If you wind through the corridors and stairways at the back of the curatorial building at The Australian National Maritime Museum, you will arrive upon a small room and – if you are with one of the few staff members with access – you’ll see an eclectic collection of donations to the museum, yet to processed. My project was working with one of the items in this treasure trove, and making a case for why it belongs in the Museum’s collection.
Unfortunately, some complex copyright issues prevent me from posting the images that my project centred around, but I was tasked with writing an acquisition concept proposal for a set of surfing photographs from the 1960’s. Most of these were of incredible women, who were pushing the sport forward in a time where it was, unsurprisingly, dominated by men and male champions and magazines filled with men and their achievements. The photographer of my images, Jack Eden, produced a magazine called Surfabout and while this did have female writers and acknowledge female surfing champions, but it also featured rather crude representations of women, like these examples.
My project was about assessing the significance of these images, understanding their history and (the most fun part!) considering their interpretive potential. This meant thinking about how these photographs could be used to tell historical tales. My project was something of a brainstorming exercise, of coming up with varied and creative ways to use the photos. They could be used to understand women’s surfing history, but also to understand how the Australian national identity is constructed in relation to our laid-back beach culture. They could simultaneously be used to demonstrate the controversial and admonished ‘surfari cult’ of excessively laid-back surfers and women dressed immodestly. Whilst I can’t show the images yet to be accepted, or reproduce the ones in the museum collections, this image is an example of a Jack Eden photograph of a female surfer that is similar to the items I looked at.
It was such a pleasure working with the ANMM and the staff could not have been more helpful. I’m excited to continue working on this proposal, if the donation is accepted into the Museum’s collection, and potentially write an article about the incredible women that were absolute pioneers of surfing in their day.
For my final project with the Sydney Jewish Museum, I compiled a 14-paged ‘education resource package’ on the stories of post-war Jewish migration to Australia, consisting of curriculum links, background content information, lesson plans and source booklets for teachers. Though this project only forms one part of a larger collection of pre-existing educational resources at the Museum, I focused on identifying and addressing the gaps in the repository of resources – those that are overlooked even by professional historians and educators, within such a fast-paced, busy organisation environment. For instance, not all on-site excursion programs have a complimentary lesson plan; resources tend to cater for ‘mainstream’ students than providing differentiation options for various ability levels; and all existing lesson plans focus on explaining the Nazi regime and political motivations behind the genocide, at the expense of telling further Jewish stories. In this regard, my project is significant to the Museum as a starting point to the longer, nascent endeavour to address these gaps in resources and ensure accessibility for a wider audience of students.
This project argues that the purpose of history is the preservation of stories from the past through the education of the future generations. The greater vision of the SJM Education Team and the Museum wholly is to preserve the voices of the past in light of the dwindling population of Holocaust survivors – and at the core of this mission is to educate and transmit the Holocaust memory to students, who are our emerging historians. It is not only crucial to ensure this education is accessible to as many students as possible, but is also engaging, for conversations to continue history beyond the classroom (pun intended) and preserve the Holocaust past in the public memory.
After publishing my project on the Sydney Jewish Museum website, the project will therefore benefit teachers, who frequently contact the Museum asking for resources that could extend student knowledge following an on-site excursion visit. It also will benefit students, as it provides various engaging yet enriching history pedagogies to understand the past. The resource is specifically targeted at Stage 5 students studying Migration Stories, though the difficulty of activities can be tailored to the age group and needs of students attending the on-site program. Overall, the resource ensures that students are well-equipped to preserve and further transmit the Holocaust and Jewish memory, and continue significant conversations that draw connections between the past and the present national identity and Australian Judaica.
This project has taken a bit of a turn. Within my last blog post I have mentioned that I was thinking of creating a video for the Millers Point Community Resident Action Group. Well things can change quite unexpectedly. Prior to my previous blog post I was still waiting on the volunteer work that I would do for this organization. However, I received a phone call after I had just finished work, from the President explaining to me what I could do. This work would include collating a number of Conservation Management Plans of buildings around Millers Point that could be easily accessed by the organization. After a discussion with my mum on how I could use this as part of my project, it was deciding that I would create a walking tour of a number of sites using the information providing within these management plans. So the Millers Point Historical Walking Tour was born.
