The Organ Music Society of Sydney: 70 years young

Being an organ student at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta I’ve had some opportunities to meet and interact with other organists in Sydney, and particularly those who are members of the Organ Music Society of Sydney (OMSS). I thought it would be a worthwhile and relevant pursuit to complete a project with the Society that would benefit them. Seeing that the OMSS website did not include significant historical detail I initially envisioned making a timeline – of particular benefit as 2020 is the 70th Anniversary year of the Society.

My regular contact, committee member and Sydney Organ Journal editor Peter Meyer, conveyed to me a few topics that the Society were interested in researching. These included: a report on the impacts of CoViD-19 on the Society; a survey of achievements of members, particularly those who took up organist positions internationally; or a discussion of the impact of prizes and grants on recipients (mostly students), particularly as these have seemed to increase in value over time. Reflecting on my original idea for a timeline, Peter suggested that this would be difficult to research in the time I had available due to the large number of past Journals (at least 50 years’ worth) and the lack of insight I might have on my own to identify important events. I also was not able to find many significant sources that cover the history or activities of the OMSS from its founding in 1950 until 1970 when the Journal was first published.

While still formulating my mode of research, Peter invited me to attend the 3rd annual ‘Organ Spooktacular’ concert on October 30th hosted by current and former organ students of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in support of Headspace. During the concert and subsequent discussions held with the performers over dinner, I was inspired to meld my research on the Society’s history around the experiences of young organists over its lifetime. Though my article would be focussed on this topic, I also had opportunity through that lens to include many of the other areas that the committee also wished to investigate. A written report, which could be published in article form through the Sydney Organ Journal to all members, seemed like the best approach by which to distribute my work to those interested in the OMSS’ history and others such as students who are indirectly linked through teachers who are members.

3rd Annual Sydney Organ Spooktacular at St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Macquarie St. Source: Personal image

I have worked substantially on my article for the Society but am still at the stage of completing my first draft. I have yet to access copies of the Sydney Organ Journals archived at the Mitchell Library and a range of other documents that cover histories of the OMSS and sister organisation, the University of Sydney Organ Association, through the 1960s and 70s. I utilised a Google Form survey to begin a process of obtaining oral histories that was distributed to Society members, teachers, and students and which worked very well as a method of contact to gain initial insights. I have received 25 responses so far!

My report will show that the OMSS has done significant work to improve the regularity and accessibility of organ playing since 1950 and to support young organists through initiatives such as the Young Organists Day, Sydney Organ Competition, and various organ academies. I will also conclude with a section to encourage reflection on the future of the Society and the work it might choose to do as organ music still remains out of the spotlight for many in Sydney. Survey responses indicated that Australia in particular (compared to places like Europe and the US) is seeming to take organists and their roles in worship leading and public performance increasingly less seriously. I think that the method I took of shaping my project around oral histories and insights of Society members will be hugely beneficial to its final impact for readers, and reflects themes learnt during this semester. We discussed in class how oral histories reveal unique and personal engagement with events, and the ways that objective events are made significant by how people experience them. I have attempted to include historiography and debate where applicable, such as the contemporary ‘Organ Reform Movement’ during the beginnings of the Society. Research of the OMSS has been tricky as it is an umbrella organisation with many overlapping groups such as the Organ Historical Trust of Australia, students and teachers at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the University of Sydney Organ Association, or the Royal School of Church Music Australia etc. I haven’t found significant sources with cohesive records of the OMSS and its activities, though hope that further research of the Fisher Library archives or Sydney Organ Journals will be insightful.

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Co-founder of the OMSS doctor Vincent Sheppard outlines the aims of the Society, the desire to promote the organ and its music to young persons, and decries the underutilisation of the Town Hall organ in public performance. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 20 March 1951, Page 2.

I am hopeful that my completed report will provide a unique reflection on young organists and the culture of the OMSS with consideration of the Society’s future. I wish still to include further integrated insights from Society members through follow-up discussions based on survey responses. I also hope to include additional historical detail that will bring fullness to the article and meet its original aims as a public history project. The process of completing this project has been very interesting and rewarding, and I hope to share my research with the Society in due course.

