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150 Years of Tasmanian Railways

From staggering feats of engineering and the enabling of complex mining operations, to employment for men and women and family social outings, for 150 years railways have played an important role in the economic and social history of Tasmania.  The story of the Tasmanian Railways is one of great successes, but also of hardships, economic failures, and disasters. It is a colourful and dynamic history.

In this series of blogs, we highlight a couple of colourful figures and incidents in the history of Tasmanian railways to highlight the human and social side of the railways. Railways provided livelihoods for a range of different people, not just those who were employed as drivers or engineers, but for the community at large. We will focus on the social life that popped up around the railways, the hubs of activities and social life that developed in Tasmania around or directly because of the railway. 

In concert with these blogs we are celebrating the occasion with an exhibition of railway records and memorabilia in our State Library Reading Room, which will then travel to libraries around the state.

We have also released a new and expansive Tasmanian Railway Guide to our railway records, which should greatly assist researchers who want to delve into those intricate technical drawings, expansive line plans and registers of rolling stock.

The Railway Rate, a Riot, and the Railway Hotel at Longford

On the 1st March 1874,  a large and rowdy mob marched through the streets of Longford, Northern Tasmania, making a great racket by shouting and banging on instruments made of ‘kerosene tins and marrow-bones.’  The mob stopped in front of the Prince of Wales Hotel, yelling at the landlord Mr Bryant and threatening to smash his windows with stones. The mob was angry because bailiffs were staying at the hotel, and they did not believe that these bailiffs deserved such comforts.  Mr Bryant eventually managed to subdue them, but the mob instead turned their attention to the nearby windows of the sub-collector of the railway rate, William Mason, where they ‘fired a salute at the back windows … and demolished about a dozen squares of glass.’  Still unsatisfied, the mob moved next door to Dr Appleyard’s house, and launched missiles ‘as large as hen’s eggs’ smashing windows and some woodwork. The angry mob then disappeared, it is reported, ‘as if by magic’. 

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Back to the office with a Victorian letter copying press

Earlier this year the State Library became the grateful recipient of a donated copying press. Initially described to us as a book press, our research uncovered its true magnificence as an invention with origins harking back to the Industrial Revolution.

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Recently Digitised Material: October-December 2020

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this post contains images and voices of deceased persons.

This blog features some of the recently digitised items from the Tasmanian Archives and the State Library of Tasmania. Each year, we place items online to help promote and preserve our rare and special collections. These images and films are just a tiny sample of an amazing treasure trove of Tasmania’s heritage. From colonial artwork to convict records, fragile glass plate negatives to rare films, private letters to government records, our collections (including the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts and the W L Crowther Collection) tell millions of stories from Tasmania and around the world.

Read on to find out more about our new additions to our digital collections! To discover even more, you can also search our catalogue or visit us on Flickr and YouTube.

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Recently Digitised Material

This blog features some of the recently digitised items from the Tasmanian Archives and the State Library of Tasmania. Each year, we place items online to help promote and preserve our rare and special collections. These images and films are just a tiny sample of an amazing treasure trove of Tasmania’s heritage. From colonial artwork to convict records, from fragile glass plate negatives to rare films, from private letters to government records, our collections (including the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts and the W L Crowther Collection) tell literally millions of stories from Tasmania and around the world.

Read on to find out more about our new additions to our digital collections! To discover even more, you can also search our catalogue or visit us on Flickr and YouTube.

Continue reading “Recently Digitised Material”

Esther’s Story, Part Three: The Cascades Female Factory and Brickfields Invalid Depot, 1870-1877

In 1870, a horrific assault took place at the Cascades Female Factory. At eight o’clock in the morning on the 13th of July, a woman named Eliza Osborne beat an elderly woman named Ellen Conway with the iron dinner bell. She hit her in the head so hard that the bell cracked. Ellen Conway was a 73 year old ex-convict who had been sent to the depot for begging. One of the people who rushed to her side to help her was the nurse, Mrs Cecilia Eliza Paul. A few kilometers away (about 25 minutes’ walk), the nurse’s daughter ten year old Esther Mary Paul was also a witness – to her uncle George’s marriage at the family home at Cross Street, Sandy Bay.

