Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Report on Belshaw historical research and writing

One of the difficulties faced by those of us who work alone is simply keeping in focus. A PhD student faces the same problem, but still has deadlines and supervisors. Free-lance researchers find life a little more difficult.

I find as a person that I need deadlines and external pressures. I also find, and this obviously connects, that I get dragged in all sorts of directions by varying interests. Now I am well behind in terms of my main targets. What to do?

My small number of regular readers on this blog will know that I am a member of the Heritage Futures Research Centre at the University of New England and also an adjunct of that University. At some stage, I am going to have to do a report on my role, so I thought that I would do a stock take here on my historical research. This then provides a benchmark against which I (and you) can measure my progress.

It also helps me focus on my main personal project at the present time, getting my history of New England to the point that I can seek a publisher.  

Historical Populariser

I see part of my role as increasing interest in history, in setting events in historical context. To this end, history appears in much of my writing. Excluding general pieces including history, I have averaged more than two history posts or columns a week over the last year. 

This writing gets a good response, yet is also a problem because it distracts me from my other research and writing deadlines. I don't have an answer to this. It's a question of balance.

For the moment, I am putting general posting on my other blogs largely on hold for a hopefully brief period while I just catch up.   

Unrecognised and now almost unknown: explorations through the history of the broader New England

. In March of last year I delivered a paper in the University of New England's History and Classics seminar series, Unrecognised and now almost unknown: explorations through the history of the broader New England.

In June last year I posted a copy to this blog and also put a copy on Scribd. The second allows for easier download.

An Exploration of New England's Aboriginal Languages

In July last year I delivered a paper to the Armidale & District Historical Society, An Exploration of New England's Aboriginal Languages. This paper is now being revised for publication in the Society's journal.

I have had some good comments from people on the paper, and now need to consolidate those.

Social Change in Australia’s New England 1950-2000

At the start of April this year I delivered a paper in the UNE's History and Classics Seminar series on social and economic change in New England over the second half of the twentieth century. This filled a significant gap in my history.

I am now revising the paper so that it can be considered for publication in a refereed journal.

New Companion to the Australian Media

I have agreed to write 700 words on the Vincent Family for the new Companion to the Australian Media.  Edited by Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley, the Companion is due for publication in mid 1914. My deadline is October this year.

Biography of David Drummond

In June last year I began posting my original PhD thesis, Decentralisation, Development and Decent Government: the life and times of David Henry Drummond, 1890-1941, minus the introduction to this blog to make it more accessible. You will find the entry point here.

I have written before about the particular events that surrounded that PhD. I won't bore you with that history. However, the fact that after submission I finally walked away from the PhD because of conflict and disputes over the thesis remains current because, among other things, people still assume that I got it. I still have to explain that I am not Dr Belshaw! 

My family wants me to update and extend for publication. I will do that, but it will have to wait. In the meantime, the blog posting makes the core of the original document available.

History of the Northern (New England) New State Movement

A full history of this Movement has still to be published. It remains my target to do so after I have finished my general history of New England.

In March this year, I did a quick scissors and paste on previous work plus some limited new work to provide a rough first cut history. The work that I am now doing on my general history of New England continues to fill in gaps.

In about three months, I hope to start posting structured material on different aspects of the history to encourage discussion. However, the book itself will have to wait until I finish my general history.

My general history of New England  

I completely underestimated how long it would take me to write my general history of New England over the last 50,000 years. It's partly a question of focus, I get distracted, more that the task of writing a general history for an area not previously covered is quite difficult.

In saying not covered I need to be precise in my use of English. There are histories of the various areas within the broader New England, but not of the broader territory. No one can see the whole.

Given that I am now more than eighteen months behind my original deadline for a first draft, what can I say?

  • I have the general structure (Introduction, Aboriginal New England, Colonial New England, New England in the twentieth century) right.
  • For each of the main segments, I have now identified key themes and periods, and have something written on each.
  • The richness of the material I have discovered, and consequently the scope, far exceeds my previous expectations. I have discovered just so much.

Realistically, I struggle to put sensible deadlines on the project. I am now fillings gaps in an evolving structure, yet it's still hard.

I feel absolutely blessed by the people who have become involved in the project in one way or another - now well over one hundred. I struggle to document all the contributions, for I want people to be recognised.

