would have the ability to shape shift into various forms depending on the audience. By manipulating the language I was able to sell the success of the organisation through what we called ‘hero phrases’. This referred to the marketing language used on the version of the timeline that would be presented to prospective donors. Additionally, this version would be used as a model for the interactive timeline which would appear on their website. This required the language to be simple and catchy to capture the attention of the teens who would frequent the Black Dog website. It also required me to filter out the information which would not have been exciting for readers. While the version of the timeline I created for archival purposes required significant detail such as exact names and dates from financial records and annual reports.

After a few weeks of reading through various different medical articles, annual reports, grant applications, the Black Dog website, news articles and publications I noticed that one thing remained consistent throughout the records. Since its establishment in 1995 the Black Dog Institute had remained true to its mission of bridging the gap between medical research into mental illness and the mental health community. Over the years the methods of achieving this would change from setting up clinics to developing apps, however the goal remained the same. The organisation remained determined to provide platforms for the prevention and treatment of symptoms of mental illness. I used this mission to drive my work and as I developed the timeline project I remembered the Black Dog’s overarching value. Although the projects about which I was writing mostly spoke for themselves, I made an effort to highlight the information which revealed the organisation’s attitude. This required the exclusion of a few of the organisation’s failed studies and a careful rewording of the information on those which had not yet flourished. This gave more life to the project and I hope that when the final timeline is read the Black Dog Institute’s mission clearly emerges.

The project itself will be used to further pursue the Black Dog Institute’s mission to connect the mental health community to medical research into treatments and prevention tools for mental illness. The model I have created for the website’s interactive timeline seeks to increase accessibility to information on mental health. The linear version will be presented in meetings, on the annual report and at fundraising events. In reflecting the organisation’s key milestones and achievements the timeline will encourage sponsors and donors to support their endeavours. In addition the timeline acts as evidence of the organisation’s success over the years and justifies their need for constant expansion. This encourages the National Health and Medical Research Council to approve grants which will enable future studies and trials to be completed. The findings of these studies lead to the development of new ways to treat and prevent symptoms of mental illness or to prevent suicide. Over the years the organisation has initiated innovative studies which have changed the way we think about mental illness in NSW. Their apps have been proven to decrease symptoms and their programs have been proven to prevent a significant number of suicides. By providing a tangible reflection of the ongoing success at the Black Dog Institute, the timeline project has assisted the organisation in its mission and hence benefitted the mental health community in general.

As I have mentioned the format of the final project includes a model for the website’s interactive timeline and a more detailed, linear account of the history of the Black Dog Institute. The website version will be passed on to the Web Designer who will put the content I have created onto the website. Based on the creative ideas I came up with as approved by the media and communications team, the web designer will also make the online timeline interactive. When hovering over the bubbles along the timeline, more information will appear which can then be clicked on taking the reader to the dedicated webpage for all information surrounding the topic within that bubble. This is simple yet effective as it encourages readers to explore the website further, where more information will be readily available. While these interactive measures may appear limited in creativity they are beneficial in optimising accessibility. By allowing an outsources Web Designer to put my model into the correct format I have ensured that the timeline will be fully compatible with the website and when updates are required in the future, this can be done smoothly.  The linear version of the timeline is simply text in a document and can easily be uploaded in any format and updated in the future. In this way I have ensured that the project is sustainable beyond the work I have done for this unit.

While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering at Black Dog, I did encounter some minor obstacles in the development of my project. In trying to develop the creative aspect of the project I struggled to reconcile the organisations needs with my own ideas. For example, the organisation wished to keep the website format of the timeline fairly simple while I would have suggested creating more extensive interaction abilities. But I can see how, although it may be more limited, the simpler approach will be more effective in grabbing attention. However, overall my experience at Black Dog has been extremely valuable, eye opening and enjoyable. I have gained significant media and communications related skills and experience. I developed my writing skills, learning how to adjust my tone to best suit the audience. I gained useful archival experience which taught me how to extract relevant information from hordes of documents. Ultimately, this project has made me think about the active role history plays in different contexts and has taught me a lot about how to create and disseminate history in a manner that is both interesting and informative for the reader.

More Than a String of Towns Through the Bush

I have grown up and lived the majority of my life in the Lower Blue Mountains town of Glenbrook. Growing up, no idea of distance or periphery ever coloured the way I saw home, but throughout my four years attending Sydney University, any admission of where I live has been met with a response of “that’s so far away!” It wasn’t until I undertook a collaborative history project with the Blue Mountains Historical Society (BMHS) that I realised how enmeshed the existence of the early colony was with the Blue Mountains, and how this relationship has since shaped both Sydney and the mountains to its west in a deep and formative way.

Having researched Blue Mountains history for the BMHS as part of a project to encourage historical awareness for local Stage 3 primary-aged students, I feel I have gained as much as I hoped to give back to the society and the community it serves by extension. It has been incredibly heartening completing my final project as an undergraduate in the place I have grown up, a fitting way to come full circle and return to the place my studies began.

The aim of the project was to create material to engage Year 5-6 students from Blue Mountains primary schools with their local history, that would function to amplify the work of the society as well as increase community participation. In the past the society has run programs for students of this age, but limited resources and outdated material has restricted the society’s potential impact upon its community. Speaking from both my own experience and that of members of the society, there is a general lack of historical consciousness amongst Mountains residents, and it is the aim of this project to remedy this starting with those in the youngest generation.

Lennox Bridge: an early gateway to the Blue Mountains, and the first bridge built on the Australian mainland (source: Blue Mountains Library, Local Studies, Flickr)

This project has taken shape as an interactive Prezi presentation featuring small histories of each town throughout the Blue Mountains, detailing the ways each came to be and presenting a general overview of pre-contact history as well as the Blue Mountains today. Most resources for the project came from the published works of the society, particularly Lower Blue Mountains and Upper Blue Mountains by Robynne Ridge (who also kindly acted as a mentor throughout the project’s length), as well as the BMHS library and archives, and the Blue Mountains Library collection in Springwood. I was also assisted with my research by John Merriman, the local studies historian at Springwood, whose knowledge of the local Blue Mountains history is unparalleled. Most sources on the Blue Mountains I found were self-published or locally-published, an encouraging thing to see locals taking their history-making into their own hands.

Tarella Cottage: a heritage building, now a local history museum sharing the site of the research centre and library of the BMHS (source: Blue Mountains Library, Local Studies, Flickr)

This project champions local history and asserts its important in understanding our place in both the world and its history. Local history is a way for us to connect to a world bigger than ourselves whilst also seeing our place in that world. It asks that not only do the grand, dominant narratives win our attention, but also the lesser known, lesser told stories that exist closer by.

This project has helped me see that one place can form the backdrop for startlingly different stories. The stories that my generation and I tell about the Blue Mountains are different than those told in the past, and I am excitedly anticipating those that will be told in the future. It has caused me to reimagine the Blue Mountains, not as a string of towns lining a bush-encompassed highway way out west, but as a place with a history that strings together stories of place, both locally and in the region more broadly. The Blue Mountains is more than a line of towns through the bush, it is place that is itself a centre with a story of its own.

Working with BMHS on this project has been incredibly rewarding, both academically and personally. It is promising to learn, once again, that history is not just found at a distance in foreign times and places. If you look for it, nay if you open your eyes, it is right under your nose.

For more information on the work the society does, please visit their website.