A Deep Dive Into the Cooks River

Through the process of creating my historical project on the Cooks River, the thing that struck me the most was how much I personally learnt about the place that I grew up next to. Obviously I had a basic understanding on some of the history that is centred upon the Cooks River. I knew that it had an important Indigenous history from doing a walking tour when I was younger. The tour guide explained all the Aboriginal uses for the flora and fauna around the river, for medicine and food as well as for building huts – and this knowledge was something that informed my project. With that obviously comes European invasion, so I felt that I had to highlight the events that happened with colonial development around the Cooks River. However, it was the little historical stories that I read that left me spellbound – from the fact that limestone was not available for building houses in the early 1800s and how oyster middens provided lime and mortar instead, to learning about how the river was once so clean that visitors used its water to make tea!

Source: A group of young people picnic on the banks of the Cooks River. Courtesy of Patricia Cook and City of Canterbury Local History Photograph Collection. Canterbury Council, 1920s circa.

The form I chose for presenting my research was to create a webpage on the Cooks River Alliance’s website, under their ‘learn more’ tab. I still have more work to do, such as commissioning the artwork and working further with my organisation to ensure the webpage is what they want. So, the form my project ended up taking for the course was a mock-up of what the website will hopefully look like. The webpage will consist of a timeline from around the mid-1700s up until current times and is an informational and educational source for the greater public to learn more about what the Cooks River has provided in terms of its historical impact on the city of Sydney and the communities who are part of the geographical locale.

What I feel is unique about my project is that there has not yet been a thorough and conclusive timeline on the Cooks River. Online, the Dictionary of Sydney which has multiple webpages on the Cooks River but it is not centred in the one place. As well, the addition of my father’s watercolours for the webpage, as symbolic guidance to each historical event that includes the river, will differentiate it from other historical projects – making it a piece of visual history.

The argument I am attempting to present with my project is that the Cooks River, a river that has often been called a variety of not so flattering names, and as a public space, has only just recently returned to being a spot for recreation, deserves its stories to be told and to be heralded as an important place within the history of Sydney. This includes looking at how it shaped the development and progress of suburbanisation, industrialisation and leisure.

The river also reveals a lot about the people who lived around it, what their interests were; for example, the illegal boxing matches in the early 1800s, and what they metaphorically fought for, such as the outbreak of typhoid in 1894 that led to an outcry from the public regarding pollution in the river. These mementos of history shine a light on the historical depth of Sydney itself and provide a stronger connection to place and belonging, something I feel is needed as a resident of the Cooks River community.

Source: ‘Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer’. Courtesy of T Clayton and State Library of New South Wales, 1848.

The significance of my project is that it captures not only the previous history of the river but will serve as a watermark for the river’s progression into the future, environmentally and societally. Many changes are occurring with the river currently and it will be interesting to see in ten years or more how else it has evolved. I think it is important for the Cooks River Alliance, which is a council-run organisation, to acknowledge the river’s history on their website, including both the negative and positive aspects. They must be aware of what has come before and disclose all facets of the river’s past to be able to move forward and aptly shape the river’s current role in the history of Sydney.

Source: ‘Cook’s River Dam’. Courtesy of the American & Australasian Photographic Company and the State Library of New South Wales, 1871.

Manly Museum and Art Gallery – Final Project

This semester I worked with Manly Museum and Art Gallery (MAG&M) to create a children’s exhibition booklet for their 2021 Sydney Harbourside Exhibition. This exhibition booklet will have a wide range of activities, from drawing to writing, to get young children (aged 7-12) engaged with the exhibition. While volunteering for MAG&M I was fortunate enough to help them create their exhibition labels, this allowed me to be exposed to different artists and the history of the Manly area. Prior to this volunteering, I did not entirely appreciate the close relationship between art and history, and how this can be a way that people can use art as a way to explore their personal and public history.

Manly North Head Lookout (sydney.com)

MAG&M is an organisation that is committed to education, particularly to the education of young people. This was evident to me through previous exhibition booklets, that try to engage young people and get them interested in learning. Whether it be learning about art, history or a combination of both. I used previous booklets as inspiration for my booklet, though my booklet did have more of a focus on history due to the fact that I was coming at this project from a historical standpoint.