I don't know whether or not I could claim my evolving history to be the first of the internet age, that's a very big claim. Yet I can say with all honesty that the writing of the history has become a collaborative effort between me and hundreds of people. They actually drive what I do. This is our history, not just mine!


It should be pretty clear that as a private researcher I am struggling to complete the things that I do. There is a constant conflict between my desire to research and write and the need to find the money to live. My entire research is privately funded. I am constantly broke.

Yet I think that if I can keep going, if I can meet my targets, I will have established a good track record, I will forced an interest in the things that I am interested in, I will have established a base for future research and writing that did not exist before.

That's not bad.     

Friday, August 19, 2011

Classical Greek, boxing & New England history

Again, my main history post today, Boxing, history & social change, is on my personal blog. Here I want to make a few short additional comments targeted at the history of New England.

The boxing tents such as those of Jimmy Sharman were part of the texture of life in New England for fifty years. There were those who visited, but also those worked within them.

Boxing was especially important to Aboriginal people because the sport provided an opportunity for income and advancement to a disadvantaged group  However, the importance went beyond this. Boxing was very strong in Newcastle and the lower Hunter because of its working class roots.

I saw the post on my personal blog as a way of sketching out some background, a framework, for later work. In writing my history of New England, I cannot do a history of the world. Yet the inclusion of something like boxing as part of the history of New England life is important in telling an interesting story.

To try to give you a feel for this, compare my boxing post with 1923: Classical Greek in the New England countryside. There is a huge difference between the hot, dusty and sweaty world of the boxing tent and the desire to establish Armidale as a national centre for classical Greek studies. Yet boxing was also a school sport at TAS. I used the school gloves many years later when boxing had already dropped from the frame.

One of the joys of history to my mind remains the contrasts, the way that very different things coexist at the same time. We do ourselves and history no justice when we try to jam things into acceptable frames, ignoring the comparisons and conflicts inherent in any historical period. 


Saturday Morning Musings - boxing & the power of blogging in history on my personal blog provides a consolidated update on these linked posts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Armidale school days

Two posts linked to Armidale school days:

Really, one of the fun things about history lies in the things that distract us!

The first post is purely personal, I suppose, but the two are still connected.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reaching the past despite the present

My main history posts yesterday and today are on my personal blog. GeoCurrents' Demic atlas project looks at a new mapping project, while Maps & myopia looks at the way that constructs such as maps and institutional structures affect our thinking. This is pretty important for all those interested in history at whatever level.

I often speak of the past as a far country. We have to break through, and that's so hard because of the way our own thinking is conditioned.

I wondered if any of my readers have their own experiences of times when they suddenly realised that their conditioned thinking was blocking their understanding of the past they were looking at? How did you overcome it?

Friday, August 12, 2011

New England Australia history resource page

While I have had a resource page for some time plus a link on the blog side bar, it has tended to get buried as a post. I have therefore created a stand-alone page featured on the top of the blog.   

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

UNE's Heritage Futures Research Centre Winter Newsletter

I am a member of UNE's Heritage Futures Research Centre. Having just received the Winter Newsletter I decided that the best thing that I could do was to reproduce in full Hope that the formatting isn't too wonky!   

clip_image002Winter News HFRC 2011

Past, Present, Future

HFRC Mission 2011

Our mission is: to consolidate the University's range of expertise and research relating to the natural and cultural history and heritage of regional Australia and regions elsewhere in the world, and to facilitate the sharing of values, information and expertise among scholars, professionals and the broader community. This is achieved through four core areas of activities: research, education, professional development, consultancy and regional and rural engagement.

Upcoming Events

August 24: The Annual General Meeting will be held between 12-1pm on Wednesday August 24th, in Lecture Theatre A3 at UNE’s Arts Building.

September 3-11: History Week this year is on the theme of Eating History. Watch for some exciting culinary events!

November date tba: Tenth Anniversary Celebrations. There will be a special set of Talks on heritage to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Heritage Futures Research Centre at UNE. The founding Directors of the HFRC, Professors Iain Davidson and Alan Atkinson have been invited to contribute to the celebrations.