I had received a list on which management plans needed to be collected, however some of these I have been unable to collect, namely the more popular sites such as the Palisade Hotel and the Lord Nelson Hotel (that one has quite a story). After reviewing these management plans, I have learned a lot about Millers Point and The Rocks, particularly that of the Bubonic Plague Outbreak as well as the resuming of the many of the properties within Millers Point and The Rocks by the Sydney Harbor Trust.
For this walking tour I decided to go with 10 sites, where I would write a brief description of the history of the site. I included the history of sites that might not be as well known as hotels or pubs because I feel that these small terraces do hold a history of their own for Millers Point and The Rocks. Many of these terraces were built as rental properties by wealthy families such as the Merrimans, which helps reveal the property market and local economy of the late 18th and early 20th century. As well as this, these are the original homes that made up the streetscape of this era, helping show the original layout of Millers Point and The Rocks.
The route for this walking tour begins at the Abraham Mott Hall and continues as follows:
The Lord Nelson Hotel
Argyle Place Terraces
Cole’s Buildings (23-32 Argyle Place)
The Hero of Waterloo Hotel
Windmill Street Terraces
Dalgety Terraces (11-13 Dalgety Street)
The Palisade Hotel
High Street Terraces
St Brigid’s Church
Included is a map of the route.
The only main challenges I experienced in the creation of this walking tour surround gathering information for the more well known sites as well as finding historical photographs. While the majority of information that has been used in these descriptions were found within the Conservation Management Plans, I had to search within the NSW Heritage Register. While not as detailed, it still provided me with enough information. The majority of photographs used within this project were found within the City of Sydney Achieves, the NSW State Library Collections and the Conservation Management Plans. However for some locations I was unable to find any photographs. As well as this, I couldn’t really find any ‘old’ photographs. Well I mean old as in older than 1980. While a few of these images pre date 1910, I feel I could have really better expressed this history through photographs from the time.
I have decided to create a printed pamphlet that contains this walking tour, where people can grab one from the community center and begin their journey. However I feel that this alone will not be a long term plan. To maintain the longevity of this walking tour, I have proposed an idea of having a QR code that can be scanned that will provide a digital version of the walking tour, however I have not heard back about this idea.
Ultimately, the driving force behind this walking tour is to help promote the use of heritage listing as well as maintaining the history of one of Sydney’s oldest suburbs. Particularly during a time of development and remodeling, this is a important location in helping express Sydney’s history. By maintaining Millers Point and similar suburbs, their history and stories continue to live. While not as grandeur as the historical towns found in Bendigo or the U.S, this can at least give us a glimpse of the past and the original streetscape that has remained (mostly) unchanged.
An overview of the library and the project’s process
The Women’s Library (TWL) in Newtown is a special place home to feminist literature, dedicated volunteers, and a supportive community. The founding committee, led by Vicki Harding, wanted to provide access to a wide range of material, without limiting the support of a feminist community from people in lower socio-economic groups. The library does not espouse one particular brand of feminism but welcomes and includes as many areas of interest as possible.
Over the years at The Women’s Library, low funding and engagement have meant that the volunteers have had to work tirelessly, often alongside fulltime jobs and other commitments, to protect this safe haven for many women in the area. From conversations with volunteers, I discovered that one of the key challenges that the library faces is letting people know about its existence.
For this project, I have studied reports, minutes, newsletters, constitutions, and published materials from the library which were all filed away at TWL. I also sorted through newspaper articles, reviews, and advertisements about the library, some were held at the site, others were found online and at the City of Sydney Archives. I have spoken to volunteers and library members, and I have found that The Women’s Library is not just about the books on its shelves, but the people in its community. The emergence of The Women’s Library reveals a supportive network of feminist activism and a reclaiming of space in Sydney in the 1990s.