Doing this project for MAG&M got me thinking about how we should get the public to engage with history, especially with younger members. It has made me realised that there are many interesting and different ways that we can teach history – and that there is something for everyone. For example, in the booklet, I have activities that range from drawing with inspiration from the paintings to writing stories about features of paintings. By having a variety of activities there are multiple ways for young children to engage with the past of Manly and Sydney Harbourside, regardless of where the children have come from.

North Head: A tied island in space and time by Nick Hollo (2018)

Additionally, what makes the exhibition unique, is the artworks interpersonal connections to the Manly area – even though it is a Sydney Harbourside exhibition, it is situated within the context of the Manly area. A number of the artists, such as Joan Ross, have their own connections to the Manly area – either living there now, used to living there or having familial/personal history with the area. By showcasing artworks and artists that have a personal connection to the area, we are able to show children that their personal histories are something that they can take pride in and show off to the public, and that we can get people to relate to our personal histories, regardless of where we have all come from.

I was lucky enough to have a supportive organisation throughout this entire project, who gave me the resources and mentoring required to finish this booklet. I am excited to see this booklet in use next year – in whatever capacity that may be – and I hope that this will excite children to learn more about art and history. This project has shown me possible future historical projects that I would potentially like to undertake and has shown me how personal and public history can impact communities, and educate young people.

Shoal Bay Country Club

I wonder how many people who have sat down for a beer at the Shoal Bay Country Club (SBCC) have at some stage in their lives thumbed through the pages of The History of the Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides? Or immersed themselves in the history of the Holocaust? Which patrons love to spend a rainy afternoon snuggled up reading a Peter Fitzsimons novel, or sit down on a Friday night to watch a documentary on Pompeii? Quite a fair few, I’m sure. In the same breath, there must also be many who wouldn’t fancy any of these options, occupied instead with, say, something sciencey or sporty or arty. And that’s fair enough! Everyone is different. Or maybe, just maybe, is the way in which we traditionally tell history inclined to appeal to a particular audience, thereby rendering itself inaccessible to the rest of society? 

Conducting an investigation into the history of the Shoal Bay Country Club got me thinking about the correlation between how we write history and who engages with history. When I was sorting through the archives of the venue, I was intrigued to learn of the role of the SBCC in WWII, and find out about the fire that partially destroyed the building in the 1950s. When conducting further research, I immersed myself in the Aboriginal history of the area and came across extensive newspaper coverage of a missing SBCC guest in 1949, who was presumed dead. My first instinct was to collate all of these pieces into one streamlined historical account of the venue. I acted on this and completed a 12 page ‘History of the SBCC’ that includes all the photos, drawings, cartoons and anecdotes I collected from both the venue and further research. Yet whilst this was a step in the right direction, it didn’t feel right that the history of a pub was exclusively located in a written document, accessible primarily to the few who actively attempted to seek it out. What format of history was most appealing to a crowd of beer drinking, holiday going patrons? As I pondered this question whilst sipping on my drink at the public bar of the SBCC, the answer lay right underneath my Lychee Lane cocktail… 

The beer coaster originated from somewhere in Germany in the 1880s, and was formally manufactured by the print shop Friedrich Horn. For centuries, coasters have absorbed condensation, prevented spillages and at one point or another been the object on which a mobile number has hastily been written and handed to an unsuspecting target. Scattered across pub tables and used by nearly everyone, this object offers the perfect canvas upon which to incorporate small, bite sized pieces of history to beer drinking patrons about the venue they sit in.

SBCC during WWII design: Front of coaster

To action this plan, I drafted five different designs. Each of them represents a ‘moment’ in the history of the SBCC. On one side is a date and few sentence summary about the particular era, and on the reverse is a collage of photos from both that period as well as others. If eventually implemented, I believe the coasters could kickstart conversations, inform patrons and engage a certain audience in the history of the venue who may not have otherwise had any means of doing so. When reopening the venue in 2018, new owner Andrew Lazarus stated that “we wanted to reignite this passion with the refurb and bring something fresh and exciting to the Port Stephens area whilst ensuring the hotel’s history has been preserved.” Achieving the desired balance between the past, the present and the future requires innovative approaches to the telling of history, and I hope that I have in some part contributed to the objective.

