Australia day is celebrated on 26th January, and we took the occasion to ask a few questions of the folks at the Royal Australian Historical Society (RAHS), who recently joined Historypin. We fully intend to take them up on their offer of tea the next time we’re in Sydney, and hope you do too!
Can you tell us a little bit about the RAHS and its history?
The RAHS is a voluntary organisation that exists to encourage the study of and interest in Australian history. It provides opportunities for people to engage with Australian history in a number of different ways: participating in historical research; attending lectures, discussions, tours, conferences and workshops; enjoying RAHS publications; using the RAHS library and online resources. The Society was founded in 1901 at a time when history in Australia was very British in origin and focus. RAHS members were at the forefront of promoting all aspects of Australia’s past including Aboriginal, colonial, convict and migrant experiences. In 1906 the Society began to publish the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (JRAHS), now the longest established journal on Australian history. The RAHS continues to build on its pioneering origins to reflect the changing ways in which we can engage with the past. However we do like to honour old traditions. So if people are visiting Sydney, they are more than welcome to drop into History House, home of the RAHS, and have a cup of tea.
Why did you choose Historypin as a platform to share some of your collections, and how does it fit into RAHS strategy?
The founding members of the RAHS believed that it was critical to establish photographic collections that captured Australia’s history. Their focus in 1901 was on preserving images of buildings that were to be demolished by Sydney City Council. By 1917 the Society’s glass slide collection was established, with the donation of 180 slides by James Watson, the Society’s Honorary Secretary. Many of the slides in this collection were used by members to illustrate lectures and were also reproduced in the JRAHS. Historypin is therefore an ideal platform for the RAHS since it continues this tradition of openness and accessibility to images that help us understand the changing nature of the spaces in which we live and work.
Tell us a bit about the collections you’re featuring and how you chose them.
We have been featuring images from the RAHS photographic collection that includes over 20,000 original glass and film negatives, slides and prints. The way in which the RAHS approaches its selection of images and collections for inclusion on Historypin is largely based on what the RAHS is engaged with at a particular time. Our initial focus has been on images taken and collected by former president of the RAHS, Frank Walker (1861 – 1948). Walker cycled almost 35,000 kilometres around New South Wales taking thousands of images on glass plate negatives. In 1913, Walker was President of the RAHS in the centenary year of the first crossing of the Blue Mountains by European explorers. In 2013 we featured images Walker captured during the centenary celebrations, including glass slides and cuttings from the scrapbooks he compiled. In 2014 the RAHS will be looking to have collections connected to what happened after Europeans crossed the mountains, in particular the impact of European inland settlement of New South Wales.
Do you have a favorite image on Historypin from your collection?
The RAHS is currently putting together a collection that explores the way in which Australians celebrated the Sesquicentenary of European settlement in 1938, and of the various meanings attributed to Australia’s national day. This collection will act as a fitting lead up to Australia Day 2014, when the RAHS will open the doors of its beautiful heritage building ‘History House’ to the public and will host talks on Australian history by its own historians. Our favourite image at the moment shows the ‘Peter’s Ice Cream’ float on parade on Australia Day 1938 (above). The detail and workmanship of the float in the image illustrates the enthusiasm with which Australians took to celebrating its national day. We also like the fact that eating ice cream meant ‘ stepping to health’ in 1938.
For those of us not familiar, what is Australia Day and how do people celebrate it?
Australia Day, the 26th January, marks the anniversary of the arrival of the British First Fleet in 1788. Modern Australia is a nation of diversity and the way in which it is celebrated and commemorated has evolved over time. It wasn’t until 1935 that all the Australian states and territories started to even use the term ‘Australia Day’ to mark the arrival of the First Fleet. In 2014 Australia Day is celebrated with community festivals, concerts and citizenship ceremonies, in many communities and cities around the country. However it is not just a day of celebration, but one of commemoration. Members of the Indigenous community have regarded it as a day of British invasion, and subsequently a major turning point in the history of the Australian Aboriginal community. The 1938 sesquicentenary was, therefore, commemorated by some as a Day of Mourning.
More information on the history of Australia Day and the 2014 activities can be found at http://www.australiaday.org.au/.
Does your organization have something you’d like to share with readers of the Historypin blog, an anniversary or special new collection shared on Historypin? Let us know as we’d love to feature it!