From my research, I pieced together a history of the library and told the story through Instagram posts for The Women’s Library Instagram page. Combining narrative, analysis, and description is at the heart of History, and it is one of its biggest challenges. Below are some of the stories I put together for my project and some of the Instagram tiles I created which I hope the library will use as they wish.
A snippet of my project – the history of The Women’s Library
Vicki Harding had a feeling that The Women’s Library already existed on women’s bookshelves all over Australia. So, inspired by overseas libraries dedicated to women’s studies, Vicki decided to publicise her idea in 1991 and received much support and encouragement, creating a committee to grow the library. They set about creating a space by women, for women.
In 1993 South Sydney Council provided the library’s venue in Alexandria Town Hall which opened to the public on 21 July 1994. Run entirely on donations and membership fees, it was the first of its kind in Australia and grew to house 9,000 books donated by members, authors, and publishing companies.
The library is so connected to the physical place that it inhabits and the books on its shelves, that the TWL community acts as a connection between the lasting 1990s feminism, and the quiet space provided just off King Street. Sorting through the filing room at TWL, I found a collection of posters from 1980s and 1990s feminist rallies, in particular a number of International Women’s Day posters. Below are some of the posters I had scanned and then designed to create Instagram tiles.
I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time at The Women’s Library and learning about its history and people. It is a rare time capsule of the feminist activism of 1990s Sydney and is the legacy of hard-working women. So, next time you’re looking for a good book or interesting conversation, stop by The Women’s Library, just behind Newtown Library on Brown Street, and say “hello!”
To celebrate their 100th birthday, my project portrays Vinnies Rozelle in a new and exciting way, in which exists the importance of my podcast titled ‘Fabricated Stories’. This community thrift store operates by the generosity of the people who volunteer, work, donate and buy pre-loved goods and it is so valuable to hear their stories and what they have to share about their connection to the place.
The podcast form would be considered innovative in documenting oral histories – by infusing music with people’s stories narrated by the host. With my project and as noted throughout the podcast, I argue that people’s histories that can only be emerged through storytelling can be linked to a place. By collecting stories and anecdotes from people who engage with this community space, I am able to illustrate Vinnies Rozelle as a place of historical significance for different people but also the place as a whole as part of Rozelle’s community.
Emerged through the process of storytelling, themes such as celebrating local history by honouring family histories emerged. Many of the stories told linked back to memories and experiences of growing up and visiting Vinnies, especially with families that suggests that local history often begins with the stories from our families. I also argue the importance of sustainability through thrifting and donating goods by highlighting the continued relevance of Vinnies Rozelle is also through the means in which second hand goods are given another chance.
The hope is that Vinnies Rozelle will benefit most from this project as it exists to serve them and celebrate the store and the people who visit. I also hope the podcast form allows the project to reach a broader audience. While the target audience is people at all ages (although most likely 6 years and above to understand the stories), I hope I can attract a young adult listening audience who might not know about the history of Vinnies. Often thrift stores and second-hand shops are now seen as places to buy something cheap, trendy and vintage but there is a rich history attached to these places that could be overlooked in the name of fashion.
The history community at the University of Sydney mourns the loss of Dr Philippa Hetherington, who died on Saturday 5 November. During her long struggle with cancer, Philippa became a prominent advocate and effective campaigner for the funding of new treatments in the UK, where she had worked since 2015 as a lecturer at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. Philippa completed an Honours degree in European history at the University of Sydney in 2006, winning the University Medal. She went on the complete her PhD at Harvard. She was an expert in the cultural, legal, and social history of the trafficking of women, especially in Russia and the early Soviet Union. She returned to the University of Sydney as a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Glenda Sluga’s Laureate Program in International History. Philippa was an extraordinary historian and the most stimulating and supportive of colleagues. Our deepest sympathies are with her husband, Alessandro, her mother, Robyn, and her brother, William. Philippa made everyone’s life better; she will be terribly missed.