SBCC during WWII design: Back of coaster

‘History beyond the classroom’ has been a whirlwind of managing expectations, tackling unanticipated obstacles and adapting to change. My project is far from over, but my appreciation for the weird and wonderful world of history and history-making has never been greater. I am excited to continue to watch my project with the SBCC unfold and look forward to future historical endeavours of this nature.

Cheers!

The Aboriginal Medical Service: A Centre for Ongoing Indigenous Activism

This semester, I have worked alongside the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) in Redfern to develop a webpage that shares the organisation’s history as a centre of activism for both equal access to healthcare and Indigenous rights. The project emerged as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that this had on the organisation in reducing its face to face operating hours and increasing the community demand for medical assistance. Therefore, the AMS’ priorities were heavily funnelled towards responding to the coronavirus, meaning that its less pertinent administrative projects were understandably side-lined. The idea of creating an easy-to-navigate and informative webpage that would share the organisation’s history with the Australian public therefore emerged in an effort to alleviate the AMS from the task of updating its website. I also thought that creating a space that shares Indigenous voices and centres the organisation’s longstanding concern with Aboriginal healthcare and equality would contribute towards building community trust in a period of considerable isolation and uncertainty.

The Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern (2004)

To put it bluntly, my project aims to challenge the mainstream Australian conservative mantra that assumes “whiteness” as the default way of living. For instance, our national curriculum continues to be heavily influenced by European history and Western literature. Our federal government’s bushfire management plans are centred around Eurocentric understandings of the land rather than Indigenous knowledge. Our healthcare system continues to be obsessed with hypothetical deduction rather than acknowledging the role of spirituality and validity of bush medicine. Therefore, it is clear that our colonial past continues to haunt many of the powerful institutions in Australian contemporary society, continuing to centre “whiteness” whilst othering Aboriginal culture. My webpage counters this narrative by demonstrating how embracing traditional Indigenous constructs of health has played a major role in reducing Aboriginal mortality rates and supports “closing the gap” in healthcare, employment and education between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

UNSW Newspaper Tharunka Article highlighting the AMS’ responsibilities as more than just a centre for healthcare, yet also a centre advocating for Indigenous equality in housing, employment and challenging racial bias.

Whilst my project is not yet complete, the journey so far has been one of ups and downs. What has been very motivating throughout the process has been learning about the widespread impact and significance that a single, small-scale local organisation can have. Moreover, communicating with those currently central to the AMS’ operation and hearing their personal stories about engaging with Redfern’s local community and the differences they made in individual’s lives was extremely uplifting. What excites me, is that the webpage I produce will be the only location that exists to date where all of this information about the history of Indigenous healthcare, the AMS and the quest for Indigenous equality is collated in a comprehensive and interactive media. Further, making this a public webpage means that it will have far greater accessibility than previous journal articles, which often require institutional access and subscriptions, or local exhibitions, which are inaccessible to those who live out of the area. In terms of the challenges, I am still struggling with the development of this webpage, especially its aesthetics and the construction of more technically challenging aspects such as a timeline. I am hoping that over the coming weeks, I will be able to improve on this to shift my project from an academic text to a more engaging way of learning.

Beyond this unit, I hope to remain in touch with the Aboriginal Medical Service. As a neuroscience major and someone passionate about equal access to healthcare, I am hoping that I sustain this relationship with the organisation and will be able to volunteer as a member of the medical staff once I complete my degree. Throughout the semester, I have been consistently amazed by the social progress that the AMS has pioneered and am excited by the prospect that my webpage will be a space that celebrates these achievements.