Writing Retreats at UNE: August 29th & November 8th, 2011. Writing for Publication Retreats for HFRC members. Using tried and true methods developed by scholars Robert Brown and Rowena Murray, these one-day retreats offer a chance to actually get a rough draft of a paper for publication (or a grant application) completed. Please email your details to Wendy Beck at wbeck@une.edu.au and further instructions will be sent to you.

HFRC Research Fellow 2011 appointed

Associate Professor Wendy Beck was appointed as the 2011 HFRC Research Fellow (0.5 position). Her job is to pursue research initiatives resulting in a successful competitive grant application/major publication(s) and to help foster collective research and other initiatives in the Centre in collaboration with the HFRC Director. She is also submitting at least one competitive grant application (an ARC Discovery). Wendy’s research includes a sustained track record in multi-disciplinary archaeological research with Indigenous communities, such as the ARC Linkage and Discovery grants with Aboriginal communities which demonstrates a high level of achievement and personal commitment to research in this area. She is also an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Fellow. She has been an ARC OzReader for ten years, and has a successful track record in fostering the research of others. For example, in 2009 and 2010 she has run successful one-day research writing ‘retreats’ for a wide variety of groups, including postgraduates and Professors, in both the Faculties of Arts and Sciences and in the Professions.

News from HFRC Research Fellow

Work on a new Constitution and Bylaws has been ongoing and the AGM has been arranged for 10 August. Thanks to the small group of Members who have assisted with this process. This will enable a sustainable administration for the HFRC into the future. I have organised two Writing Retreat Workshops for August and November, with the goal to have at least two publication results for HFRC and which will lead to external funding.

I have attended a number of relevant events recently which may assist the HFRC with gaining external funding in future. See below. Members could also check the Research Grants available at research opportunities advertised at http://www.une.edu.au/researchservices/researchdevelopmentintegrity/grants/

Some future research & funding ideas

Contact me directly if you would like to contribute to any of these!

Heritage Online

Firstly the NSW Archaeology Online Workshop which was held on 7 June at Sydney University. There are definitely possibilities to be followed up here from linkages between this project and UNE Archives and Heritage Centre (and the UNE Library) about making grey literature available more widely, especially in heritage topics. One particular area of interest to me is the many unpublished Consultancy reports for the New England which represent many thousands of dollars of investment, which could be made more accessible. Heritage Office have funded the first and second stages of NSW Archaeology process (which is really the Sydney Historical Archaeology Online process!), which could be rolled out to regions other than Sydney and Canberra.

Bill Oates the University Archivist is a member of a LIEF Grant consortium ( 6 other universities) to develop NSW eResearch Data Store. UNE Heritage Centre has a large volume of data being created as we convert older record medium into electronic formats. There are a number of the these formats that we currently hold including audio, photographic and text based materials that can be digitised and shared with other institutional repositories to enable research. File sizes are too large to enable effective collaboration between university regional repositories without eResearch data store.

Of most importance currently is the search, digitization and dissemination of historical weather records for the purposes of providing new data to climate change modelling  research. This is one example of the wide use where historical documentation can be applied to research.  University of Newcastle researchers are using material collected by the archivists in the University of New England. 

It also strikes me that the National Broadband Network could also form a focus on research funding also given the recent UNE interest. See the general invitation from Victor Minichello: “As the Project Sponsor of the University NBN project, I would like to invite you to come and discuss ideas you may have with respect to taking advantage of the opportunities that the NBN could offer academia or UNE. Please contact me if you want to discuss and brainstorm your ideas with me over coffee (my shout). I am very interested in ideas that cut across discipline boundaries, are creative and futuristic focused and involve partnerships with other organisations and community stakeholders. Let us be at the cutting edge and engage with one of Australia's biggest investment and funded project.”

An Australasian Association for Digital Humanities has just been been formed. See http://aa-dh.org/ for more information.

Mental Health and Humanities

Sally Hunter (UNE Health) and I are working on a Grant application (to RioTinto) with the Northern Forum of Aboriginal Local Land Councils provisionally entitled ‘Preventing depression in young Aboriginal men at risk, using archaeology fieldwork: NSW Pilot project’. And we are keen to be involved in the recent UNE Collaborative Research Network for Mental Health and Well-being in Rural Communities ($4.8 million). UNE is currently in the process of recruiting 16 PhD scholarships and 7 Postdoctoral Fellowship (23 academic positions in total) positions funded by our CRN project as part of our mental health research program in collaboration with our partners. This represents a significant critical mass of new scholars joining the University. It would be great to have some Heritage Futures Centre input! because they are seeking active input into our various research programs associated with this project across the University.