Chris Hilliard, Challis Professor of History, University of Sydney
My mum is a nurse and has worked in the building next door to the RPA museum for at least 10 years now, yet I never knew of the museum until taking this class. For whatever reason the RPA museum was not known to me until this semester. It is not in the main building of the hospital and is in the King George V memorial building on the 8th floor, so it’s not the most obvious or advertised location. My mum herself has never been there and she’s never spoken about it to me. I walked past that building most days during high school to my mum’s work before I could drive home. It makes me wonder what other places I often walk by that holds something very interesting and significant, that I have no awareness of. That is probably something that happens to all of us more often than we realise. I discovered the museum from this class, and I am glad I have discovered it now. The museum is built around two preserved surgical theatre suits from 1941, filled with old equipment and is one of those special artefacts where you feel the age of the room and the air of the past within it.
During Sophie Loy-Wilson’s talk in week ten she mentioned how people bought the diaries of those involved in the First World War such as soldiers and nurses, and she said that nurses’ diaries were the cheapest people could buy. This spoke to me about the lack of recognition nurses often get for their work, not only in history but even during the incredibly trying last two years. The museum hosts an abundance of archives on nurses dating back to the 19th century and I wonder perhaps there may be something there to do something on nurses who served in wartime. I will have to see about this however as I begin my work.
My contact is the curator of the museum and Director of Heritage and Environment at RPA, Scott Andrews, and Scott operates and handles the museum with the help of volunteers, until recently when all volunteers were stood down. He has also had help this year and previous years from master’s students from the University of Sydney and another student who took this subject in 2018. Like with many other local or more well-known museums, the past couple years with COVID-19 has been tough on the museum. It has been shut since early 2020 to the public and coincidentally, is finally re-opening in one months’ time, around when I will finish my project and volunteer work there. This makes my time there quite interesting and potentially important as Scott prepares to re-open the museum to the public.
The job I have discussed and begun with Scott is an inventory audit of a small collection room at the museum. Volunteers have accepted objects that may not have been recorded properly, or even at all. Some of these objects as well may have no real use or significance and so part of the task as I go through these objects is to ask the question of what is worth keeping and what is not. To get to study objects and help decide their value within the curation of a museum is a cool and interesting task, from a research and history standpoint, but also to be a part of the inner workings of a museum’s collection. Being that this archival work is my main job it will likely form the basis of my final project, though still I am not exactly sure what form that will take. I will catalogue and keep records of my findings in as I go along, and from this I hope to find something that triggers the beginning of a project. The room is full of potential as everything in there has not been catalogued or researched. Within this research there may be a story to tell, or an addition to a history of the hospital that has already been recorded. I am looking forward to the month ahead and getting stuck into archival work within a functioning public museum.
Tucked away in a small building behind a Lyons hall is the Central Coast Family History Society. Through the front door, past the foyer to the left, is the library. The shelves are full. A collection spanning decades chronicles the history of the Central Coast. Down the hall is the main room, lined with computers; people come to research their history. Across the hall is a treasure trove. The archive room. Floor-to-ceiling boxes of records, artifacts, maps and photos.
Family history is a unique investigative process. It is a search for clues, one leading to the next, hopefully, to reveal some significant detail. Family history uses memories, oral histories and family stories; it searches for names in archives, through birth certificates, marriage records, newspapers, and obituaries to reconstruct lives. Small community organisations, like the Central Coast Family History Society, facilitate this search. They collect the clues that build family history and keep the flame of local history alive. The Family History Society connects people of the present to the Coast of the past.
My first visit to the Family history society was overwhelming. There were so many treasures waiting to be found on the shelves. I toured the library and the archive room, seeing the books, artifacts and photos they contained. Some of the photos and older documents had begun to fade. And so, my role became digitising these records to protect them for the future and allow them to be more easily shared and stored.