History Matters – Challenging the Biomedical Paradigm

Mainstream medical practices in Australia are largely based on hypothetical deduction, with healthcare professionals treating symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation and surgery. Conventional medical advice is therefore heavily influenced by Western values. This starkly contrasts the traditional medical practises used by Indigenous cultures that instead, appreciate a balance between the physical and spiritual being, relying on traditional healers, bush rubs and naturopathic medicines.[1]

Data released in the Australian Bureau of Statistics March 2020 report, however, indicate that the health status of Aboriginal Australians was amongst the worst of any group in developed nations.[2] The report revealed a higher prevalence of ill health and disability and a reduced life expectancy across the Indigenous community. A proposed explanation for this is derived from the lack of synergy between Government funded health initiatives, largely based on Anglo culture, and Indigenous constructs of health. Therefore, re-shaping our healthcare system to include services considerate of Aboriginal health beliefs has the potential to be immensely effective.

Consequently, the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) Redfern was established in 1971, partly to overcome the neglect and racism systemically engrained throughout Australia’s mainstream health services. The organisation was the first Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Australia, initially basing itself as a shopfront in Regent Street before moving to land donated by the Sisters of Mercy on Turner Street.[3] The service initially relied on volunteer doctors, nurses, nuns and medical students, however, it is now serviced by numerous paid healthcare professionals, including dentists, mental health specialists and general practitioners.

The AMS, however, is tightly funded and has access to limited resources which have been stretched to their limits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Less crucial elements of the organisation, such as their community administrative efforts, have understandably suffered. This is most evident when navigating the service’s website, which lacks information about the AMS’ current goals and historical relevance. For my project, I would therefore like to create a web page that reflects the positivity and progressiveness of the AMS and their significant contribution to Redfern’s local Indigenous community. To capture this, I want to coalesce the organisation’s public history, demonstrated through the inclusion of timelines and infographics with their more personal impact, shown through oral history interviews and profiles on key figures such as Mum Shirl, the service’s first Welfare Officer. At the current stage, it has been relatively difficult to maintain a consistent line of communication with the organisation, however I am hopeful that as I continue to build my rapport, conversations will flow more naturally and enthusiastically.

References:

“Indigenous Health”. 2020. Australian Bureau of Statistics. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/ViewContent?readform&view=productsbytopic&Action=Expand&Num=5.7.10.

“Our History”. 2020. Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative. https://amsredfern.org.au/.

“Traditional Healing And Medicine – Cultural Ways”. 2019. Australian Indigenous Healthinfonet. https://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/cultural-ways/traditional-healing-and-medicine/.

Foley, Gary. “Aboriginal Medical Service 1971-1991: Twenty Years of Community Service.” Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative (1991): 1-12.


[1] “Traditional healing and medicine”, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, 2019. <https://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/cultural-ways/traditional-healing-and-medicine/>. Accessed 23 October 2020.

[2] “Indigenous Health”, Australian Bureau of Statistics, March 2020. <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/ViewContent?readform&view=productsbytopic&Action=Expand&Num=5.7.10.> Accessed 23 October 2020.

[3] “Our History”, Aboriginal Medical Service, 2020. <https://amsredfern.org.au/>. Accessed 23 October 2020.

Upstream: The Cooks River Alliance

The Cooks River holds a special place in my heart. I strongly feel that I grew up alongside its cluttered depths; elusively beautiful, in that sometimes it glittered blue and other times smelt like rubbish, I made some of my first ever friends at the Ewen Park playground which sits next to the river. My first birthday parties were had at the BBQ areas and picnic tables that were anchored alongside the river, and even my father, an artist, has painted extensively about exploring the Cooks River area as an immigrant.

Source: ‘Take Me To The River’ Oil on Canvas by Dmitry Kuznichenko, accessed: https://dmitrykuznichenko.com/cooks-river-theme/#bwg2/37

That’s why I chose to reach out to the Cooks River Alliance. The Cooks River Alliance is run by all the councils who share the land with the Cooks River. They are an informational and educational resource for the community to become aware and up to date on the environmental issues the Cooks River has. They also run events and talks with notable community figures such as Ian Tyrell and Jennifer Newman, an Indigenous educator. The website also features extensive Indigenous oral histories and published research papers on the Cooks River Catchment’s Aboriginal History. I believe these resources will be a great starting point for me in capturing the legacy of the Cadigal and Wangal peoples who were the first inhabitants of the Cooks River.