This week in Esther’s story, we break away from the whaling logbook where we first found her as a five year old girl. Now we’ll trace her and her parents through two institutions which housed the most vulnerable people in Hobart in the 1870s – the Brickfields Invalid Depot and the Cascades Establishment. To piece that story together, we have to jump forward and backward in time a little bit, but I promise it is worth the journey!

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Esther’s Story, Part Two: Getting By in Hobart, 1860-1870

“Cross Street, Sandy Bay Road,” “Be a good girl, Esther,” “Esther shall not go out again,” “Bombay is in Asia, ABC,” “Evil communication corrupts,” “Love your grandmother Esther” – each of these were written over and over again in a whaler’s logbook, and signed “Esther Mary Paul” in November or December, 1865. What was little Esther doing writing these lines, in -between and alongside the records of her uncle and aunt’s adventures at sea long before she was born? Was she being educated or punished, or both? Where was she living and why was she there? In this continuing story of little Esther Mary Paul and the whaling logbook in the Crowther Collection, we’ll try to piece together Esther’s young life. It’s a tale of sorrow, struggle, and abandonment, but also of strength, resilience, and love.

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Esther’s Story, Part One: The Whaler’s Log

In November of 1865, a five year old girl named Esther sat in a house in Sandy Bay, writing lines in a small, leather-bound book. Some days, she had geography lessons. Some days, she was in trouble. Some days, she just needed to memorize her new address. Two months came and went, and the little girl wrote line after line. Her notebook had once belonged to her Uncle William, and recorded his whaling voyages to the Pacific Ocean and the Timor Sea. In the spaces in-between the stories of whales and gales, little Esther did her school work. So did her Aunt Charlotte, who copied out poems and ballads for the little girl to memorize. Aunt Charlotte knew that logbook well, for it was the record of her own honeymoon at sea, nine years earlier. Now it became a part of a different family story – of tragedy, loss, love, abandonment, and survival.

Esther’s Story is actually the story of three nineteenth-century women: Esther Mary Paul (Lithgow), her mother Cecilia Eliza (Rowland) Paul, and her aunt Charlotte Ann (Rowland) Jacobs. Over Family History Month, we’ll follow these women through three blogs and fifty years of their lives, using digital collections together with library and archival resources. It’s a tale of adventure, improvisation, and resilience, but it’s also something else. It’s a reminder – of how our own historical present can change how we think about the past. Read on to discover more.

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Collecting history as it happens – COVID-19 Stories campaigns across Australia

A Libraries Tasmania and TMAG partnership, COVID-19 Stories, is reaching out to Tasmanians to capture their stories and records of the pandemic. COVID-19 Stories is just one of many projects across Australia aiming to preserve memories of this historic time. Stories – big and small – are needed to fully record this story. With enough public input these wide-ranging projects will allow us to capture the diverse experiences of our community as we faced, and carried on through, a life-changing, worldwide pandemic.

COVID-19 STORIES Submission – J Davidson
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The Conservation Treatment of CRO5/1/33

About 170 years ago, a prominent Hobart doctor made a series of anatomical drawings for local medical students. Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall’s stunning illustrations later ended up in the hands of his fellow medical practitioner, Sir William Crowther, who donated them (with the rest of his considerable collection) to the State Library of Tasmania. But the drawings were in poor condition, neglected for well over a century, and they needed urgent conservation treatment before they could be displayed. What follows is the story of how our conservator, Stephanie McDonald, brought one of the drawings back to life for Lauren Black’s new exhibition, A Complex Beauty at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition will soon be available online as a ‘walk-through’ digital experience (in the meantime, you can check it out on Flickr). Read on to discover more!

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