I started with a heavy leather-bound album. It had been donated after being found in the back of the shed. Most of the photos were from the mid-1800s. What was once a treasured and expensive heirloom was now in disrepair and forgotten. Digitising is a laborious process. You must delicately remove each photo, put it through the scanner and return it to the album. Scanning each photo, you cannot help but feel you are getting to know the people. As I turned the pages, I met the Sharp family.
Not many details of their lives remain now, but the album offers clues. I saw the children born into the family, the home they lived in, the family pets. There is incredible value to be found, even in the lives of people with no family left to remember them. Digitising and record keeping are some of the important roles of local history societies. It creates clues. Hopefully, these clues will prove helpful to others in the future.
A picture is worth a thousand words. The more we interrogate photos, the more they reveal to us. To the living family, they offer a glimpse into the past and help fill in the blank branches of family trees. But to those without sentimental familial attachments, what can we gain? Surprisingly, a lot. Photos, particularly of everyday people, give granular details like what fashions were popular. On the reverse of most is the name of the photography studio in which they were taken; this is a valuable clue. The locations of these studios allow us to trace migration. For example, the beginning of the Sharp Family Album is taken in Liverpool and the end in Sydney. We can also use it to imagine a changing Sydney. Through the listed address on the back, we can see that George Street Sydney was once populated with numerous Photography Studios. With a little speculation and imagination, photographs offer a plethora of clues.
Being at the Family History Society is like going on a treasure hunt. You start with some clue and must use that in the search for the next one. You follow the hunt hoping in the end, you will have something meaningful. I am pleased to be playing a part in creating these clues, which will hopefully be the key to some future person’s treasure.
Growing up with a Father who worked in the maritime industry as a commercial diver, I was given the rare opportunity to glimpse into a career which is rarely seen or considered. Unlike an office job, my Dad’s commute to work consisted of driving down to the dock, getting on a boat, donning a wetsuit, putting on 15kg dive helmet attached to an umbilical cord providing oxygen, and descending into the depths of the sea in near zero visibility to operate. Now this is just one aspect of what workers in the maritime industry do. Workers within the maritime industry cover industries such as: diving, ferries, offshore oil and gas workers, port services, shipping, and stevedoring, operating in telecommunications, transportation, mining, and construction. Workers within the maritime industry are presented with the task of operating in one of the most isolated parts of our world. The beauty and the danger of the sea is not lost on these workers, thus that is why the:
“MUA, here to stay!”
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) celebrates its 150 year anniversary this year. Founded in 1872, as the Sydney Wharf Labourers Union, leading to the Seaman’s Union of Australia, now the MUA. The MUA has a rich history as the first maritime union in the world. Since its foundation, the protection of waterfront workers rights has been the focus of the MUA. Its history provides an interesting discussion into the changing context of the world in the face of internationalism, class struggle and capitalism and its relation to the protection of waterfront workers rights. A focal point in the MUA’s history was the ‘Hungry Mile’ during the Great Depression. The dockland area of Darling Harbour East, Sydney (where Barangaroo now is), whereby workers would walk from wharf to wharf looking for work under the “bull” system, where only the largest men were chosen first for work.
The MUA’s position in history, being at the forefront of the class struggle and the socialist cause in Australia, has confounded in their focus on the significance on the importance of social activism in protecting the rights and liberties of various groups as well as its own. The MUA over the years has been involved in anti- Vietnam war movement, anti- Apartheid movement, Women’s movement, and participated in the nuclear disarmament movement. Alongside, protecting the rights of waterfront workers, the MUA stresses the importance of social activism in gaining the equal rights of Indigenous and First Nations peoples before the rights of maritime workers. As there is no one without the other.