Cooks River Alliance’s website also features a call to action to help the river with ‘ten ways you can lower the environmental degradation of the Cooks River’, as well as multiple community groups you can join including the ‘Mudcrabs’ who do rubbish pick-ups along the river. Much to my dismay when I was growing, up my mother used to drag me to ‘Mudcrabs’ meetings. As I grew older though, I became to appreciate the community spirit and the practice of acting locally for the sake of global environmental change.

When I went onto the Cooks River Alliance’s website, however, I could feel a distinct lack of a page that details its historical roots. That’s why I felt that I could help them assemble a section of their website dedicated to the uses and community perception of the river over time.

I felt so blessed when Catarina Fraga Matos, the Cooks River Alliance’s Communications Project Officer, mirrored my enthusiasm and could see a need for displaying snapshots of the river’s history. We agreed on a live webpage that succinctly captures the history of the river, detailing how the community used and responded to the river over time.

It’s difficult in that there are already a few timelines of the river available online. I want to make mine unique in that it has multiple purposes: to educate, to inspire and to capture the attention of the viewer. Aesthetic awareness is important to me – so I hope to include an artistic element to the webpage. I would love to have a watercolour drawing of the river running down the page as you scroll, changing shape as you move over time and having new symbolic elements pop up as you continue, leading to more information.

It will be interesting to see how the project takes shape and whether I will be able to actualise what I envisage. I will end with Anna Clark’s sentiment which inspires what I want to capture in my project: “Place literally locates our individual and collective historical consciousness in the world around us. Family, community and national narratives are bound by the places in which they play out.”[1]

Source: City of Canterbury Library, Earlwood’s Past 2014 accessed:
https://issuu.com/canterburylib/docs/earlwoods_past/43

[1] Anna Clark, Private Lives, Public History (MUP, 2016), p. 117.

Manly Museum and Art Gallery

Sydney Harbour Exhibition 2021 (Children’s Exhibition Trail)

The organisation that I am involved with is the Manly Art Gallery and Museum (MAG&M). They are a regional Sydney harbourside art gallery, located in Manly Cove. MAG&M is the self-described “centre for arts and culture on the Northern Beaches.” It is also the oldest metropolitan regional gallery in Australia, opening in 1930, since then being known for visual arts and “beach ephemera.”

Manly Art Gallery and Museum

MAG&M exhibitions consistently showcase the talents of Australian artist (especially in NSW). It makes the effort of archiving Australian artists that it hosts and preserving its own history and the history of the Manly regional area. Additionally, MAG&M also attempts to try and reach a wider audience, so it can highlight its talents and histories – this is evident through MAG&M online and previous children’s exhibition trails that it has created.

West Esplanade Bandstand by Robert Hay Robertson(1924)

For my final project, I will be creating a children’s exhibition trail for the Sydney Harbour Exhibition in 2021. It will have 8 paintings by different artists from the exhibition – with a variety of activities and interesting historical facts accompanying each painting. This booklet will help to generate interest in a younger population (ages 7-12) with the exhibition, regardless of whether they are from the Manly regional area or elsewhere in NSW. It is my aim to make it both educational and fun – as I want to be able to generate interest in art and history at a young age. This project will highlight the values of MAG&M i.e. community engagement, showcasing Australian talents and educating the population. I believe that this project will lead to young people getting more involved in art exhibitions, and engaging with the history of Manly’s community and the history of Australian artists.

Boorowa and District Historical Society and Museum

The Boorowa and District Historical Society and Museum is an organisation located in my hometown of Boorowa. Boorowa is a small rural community located 3.5 hours south-west of Sydney in NSW’s south west slopes. Growing up in Boorowa, the history of my town was taught to me at a young age and is vividly displayed on our streets in the conserved old buildings, the stories shared by locals, and the shamrocks lining our footpaths telling the history of Irish settlement. The museum inhabits a prominent position in the main street, attracting tourists and locals alike. I fondly remember going on excursions to the museum in primary school where we saw colonial dresses of the Hume family, learnt how the first refrigerators and phones worked, and realised the extent of my community and family’s rich contribution to the merino wool industry. Being surrounded by a community that actively honours and examines its history has possibly sparked my own passion for it. I have always been immensely proud of and intrigued by the history of Boorowa, as many other locals are, and I believe the museum to be the product of local pride and Boorowa’s rich collection of history.

