The Diaries of a WWI Soldier

Soldiers Diaries AdvCThere were many advertisements just like the one above, placed in newspapers around Australia after the end of World War I. The soldiers of Australia’s citizen army had finally returned and some of them brought with them intimate historical records of the war – the diaries they had composed on the battlefronts. The principal librarian of the State Library of New South Wales, supported by the Library’s trustees, recognised the value of these records and set about collecting them through these advertisements.

The European War Collecting Project is a significant collection held by the State Library of NSW. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in these soldier diaries. The volunteers at the State Library have done a tremendous amount of work transcribing them which is enabling me to examine the diaries digitally.

I am still in the midst of working with these diaries but I realised early on that the diaries of Archie Barwick are a significant part of this collection. The day after I had quickly glanced at one of his diaries I received an invitation to a book launch at the State Library of New South Wales. Harper Collins has recognised the significance of his diaries and has now released these diaries in book form.

four people gathered around a table looking at the original diaries.

Looking at Archie Barwick’s diaries at the launch: Elise Edmonds (State Library NSW), David Hassall, Judy Hassall and Alex Byrne (State Librarian, State Library NSW). Photographer: Joy Lai, State Library of NSW.

Continue reading

GLAMming it Up – Two Days in Melbourne

Entrance to State Library of Victoria

State Library of Victoria

Galleries, libraries, archives and museums are known as the GLAM institutions. I spend a lot of time in these places doing research, but I also enjoy visiting exhibitions and taking behind the scenes tours.  When I travel I try to squeeze in an exhibition or two.  Unfortunately I find that I often don’t have much time to do this so I either miss out or I have to cram as much as I can into a short space of time.

I’ve written previously about my two-day GLAM tour of Canberra.  Last month I did a similar two-day intensive GLAM tour of Melbourne. So hold onto your hats and breathe deeply. My whirlwind tour is about to begin! Continue reading

Public Education: It’s Not Just About Schools

Mildura Carnegie Lirary

Mildura’s Carnegie Library with WWI memorial tower.
Photo by Mattinbgn (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When we talk about public education we immediately think of schools. Increasingly we are recognising that education is a life-long endeavour and with the explosion of the internet learning outside of the classroom and formal education systems is gaining increasing prominence.  Last week at the Buildings, Books and Blackboards conference in Melbourne we were encouraged to recognise that ‘public education’ throughout the last two hundred years has always encompassed more than the activities conducted in a school classroom.

This conference was about public education in the true sense of the word ‘public’.  Schools and libraries were considered important sites of learning. The libraries of the mechanics institutes played an important part in the education of many people.  This conference covered it all; the history of schools, libraries and mechanics institutes.

A highlight of the conference was the session about the Carnegie Corporation in the Antipodes.  Andrew Carnegie founded the corporation in order to “promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.”  Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin observed, “[t]he corporation will take from the shoulders of its founder the task of personally attending to his pet hobby of founding libraries here, there, and everywhere.”  The Morning Bulletin went on to note that the Corporation would also fund “technical schools, institutions of higher learning” etc. (Morning Bulletin, 23/12/1911, p. 6). Continue reading

Significant Historic Australian Education Collections – Deakin University, Geelong

Entrance to Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library

One of Australia’s most extensive collections for the history of education – the Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library at Deakin University, Geelong.

While working on the Teaching Reading in Australia project I had the opportunity to work in some of the best archives in Australia for the history of education.  These archives are significant repositories of Australian history.  Some don’t get the attention they deserve, others are well recognised but their education collections are little known.  In this, the first of a series of occasional posts on education archives in Australia, I share with you the delights of one of the most extensive education collections that I know of in Australia.  It is held by the Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library at Deakin University in the city of Geelong, Victoria. Continue reading

Top 10 Posts for 2011

two women playing cricket

We have had lots of fun playing family cricket on the nearby oval these holidays. Here I am wicket keeping while my sister-in-law is batting. Photo by Ian Woolward

Blogs and cricket have something important in common – statistics!  This week I’ve enjoyed spending lots of time with my family visiting from interstate and watching the exciting Boxing Day test match between India and Australia.  It was a great example of test cricket – four days of see-sawing between the teams until Australia finally won.   I tried to write a blog post while watching the cricket but the cricket was way too interesting for me to write anything worth posting.   Instead, I thought I would join the other bloggers out there and create a list of the posts on this blog that generated the most hits in 2011. Continue reading

GLAMming it up – Canberra in Two Days!

Old Parliament House, Canberra

The old Parliament House is now the Museum of Australian Democracy.

GLAM is an evocative acronym referring to Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums.  I had booked an extra couple of days in Canberra after attending a digital humanities ‘unconference’ (called THAT Camp Canberra), so I GLAMmed it up and visited some of our national cultural resources.  I had a ball, but there was a more serious motive behind it all.  Aside from generally opening my horizons, I wanted to become more familiar with the work of those cultural institutions of relevance or potential relevance to my work. Continue reading

Serendipitous Reading

books laid higgledy piggeldy on the floor

Some of the books I have found on discount tables and in secondhand bookshops over the last year.

Much is said about the importance of serendipity for research in the humanities. People extol the rewards gained from unexpectedly finding a relevant and fruitful book sitting on a bookshelf near the book that they had been initially seeking in the library.  This year I am no longer a student so I decided that I would read more broadly than I have in recent years. While I still have to be focussed in my reading for work, I have deliberately sought to increase my serendipitous reading.  In particular I wanted to read more about the aspects of history that I had either not been able to explore at university or if I had been able to I had not been able to read as much as I would have liked.  There are many, many historic themes and topics that fall in this category. Rather than systematically working my way through a carefully constructed list of reading, I decided to let serendipity govern and see where it would take me! Continue reading