Ecological Humanities

I attended the Sustaining Regional Communities Conference in Narrabri in April, addressed the April meeting of the Northern Forum of Aboriginal Land Councils, and the Institute of Australian Geographers Annual Conference in July.

These conferences were a very interesting forum for all kinds of ideas where Humanities could contribute, especially to documenting community resilience, change and heritage in the face of increasing external pressures from mining, climate change and water shortages and heritage place destruction. I have also been meeting with members of the School of Arts to foster collaboration with Arts New England for some of these research areas. So watch this space!

Wider Collaboration in Humanities and Creative Arts

Colleagues in the School of Arts and I are keen to foster the involvement of HFRC and UNE more generally in policy and collaborative bodies relevant to Humanities and Creative Arts. There will be a meeting in Adelaide on July Monday, 25 and Tuesday, 26 July 2011, Networking the Humanities: The Inaugural Annual Meeting of the Australian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC). In addition I will try and attend the Sydney Workshop of Communicating Big Ideas: National Cultural Policy Workshop on August 2. See http://www.chass.org.au/events/2011/workshop/ncp/.

Volunteers Wanted!

A number of archaeology field and laboratory projects need volunteers to assist with site recording and artefact sorting from August onwards. This includes both local sites and sites in the north Kimberley region. If you are looking for a small interdisciplinary research project (or know some students who are) please get in touch!

Email wbeck@une.edu.au.

UNE Archaeology and History Success in Government Excellence in Research Assessment Exercise

“We know Australia is a clever country and now, thanks to the Gillard Labor Government’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative, for the first time we can see exactly how our country’s research efforts compare to the rest of the world.” (Kim Carr Media Release Jan 2011). ERA assesses research quality within Australia’s 41 higher education providers using a combination of indicators and expert review by committees comprising experienced, internationally-recognised experts. At UNE, the two disciplines who have consistently been part of HFRC, Archaeology and Historical Studies, were each awarded a grade of 3/5. This corresponds with research excellence characterised by evidence of average performance at world standard presented by the suite of indicators used for evaluation. This puts UNE in the top 20% of Humanities disciplines in Australia.

HFRC Research News

Projects Sponsored by HFRC

New Projects

Indigenous Heritage: Working ancient wetlands for social benefit and cultural understanding 2011-2016

A research team lead by Associate Professor Beck and based at UNE (together with researchers from UWollongong and UTasmania) has applied for an ARC Discovery Grant. This research will be an Aboriginal-driven heritage project that will answer theoretical and practical questions about the nature of Aboriginal community engagement in research and higher education. The nature, antiquity and past climates of Indigenous occupation in eastern Australian ancient landscapes will form the case study. Oral histories, survey, excavation and archaeological analysis at several ancient wetlands in New England and Tasmania will generate important theoretical and practical archaeological outcomes as well as sustainable community benefits. This cultural heritage research will develop employability skills as well as providing pathways for Aboriginal youth to engage with further education opportunities. This research has the support of the Northern Region Forum of Aboriginal Land Councils and funding outcomes will be known in November 2011.

Current Projects

Meals on Wheels: building towards a new social experiment for our times (Associate Professor Melanie Oppenheimer) 2010-2013

An ARC Linkage Project (LP100200065, $92,673) with LaTrobe University has begun in 2011. This 3 year project includes a PhD scholarship and aims to undertake a national and international study of Meals on Wheels. CI Associate Professor Melanie Oppenheimer will be working with Professor Jeni Warburton from La Trobe University and the Australian Meals on Wheels Association to develop new business models for volunteers.

For 2010 – 2013 she has been appointed Centenary Historian for Australian Red Cross to research and write the organisation’s centenary history.