“…to learn from things that we’ve gone through and not to make the same mistakes”
Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary, MUA at Launch of Sydney Wharfies Mural, Australian Maritime Museum (2022)
The MUA recognises the protection of various groups rights and liberties through their motto:
Struggle, Solidarity, Unity
Upon contacting the MUA Sydney Branch secretary, Paul Garrett, and discussing some ideas of what they would like, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Sydney Wharfies Mural at the Australian National Maritime Museum to meet some of their members. The ‘Wharfies Mural’, originally located in the canteen area of the MUA’s office on 601 Sussex st, Sydney, the mural is a testament to the rich history of the MUA and its workers. Standing as the collective effort of its members between 1953 to 1965, while it may not be artistically elaborate, its depiction of maritime workers struggles over the years is a salient image of the MUA’s fight against injustice and class struggle.
After attending the mural launch, I was able to contextualise more of an idea of the MUA and what they do. While my initial interest stemmed from my experience growing up with a Father who worked in the maritime industry, I was immediately hooked upon learning the rich history of the MUA and how their position in history has culminated in one of the largest unions in Australia. I am very interested in their involvement in social activism, whereby their recognition of Indigenous sovereignty and Women’s rights provides a great insight into what is generally considered a highly “masculine” industry.
My project will focus on women’s involvement in MUA history, and how it has changed over the years to culminate in what it is today. I will focus particularly on one of their first female seafarers who sailed out of Brisbane, Gizelle “Gus” Konow. In looking at Gus’ story, I will be able to contextualise and map a history of women’s involvement in the maritime industry. I will attempt to do this through gathering information and stories on her from other MUA members, co-workers, family and friends. In doing so I will be interacting with a form of oral history that will speak to both the struggle and efforts of women in a historically ‘masculine’ industry. To aid me in this, the MUA has given me access to various contacts that will help me to track down and contact people. They have allowed me to work with their Film Unit and utilise any of the sources they have. This will be helpful in utilised resources while would not be available for public record, as well as visualising an industry for which I have little experience in.
I have lived in the Bankstown and Canterbury area my whole life and remember how I would always reconnect with friends after school at the local library. I remember studying for my HSC there before my tutoring classes and making friends with other students in my cohort through those study sessions. We shared the same experiences of stress and procrastination in the library and were connected through this comfortable space. The online HSC resources they provided through their eLibrary were super helpful as I was able to get a hold of last-minute study resources. Other services they provide include the lending of resources, acquisitions, programmes, and Local and Family History.
Their work for the community appealed to me because it brought community members together to share cultural knowledge and experiences through language, inclusivity, and local family history services. The resources and services they provide help these community members thrive and create voices for marginalised cultural groups, people with disabilities, and local low-income communities, as most of their events are free. Currently, different libraries within the Canterbury Bankstown City Council are hosting programmes such as ‘Let’s Go First Nations’ to celebrate and embrace Indigenous culture. They aim to educate and showcase different aspects of First Nations culture through cultural workshops, digeridoo performances, spiritual ceremonies, traditional art classes, and Dreamtime Preschool Story Times.
Whilst searching for an organisation to collaborate with, I was introduced to the Local History Librarian, Jennifer Madden, who works at the Bankstown and Campsie libraries. Both libraries are categorised under the same city council structure (Canterbury Bankstown City Council). Once we met in person, we discussed how the libraries fit within my project’s “organisation” aspect. She informed me about the range of services the council provides for the local community. During our discussion, I suggested a virtual walking tour of the local sites in Bankstown. However, the public format of a website was not ideal as it would have to be approved by the council. After much consideration, we both agreed that a historical walking tour generated with QR codes would be appropriate for my project and serve as a helpful resource to the library’s local history services. My project could be utilised as an example for future project proposals for interactive walking tours to be approved by council officials. Resources such as their past brochures of local walking tours will help guide which sites will be included in the tour. Jennifer requested the tour to have QR codes linked to the information on the history behind that site. These QR codes will be placed on signposts next to the sites.
My project will benefit the community as it engages them with the history of their local area outside of the classroom and later be translated into different languages. The primary languages of the city council area include English, Korean, Arabic, and Vietnamese. This walking tour will remain open-ended and not static as more sites can be added in the future. I will present the QR codes through a PowerPoint presentation with images of the sites and linked information on their contexts.