Hundreds of historians have gathered in Canberra for the 2018 Australian conference. During this week over 350 papers will be delivered. I am in Canberra attending the conference and will be tweeting and blogging from here all week.
The welcome to country for this conference was delivered by Matilda House, an elder from the Ngambri-Ngunnawal people of the Canberra region. “You can’t change yesterday, but you can sure try and make a difference tomorrow,” she observed.
The President of the Australian Historical Association, Professor Lynette Russell delivered the opening keynote address. She traversed a wide range of issues in a thought-provoking speech.
The Acknowledgement of Country is given by event organisers if a First Nations elder is not present to give a Welcome to Country. Professor Russell noted that the Acknowledgement of Country is too often mumbled and speakers struggle with unfamiliar Aboriginal words. She urged people to make an effort to pronounce Aboriginal words correctly.
Professor Russell urged us to consider that 2000 generations of people have lived on this land. History did not just start with the arrival of Europeans. She observed that the Australian Historical Association conferences are no longer the “pale, stale, male” events that they used to be, but she noted the lack of Aboriginal historians. “Our association currently has 5 Aboriginal historians but if we think in terms of population parity, we should have almost 5 times that number,” she observed. “We need to ask why”. Continue reading →
We did it! I was part of an international research project that has led to the publication of this book. No Substitute for Kindness: The Story of May and Stanley Smith (May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, 2017).
Stanley Smith was an Australian businessman, WWII operative in China and expert horticulturalist. His life took him from a comfortable Brisbane upbringing to the danger of war and finally to a life half-way across the world. His Chinese-born wife, May Wong, grew up during the civil war in China and the fighting against Japanese occupation. May and Stanley met through their work for British propaganda and intelligence in the Chinese wartime capital of the city then known as Chungking (Chongqing).
Together the lives of Stanley and May Smith make a gripping read in the newly published book, No Substitute for Kindness. Commissioned by one of the philanthropic funds established by the couple, a team of researchers and writers from the United States, England and Australia have pieced together a fascinating biography.
I was one of the historians who worked on the book. My principal task was to research the early years of Stanley Smith’s life. He was born in Brisbane in 1907 and was a student at Eagle Junction State School. Stanley then won a state scholarship to the Church of England Grammar School or ‘Churchie’ as it is commonly known. Continue reading →
The Art of Time Travel by Tom Griffiths (Black Inc, 2016).
The Art of Time Travel: Historians and their craft is a very readable exploration of the writing of history in Australia since World War II. Written by highly respected historian, Tom Griffiths, The Art of Time Travel examines the work of fourteen influential historical writers who have developed the way we understand history in Australia.
Each chapter focuses on a different writer and their most influential work. Griffiths starts with Eleanor Dark’s, The Timeless Land written by the novelist, in 1941. This work of historical fiction is about the Aboriginal man, Bennelong and his first encounter with white settlers in Sydney. The history of first encounters, and particularly the story of Bennelong is a thread that runs through the book.
Griffiths’ has a professional connection with each writer featured. Most of the writers Griffiths highlights are historians, but historians are not the only people who write histories. Included in his list are a novelist, a farmer, a poet and an archaeologist. Tom Griffiths does not merely recount the contribution of these writers, he also weaves in delightful anecdotes about his personal relationship with them and their writing. We read about the experiences of Griffiths as a student of Greg Dening at the University of Melbourne and his later experiences participating in Dening’s guest workshops at the Australian National University. We see some glimpses of Griffiths’ childhood in the Melbourne suburb of Balwyn while reading his chapter about the historian of the suburbs – Graeme Davison. Griffiths’ anecdotes throughout the book are carefully chosen and always relevant to Griffiths’ discussion of his chosen writer. Continue reading →
Open House Melbourne is on this weekend and I nearly missed out. Fortunately I am in Melbourne at the moment and I sat down at lunchtime today (Saturday) to read my emails. I opened the ‘Weekend Reads’ email from Readings bookshop which opened with information about the program for Open House Melbourne which is for sale at Readings bookshops. After a hasty look at the list of open buildings, I rushed to the train to at least visit something.
As I was on the train I realised that I was trying to squash way too much into the less than three hours available to me. So I missed visiting the Melbourne City Baths (the building that looks like a layered cake with cream in between and built in 1860) and the Albanian mosque (built in 1969). In fact I only saw one building on my original list in the end.
Part of the network diagram of #OzHA2017 conference tweets between 24/6/2017 and 22/7/2017, ie before, during and after the conference. Twitter conversations on the hashtag are shown by lines linking nodes. Click on the picture above to explore the complete diagram (the live diagram may differ to the one above as the Tags Explorer is still collecting tweets)
Twitter is a great medium to use during a conference. Participants can share news from the conference to people who are unable to attend. It is another way of publicising great work by the presenters and showing the world that your professional community is contributing valuable work to society. At its best Twitter conference streams can put you in touch with the latest and greatest research and researchers even though you are not attending the conference. It is not the same as being there, but it is a good second-best.
Twitter can enrich your experience of attending a conference. It is a real buzz being part of a crowd tweeting an event. You are making a small, but positive contribution for the benefit of a community. I am never lonely at conferences because a conference is a chance for me to meet people who I have connected with previously on Twitter and I can meet new friends through the conference Twitter stream. Continue reading →
Conference participants took lots of photos of the beautiful Newcastle sunsets they saw. This photo was taken by Natalie Fong.
Some great online history resources were shared by historians tweeting the recent Australian Historical Association conference (#OzHA2017). I have trawled through a lot of links to bring to you some of the useful and interesting history resources that caught my eye.
Several presenters have very generously shared their conference papers online:
Tweeting a conference is great, but blogging a conference adds depth that is hard to convey in a series of 140 character tweets. I have not found any blog posts about the conference written during the event, but some have been written after the conference:
This word cloud shows frequency of words used in the abstracts of papers delivered at concurrent sessions at the 2017 Australian Historical Association conference. Generated using Voyant.
The annual gathering of historians in Australia is big. This year there were nearly 300 papers delivered in concurrent sessions. Yesterday I blogged about the keynotes and plenary panels. Today I will have a look at the masses of papers delivered by over three hundred historians. Before you recoil in horror at the prospect of a very lengthy post, I assure you that I will be giving a very broad overview with a closer look at a few topics. Continue reading →