The Boorowa and District Historical Society was founded in 1974 with the aims to “promote the study of local history in the Boorowa local government area; to preserve items of local historical significance consistent with the acquisition policy and accepted ‘museum good practice’; to operate the Boorowa museum; to mount displays of local and special interest; and to encourage research into the recording of local history[1].” The society consists of a group of passionate volunteers who offer family history research and actively document, preserve and interpret local histories. They have accumulated an impressive and diverse collection over the years, receiving frequent donations from locals who have been clearing out their storage or come across significant artefacts.

The society members are enthusiastic about the contribution of their work to the community. I believe that a shared history ignites local pride, and it is the stories and artefacts in the museum which educate the community on their history and keep their stories alive. The elders in my community are highly valued for their knowledge and memories of the town which contextualise and enrich the museum’s collection. When I visited the museum and spoke with the society members at the start of the month, they requested that I produce an oral history on my grandmother and local identity, Peg Merriman, for my project. Most visits to my grandma’s involve listening to endless stories about local personalities, town gossip and Boorowa legends. I find these stories intriguing but struggle to remember the details or correctly recall them when retelling. This made me think about the significance of recording and documenting my 97-year-old grandmother’s stories and memories so that they can be remembered throughout history and hopefully assist others in recalling events or people from the past.

[1] ‘About Us’, Boorowa and District Historical Society and Museum, https://boorowamuseum.wordpress.com/about-us/.

Semester Two 2020

Archaeology usyd

A message from 
The Department of History The University of Sydney

Professor Mark McKenna From the Chair of Department

Dear Students, 

As we ready ourselves for the second semester of 2020, we are reminded how vital the study of history is to so many events that dominate our lives today. Whether it is the global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter marches, or the heightening of tensions between and within nations in a time of crisis, the History Department is deeply committed to providing context for these events, and helping us to think critically about the past, and present.

Come join us in our classes in second semester. Work closely in small groups with academics across the Department in our History Workshop, or sample one of our survey units covering wide-ranging topics like Modern American History, Brexit in Historical Perspective, China and its Frontiers, Fascism and Antifascism, and even the History of Sydney’s dark side.

For advanced students, you can delve more deeply into the History of the High Renaissance, Modern China, or take one of our capstone units on History and Historians, which looks at major historiographical problems, or History Beyond the Classroom – in which you get to work with a local or community organisation to create a public history project together.

We have something for everyone, and we are looking forward to having you back in our classes. 

Department of History

Undergraduate guide Semester 2 2020

We are delighted to confirm our offerings for Semester 2. The full details can be found in the Department’s Undergraduate Student Guide, and here are links below to each of the units. 

HSTY1001 History Workshop
HSTY1003 Birth of the Present:The World since 1750
HSTY2626 Fascism and Antifascism
HSTY2631 Sin City? A History of Sydney
HSTY2642 Beyond the Great Wall: China’s Frontiers
HSTY2712 American History from Lincoln to Trump
HSTY2717 Brexit in Historical Perspective 
HSTY3700 The East is Red: China 1949-1997
HSTY3714 High Renaissance
HSTY3902 History Beyond the Classroom
HSTY3903 History and Historians 
History Honours

More information


For enquiries about changing your enrolment please contact sophi.enquiries@sydney.edu.au

For all enquiries concerning the contents of units, please get in touch with the lecturers themselves, whose contact details are on the Department of History websiteYou can enrol through Sydney Student

The public website listing which units are available can be found here FASS Semester 2 webpage. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Semester 2!

Best wishes,

Professor Mark McKenna
Chair of the Department of History


Curious about FASS students’ Semester 1 experience?

Click here to read Scepticism to surprise: Teaching excellence continues during COVID-19

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