South Australia’s History Festival 2017 in Review

Well May came, and May went … and to say it flew by is an understatement. So that means bye, bye to South Australia’s History Festival for another year.

As far as attending events, I did better this year than I have in the past, as I planned ahead and made sure I booked into things early, and I even managed to get a little time off to go to some but I had to stop looking at the program, as I was just getting annoyed at all the awesome things on, that I couldn’t get to.

Anyway I promised a mini review of the events I went to, so here goes …

Friday 5 May 2017 & Saturday 6 May 2017
Exploring & Writing Family & Local History seminar
organised by Unlock the Past
This seminar was organised by my work, so I was partly working at the event (manning the Gould Genealogy display tables). But as our tables were in the same room the talks, I got to hear them too. There was 16 talks packed into 2 days, so it was pretty full on, but the talks were great, and much was learned. There was a great turnout for the event with a number coming from country South Australia, and even a few from interstate. I’m not going to write a review of each talk, but there was many great points gained from them. House history, maps, DNA, writing your history, oral history, photos, black sheep and so much more was covered. As a bonus I got to catch up with two fellow geneabloggers, and that’s a real treat as there doesn’t seem to be too many of us in South Australia.

and w're ready to go ...

and we’re ready to go …

Kerry Farmer giving an Introduction to DNA talk to the group

Kerry Farmer giving an Introduction to DNA talk to the group

South Aussie geneabloggers L-R: Joanne Mew, Alona Tester (yes, me), and Jenni Gay

South Aussie geneabloggers L-R: Joanne Mew, Alona Tester (yes, me), and Jenni Gay

Monday 8 May 2017
Meet the Old Colonists photographs display
organised by the State Library of South Australia
When I heard about this display, I knew it was something I had to go and see. … and it was totally worthwhile. These huge photographs are a collage of around 500 men and 500 women all who were ‘pioneers’ of South Australia (meaning they arrived in South Australia prior to 1841) and were members of the Old Colonists’ Association. I do have a number of ancestors who fit into the ‘old colonists’ category, but I don’t know if they were members of the Association. However I did find a 3x great grandpa pictured there, so that was very cool. There is an amazing story behind these incredible pictures. You can read more about them here:

This display wasn’t put up “just” for History Month. My understanding is that it’s there permanently. So whenever you’re in the city and near the State Library of SA, pop in, go upstairs and check out these spectacular photos for yourself.

South Australia's Old Colonist's photos at the State Library of South Australia

South Australia’s Old Colonist’s photos at the State Library of South Australia. The men’s photo is the one on the left, with the women’s photo on the right.

Monday 8 May 2017
Bringing the Past to Life: Destitute Asylum
organised by the Migration Museum
Destitute records aren’t records I’ve ventured into as yet, but I do know that at least one family member found herself in and out of the system, so I thought this would be a good talk to go and learn about them. Held in the city at the Migration Museum (which is the where the old Destitute Asylum used to be), staff from State Records SA came to show and discuss the types of records you’ll find they hold that relate to those who were at the Asylum. They explained how records at the Destitute Asylum are often the only record available for that person. Truly incredible, and very sad, but these records are amazing. We also had a tour of the a portion of the Migration Museum, which used to be the Women’s Lying-In Hospital, and head about the babies that were born and died there.

printed on the floor of the old Lying-In Hospital

printed on the floor of the old Lying-In Hospital

and looking up ... details of all 1683 babies who were born in that hospital

and looking up … details of all 1678 babies who were born in that hospital

written on the window ion the old Lying-In Hospital

written on the window ion the old Lying-In Hospital

one of the original ledger books from the Desitute Asylum

one of the original ledger books from the Destitute Asylum

Thursday 18 May 2017
Adelaide Arcade Ghost Tour
organised by Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons Ghost Tours
Doing a tour of the Adelaide Arcade was something that I’d wanted to do last year during History Festival, but missed out. So this time I booked early. Mr Lonetester even came with me to this, and we joined a group of others for a two hour history lesson and walking tour of the Adelaide Arcade.

The tour started at 7.30pm on a Thursday night, after all the shops had closed, and that itself was an interesting feeling being the only ones in Rundle Mall at that time. We learnt about when and how the place was built. We learnt that it’s the oldest Arcade in Australia having opened in 1885, and that incredibly it took only 5 months to build? Along with the 50 shops downstairs with housing for the shopkeepers upstairs, it was also the first (or one of the first) to have electric lighting in Adelaide, so it was very fancy indeed! And did you know that there were public baths in a portion of the Arcade? What about the downstairs tearooms?

And have you heard of Francis Cluney? He was the caretaker of the Arcade until a tragic accident there in 1887. It is said that his ghost roams the corridors there. The security guard who came with us on the tour, talked about strange things he’s encountered while working there, along with stories from current tenants.

We were taken in side corridors, storage rooms, upstairs, down into the basement (which was the old tearooms) and more. Unless you hear the history of this place as you tour it, you really don’t appreciate it.

I am now completely fascinated by this place and can’t believe I didn’t know the history of it before. Anyway stay tuned for more on the Arcade, there’s amazing history and stories here which I’ll write about in more detail.

the Adelaide Arcade, taken May 2017

the Adelaide Arcade

Adelaide Arcade Founstation Stone was laid on 6 May 1885

the Foundation Stone was laid on 6 May 1885

Adelaide Arcade, taken May 2017

Adelaide Arcade lower floor

the original stairs still in what was the old tearooms

the original stairs still in what was the old tearooms

Sunday 21 May 2017
Archives Open! State Records SA Open Day
organised by State Records SA
The Open Day at State Records started at 10am and went for most of the day with talks, tours and a bbq lunch. As the talks and tours were repeated I found I didn’t need to stay all day, which worked out well as I had another event I wanted to get to.