Finishing Projects

The role of Queensland Museum collections in producing knowledge of Aboriginal people from Federation to the present day

This is an ARC funded Linkage Project (LP0561944), conducted by Prof Iain Davidson and Prof Russell John McDougall, in partnership with the Queensland Museum, and administered by the University of New England. The grant supports the doctoral research of Shawn Rowlands, who analysed the Museum's material culture collection in the context of nation building and considering both the changing meanings and the contemporary relevance of such collections to Aboriginal communities. The project will produce a body of research that can be used in the design of new exhibitions that will reveal the true complexity of cross-cultural interactions in the development of the Museum's collections. Shawn has recently published an article in the Journal of Australian Colonial History Vol. 13, 2011: 183-206. Here is the abstract:

Abstract: This article explores the notion of entanglement on the frontier by considering the exchanges between collectors and Aboriginal people in Queensland, and the acquisition by the Queensland Museum of Aboriginal artefacts that culminated in the Museum's first major exhibition of Aboriginal material culture - the Australian Aboriginal Life diorama, which opened in 1914.

Drawing mostly on the unpublished correspondence in the Queensland Museum's archives from the years 1878-1914, I show how the collection of Aboriginal material culture sometimes fostered trade and other exchanges, creating an entanglement of cultures. Moreover, I show how the material acquired and displayed was heavily biased towards that which was deemed to be 'authentic', or evidencing no admixture of European manufacture. This collecting was informed by a perception that traditional Aboriginal material culture was quickly vanishing. It was not appreciated that the vanishing of traditional material culture was itself proof that Aboriginal people were adapting to new and extremely difficult circumstances. Instead, prevailing notions in the fields of ethnography, anthropology and race-theory, prejudiced the interpretation and display of Aboriginal material culture, with the aim of conceptualising Aboriginal people as static, unchanging, and consigned to history.

Views of Maitland: Art + History

This project, a collaboration with Maitland Regional Art Gallery, is documenting  aspects of the history of Maitland in the lower Hunter Valley in NSW, and is exploring the connections and conversations that can occur between art and history in the interpretation and presentation of the past. To date, there are two sub-projects:  ‘Maitland Jewish Cemetery: Place, People and Paintings', and 'West Maitland Technical College and Museum: An Installation and Memories'. Outcomes include an installation by artist Fiona Davies titled  ‘Intangible collection and drawing on oral history interviews and research on the Maitland Technical College’; and ‘Undertow’, a painting exhibition by artist Hanna Kay, in conversation with an installation and publication titled ‘Maitland Jewish Cemetery: A Monument to Dreams and Deeds’ researched and written by Janis Wilton. Members of the project team will also be presenting a paper at the International Oral History Conference in Prague in 2010. The project data forms part of the Heritage Futures database.

Wesbite: http://hfrc.une.edu.au/heritagefutures/maitland/

Maitland Jewish Cemetary: A Monument to Dreams and Deeds / by Janis Wilton and Joe Eisenberg, Maitland, N.S.W: Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2010; xiv, 284 pp;  ISBN 9780980752014 (pbk.)

Published by Maitland Regional Art Gallery with funding and support from the Heritage Futures Research Centre (School of Humanities), the Migration Heritage Centre and the Powerhouse Museum. This book explores the history of the Maitland Jewish Cemetery and the stories of the people buried there, highlighting the challenges of being Jewish in a colonial frontier town and the significant contributions made by Jewish settlers to the social and economic development of the Maitland region.

For further details of HFRC Research Projects see http://hfrc.une.edu.au/heritagefutures/

Education News

Archaeology Week in May

Several successful events were held in May to celebrate Archaeology Week

UNE Museum of Antiquities had a special display for visitors including digital images of “UNE People and Archaeology” - Snapshots of UNE students and faculty (recent and long past) and their experiences in Australian archaeology.

There was a public lecture on ‘Current Research in New England Archaeology’ by Associate Professor Wendy Beck and Dr. Bob Haworth (Centre for Heritage Futures UNE) at the Bowling Club in Armidale. Sponsored by the Heritage Futures Research Centre and a careers talk by Dr. Pam Watson and Wendy Beck to the TAFE Fine Arts Diploma students.

Careers Forum (Sponsored by the Heritage Futures Research Centre)

A Careers Forum panel (John Appleton (Archaeological Surveys & Reports Pty. Ltd); Maria Cotter (Niche Pty Ltd); Malcolm Ridges (Office of Environment & Heritage) shared their career experiences with the audience who were mainly secondary and tertiary students interested in Archaeology and Heritage careers.

