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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.

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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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The History of the Bream Creek Show: 1896 – the Present

The Bream Creek Show Society recently donated a collection of its posters from the 1930s to the 1950s to Libraries Tasmania. Whilst we already held some samples of Bream Creek posters, the donation by the Show committee means that we now have a solid and substantial record of this iconic rural event. With the 2020 Show one of the many public events cancelled in this particular historical moment, we are publishing this blog as a celebration of the Show’s long history – and look forward to its re-emergence in 2021.

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Tasmania’s Area Schools

In the 1930’s, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, Tasmanian educators came up with a bold new vision to transform rural schools. They wanted to teach the latest in agricultural science, to instil a lifelong love of learning, and to help Tasmanian rural children develop into informed citizens of a modern democracy. They ended up creating a model that was admired around Australia and the world: the Tasmanian Area School.

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Charles Gould’s Mythical Monsters

Research is not a straight path. It is a trail that twists through mountains and valleys. There are forks in the road and enticing sights that lay off the beaten track. These distractions can be the most treacherous aspects of the journey. Often they can be so alluring that one can forget where one was going in the first place. I stumbled across one of these tangents recently while researching the life and work of Charles Gould (1834-1893), a journey that took me from Tasmania’s wild west coast to mainland China, from giant freshwater crayfish to dragons, and from natural history to the realms of myth.

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A History of Play: Early Childhood Education in Tasmania

Firstly, a confession. I have struggled to write this blog, to gather references and to find a quiet space to write an intelligent, interesting, engaging and informative piece on the history of early childhood education in Tasmania. My first effort was informative, but it seemed to lack something, and I wasn’t happy with it.  

Then, one day, I had an epiphany while walking after work. I feel an immense pride in the public education system in Tasmania. I send both my boys to public schools on the Eastern Shore in Southern Tasmania. My father was a well-loved, enthusiastic and dedicated Physics and Maths teacher in both public and private schools in Northern Tasmania. I still recall him enthusiastically telling me, “Tasmania has the best public education system in Australia.” When I studied at University, I was constantly meeting his past students whose choices were in some way inspired by his teaching methods.

This is how education began in Tasmania – with inspired, talented people dedicated to improving the lives of Tasmanian children.  

While researching this blog, I discovered one such person, Joseph Benson Mather, who was determined to provide an education to Tasmania’s poorest children. I and my colleagues went on to find dozens of stories of devoted parents, dedicated teachers, and generous communities who believed that young Tasmanian children deserved high quality early childhood education. Together, they laid the groundwork for early childhood education in Tasmania today, where amazing teachers encourage little children to learn through play, to be curious, and to love school.

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