Anyway the State Records SA was established back in 1919 “to collect and preserve the archival records of the South Australian State Government”. Since then they now have over 70 kilometres of records on shelves in their collection. They are the place to look for immigration records, colonial secretary’s records, land records (titles and maps), schools, social welfare and hospital records, law enforcement (including prison and trials), public employees (including teachers, railway workers and more), local government records including rate books, and WW1 photos. They have a collection of photos of over 3000 South Australian’s who were in WW1. These are in the process of being digitised and put up on Flickr.

If you haven’t been to State Records SA before or haven’t been on the “behind the scenes” tour … it’s mind blowing. And I have no doubt that while it seems large, I’m sure it’s small compared to many other archives interstate and around the world. Still it is awesome to see so many of our State’s records being preserved.

And it’s a good reminder of just how many records AREN’T online, and that I should visit them more.

State Records of South Australia

State Records of South Australia

State Records of South Australia Open Day 2017

the Open Day program

State Records of South Australia

sample records: school records, hospital records, criminal record books, land records and more!

Sunday 21 May 2017
The Tintype Traveller 
organised by the South Australian Maritime Museum
The Tintype Traveller was part of the “Retro Lens” event put on by the South Australian Maritime Museum, where they had a whole day dedicated to learning about and participating in vintage photography.

My interest though was purely in visiting the Tintype Traveller to get an old tintype portrait picture taken. The Tintype Traveller is a vintage caravan that has been converted into a custom-designed darkroom, which allows photographers the ability to use traditional photographic processes on location.

So I went to Port Adelaide and found their caravan, but what I didn’t count was them having been booked up in advance. So alas, I didn’t get my picture taken which was disappointing. However the lovely people from the Tintype Traveller let me stand and watch the process of developing the tin photos in their caravan, so that was very cool.

Anyway I’ll just have to keep an eye out and see where they’ll be taking their caravan next, and try to get in.

the Tintype Traveller caravan

the Tintype Traveller caravan

Tintype Traveller

setting up for another photograph

As I don’t have any tintype photographs to show you, I’ll simply direct you to a video that they have produced, and to their Facebook Page, which has a number of pics they’ve taken. And you can read more about them here.

Sunday 27 May 2017
Caring for your Digital Collections talk
organised by the State Library of South Australia
While I believe that I’m fairly au fait with keeping things safe and up to date as far as storage and accessing digital records etc. I felt this would be good to go to, as there’s always something to learn.

Kate Pulford who is an Archivist at the State Library of SA says that we “need to monitor and protect your digital memories”. Emails, websites, photos, scans all classify as a “digital collection”. A key phrase she used was that “digital information is fragile. Once it is list, it can be lost forever”. So she suggests making a plan to review your storage methods every 3-5 years and migrate to a newer method as required. For instance who has backups on old 31/4″ floppy disk? Can you still access them? What about CD-ROMs? So many computers these days come without a CD drive, so it won’t be long before they are obsolete. She also showed those at the talk her method of recording what was what on each storage device and when it was last backed up. For this she simply uses an Excel spreadsheet.

And just for information she did advocate using the cloud, but only as a 3rd backup option. Instead use option 1 and 2 (external harddrives placed in separate locations) first.

SA History Festival talk

talk at the State Library of SA

Sunday 27 May 2017
Adelaide’s Pop-up Bookshop
organised by Adelaide’s Pop-Up Bookshop
This was one event I have to say I was very disappointed with … advertised as :

“Hundreds of South Australian history books have been specifically brought in to be explored, including a rare copy of Lost Adelaide – a treat for history buffs! Transport yourself to other times and places with histories on local regions and families. Books available for viewing and purchase.”

Held in Adelaide’s Central Market I found the range the Pop-up Bookshop had was very limited, and the prices seemed pricey. But anyway, I’m sure they would have appealed to some. But honestly I found the Central Market Bookshop (also in the markets) more interesting.

Adelaide's Pop-Up Bookshop in the Central Market

Adelaide’s Pop-Up Bookshop in the Central Market. By the look of that lock I assume there were the super-duper pricey books

Central Markets Books

Central Markets Books … this is more my style

As always there was at least another 100 things I would have loved to have gone to, but time and work didn’t allow it … still I got to go to some, and enjoyed learning more about records and South Australia’s history.

But that’s it for another year of South Australian’s History Festival events. With 356 different organisers, and over 600 events held it was a HUGE month. I just hope that even a portion of them will consider holding an event (or even the same event) for National Family History Month in August, that would be awesome.

And one last shoutout must go to the History Trust of SA, who are the co-ordinators of this event. Without their organisation and promotion, History Month simply wouldn’t happen. THANKYOU … you’ve done an awesome job, and I’m sure that it’s because of the backend organisation that the event continues to grow each year.

One Response to “South Australia’s History Festival 2017 in Review”

  1. David Carter says:

    Thank you for that interesting read. My eldest son and I and another chap went down to Mt Gambier (just over an hours drive) for this display which I believe was also part of the History Festival.

    Our particular interest was in the photography side of things and the old buildings. We arrived just as the official opening was finishing on the first day, but by all accounts they had good numbers each of the days it was open.

    (not sure how the link to the Mt Gambier History Group flyer will go)

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