New UNE study majors and awards

New Bachelor of Historical Inquiry and Practice focuses specifically on the professional development of historians. As it is recommended for professional historians to engage in the study of a cognate discipline relevant to their chosen professional speciality - and because historical inquiry is now widely accepted as elemental to various professions beyond those conventionally associated with history - this course also includes a field of study opportunity whereby the student's study and training in History may be purposefully combined with other disciplines, to facilitate education in, for example, historical fiction and writing, social history and criminology, family history and sociology, national history and languages, cultural history and music.

New UNE major in Cultural Heritage Management! The new Bachelor of Sustainability will contain a major in Cultural Heritage Management. Watch out for more on this new degree.

New Major in Archaeology! Which will enable students to complete two majors ( at 48cp each) in their Bachelor of Arts degree. This means students from 2012 will be able to do a double major in History or Ancient History and Archaeology.

New Graduate Certificate in History Curriculum The course comprises studies in history and education pedagogy focused on the needs of teaching the new Australian National Curriculum in History.

Professional Development

Diploma in Indigenous Archaeology continues to attract students wishing for entry-level qualifications in an archaeological career. UNE with the Australian National Archaeology Teaching and Learning Committee are planning a series of Standards for TAFE Certificate qualifications which could lead to pathways for students through Archaeological Technician and Land Management certificates to the Diploma and on to Degrees.


Wendy Beck and Robyn Bartel have recently completed a research consultancy for the National Parks Group of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage of ‘Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Offsets in Mining Areas.’ The result of this consultancy was a series of recommendations for policy and practice in Heritage Offsets.


Aboriginal Cultural Heritage possesses a range of values which are considered elements of the public good, of Indigenous culture, the broader culture, and which are in the public interest to preserve. These include tangible and intangible values, cultural values to present, past and future Indigenous peoples and the wider Australian public, archaeological value now and in the future, amenity value and inherent value.

Mining also offers benefits to the economy and material benefits to mining employees, shareholders and consumers. Mining however also presents a potential threat to the preservation of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and destruction of material, sites and landscape contexts. There is a balance which must be obtained with preservation on the one hand and development on the other. In this context the potential for conservation approaches may require innovation in order to balance the competing needs of economic gain and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage management.

Increasingly there are overlaps in approach between natural and cultural heritage and understanding of values as scientific as well as cultural. Current practice of some mining companies in NSW utilises the offsets approach which offers something new and with increasing mining activity these practices may also grow. Aboriginal Cultural Heritage should not be offered any less protection than that currently offered to biodiversity. Biodiversity offsets are regulated while there is no regulatory oversight of the process for assessing, evaluating and protecting the full range of values possessed by Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and therefore no means of auditing whether values have been offset or are capable of being offset, or whether all values have been maintained, let alone net gain achieved.

Regional Engagement

NSW Biodiversity & Cultural Heritage Unit moves to UNE campus

A new agreement between the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the University of New England will enable the two organisations to cooperate more closely in a range of projects related to biodiversity and cultural heritage planning.

The signing of a co-location agreement at UNE will see the members of the Department’s Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage Unit moving from their offices in the centre of Armidale to new accommodation on the UNE campus (in the Environment and Rural Science Building). The move took place in May.

The co-location agreement builds on an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Department and the University that facilitates collaboration in research and teaching. Co-location will allow an even more productive blend of the Department’s practical focus on individual projects and the University’s broader, more theoretical perspectives. A particular strength of the Department’s Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage Unit is in the development of spatial models and their application in biodiversity and cultural heritage planning. The University, for its part, is able to contribute knowledge gained from a wide range of relevant research projects, access to remote-sensing expertise and equipment, and multidisciplinary perspectives.

The co-location will also enable UNE students to become involved in real-world projects.

Dr. Malcolm Ridges (PhD) UNE, is one of the five staff co-locating. Malcolm is an archaeology graduate who is also an Adjunct Lecturer with the HFRC and School of Humanities.

New Members Welcome!

Membership is open to academics, students, practitioners, consultants and organizations with links to heritage.


· ·Membership is available to individual academics and heritage practitioners, to Higher Degree Research Members (Postgraduate students whose research falls within the HFRC brief and is supported by HFRC staff and resources). Full membership entitles members to rights and also imposes responsibilities, as promulgated by the Coordination Committee of the Centre from time to time.

· Membership may also be granted to community or government organisations, as associate members. These organisations need to nominate a delegate or representative.

Please email Wendy Beck wbeck@une.edu.au if you wish to become a Member of HFRC.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The loneliness of the independent historian

Being an independent historian outside the groves of academe can sometimes be a lonely business. We work away, bore our friends, family and colleagues, but often don't have anybody to talk too. Yet every so often things happen that remind us that it's not so bad after all.

My major historical piece this week, UNE Passings - death of Anne Harris, was on my general New England Australia blog. Maybe I should I have put it here, but I just wanted to remember Anne and also felt that the piece would be of interest to a broader audience.

I spent quite a lot of time on the post for I needed to investigate aspects of her life using print sources that I already had plus on-line sources. As part of the post, I included an Australian National Library sepia photo of Dr Harris (the father of Anne's husband). Gordon Smith, one of my blogging colleagues with a wonderful New England Tablelands' photo blog, turned the photo into a sharper black and white image and sent it to me. To say that I was pleased would be an understatement.

Then with yesterday's post here, History of theatre in New England - update 1, Judi provided me with an enormous amount of material in comments, material that will take me many hours to follow up. Again, I was hugely pleased. So maybe we independents aren't as lonely as I thought?

Despite these two examples, I do think that to be an independent historian can be a lonely business. We really can't expect our friends and family to share our obsessive interests! Most importantly, we lack the backing provided by a structured support environment.

Those interested in family or local history often find solace in local history societies. These do a quite wonderful job. In this country, they have played a huge role in preserving local and family histories. Yet a difficulty remains for those who lack access to such societies or who have broader historical interests,

One of the special problems faced by independent historians regardless of their interests can be access to professional expertise, expertise about research techniques or the best way of finding and documenting source material.

Many independents don't realise something as simple as the need to properly document their sources. Then, those coming later get very frustrated because they cannot properly use the material!

I have been wondering how we as historical bloggers might best provide support, to break the bounds set by isolation and lack of skills. What do you think?          

Saturday, August 06, 2011

History of theatre in New England - update 1

The question of New England's theatre tradition was raised in comments on two posts on my New England Australia blog.  In Selling New England to itself, Stu mentioned the Victoria Theatre in Newcastle as worthy of preservation. Greg extended this in a comment on Wednesday Forum: preserving New England's heritage with a reference not just to the Victoria but to other Newcastle theatres and to Newcastle's rich theatrical tradition.

One of the difficulties about New England's broader theatre tradition is that it's so fragmented and localised as to be inaccessible. This comes though when I look at my past posts; a partial list follows.  They, too, are very fragmentary.

One of my problems is that most of the posts have been written for other purposes. A second problem lies in working out just what I mean by theatre. Do I include picture theatres and films? What about festivals and events? Or circuses?

For practical purposes, I am including live performance. This excludes film and picture theatres, but does include circuses.

So what can I say after all my reading? Not a lot, really, and that's depressing.

Amateur performances emerged very early. Professional performances were limited to touring companies. These appear to have begun quite early. Dedicated theatres were, I think, limited to Newcastle or the lower Hunter where population densities were greater. Newcastle and the coal areas also had a different general tradition because of the role of the union movement. There is a neglected story here.

Within New England, the two broadest influential centres were Newcastle and Armidale, Newcastle because of its size and specific union influences, Armidale because of its role as an educational centre. The first two attempts at fully professional theatre seem to have been in those two centres. Today they still have the broadest range of theatrical performances.

Not a loo to say, I know! Still, I suppose it's a start.



Have a look at Judi's comment on this post. Isn't that  a wonderful lot of material?

Monday, August 01, 2011

New Cambridge History of Australia

I was fascinated to discover from Resident Judge of Port Phillip (How many historians does it take to write a history book?) that no less than fifty historians are involved in the writing of the new Cambridge History of Australia! The history is due for release in 2013.

Reader interests July 11

Stats time again.stats july 11 2

The graph shows visits (yellow) and page views (yellow plus red) to this blog over the period to end July.

The most popular posts during July were: