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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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Tales of the Unexpected

We’ve just finished celebrating Family History Month, which offered us an opportunity to reflect on some of the unexpected connections to be found in Libraries Tasmania’s archival and heritage collections. In this post, we explore four ‘rare books’ that were not written here, not published here, not about Tasmania in any way, but which unfold extraordinary Tasmanian stories through the history of their ownership and use. From a 17th century Bible once held in royal hands, to a 19th century tanner’s technical manual, here are some tales of the unexpected uncovered in the State Library of Tasmania.

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Teaching in Tasmania: three teachers’ lives, 1868-1945

We can only imagine what it must have been like to be the first teacher in Tasmania. Jane Noel was a Sydney schoolmistress who began a private school in a hut in a lane off the lower end of Collins Street in Hobart Town in 1806. What follows is a brief look at the lives of three of Jane’s successors between 1868 and 1945.  It is also a research journey, investigating the sometimes dark nooks and crannies of the collections of the Tasmanian State Library and Archives.  What you think you will find on these journeys is sometimes very different than what you begin looking for, but it is always illuminating.

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From “Dangerously Foul Air” to Free School Milk: A Brief History of Public Health in Tasmanian Public Schools, 1900-1975

Schools with no toilets and no sinks to wash your hands. Sick children labelled as “mentally deficient” because of their swollen adenoids and tonsils. Adolescents with a full set of dentures, little children cleaning their teeth with the corner of a sooty towel. A generation of teenagers with curved spines and poor eyesight from bending over their school desks in poorly lit and freezing cold classrooms. This was the picture of public health in Tasmanian schools in 1906. Over the next 75 years, schools found themselves on the front lines of the battle against contagious disease, poor nutrition and poor health. Over time, Tasmanian public schools became a crucial part of the Tasmanian public health system, and transformed the lives of thousands of Tasmanian children. Read on to find out more about this fascinating story.

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Reading, Writing & Arithmetic: The Public School Curriculum 150 Years Ago

What would you have learned at a Tasmanian public school in 1869? Mostly, just reading, writing and arithmetic, from a teacher not much older than yourself, in a class of 40-60 students, and in a textbook that your grandfather might have read in Ireland thirty years earlier. The texts might have been boring and out of date, but the reasons why are fascinating. That’s because the public school curriculum in 1869 was deliberately designed to be bland and uninteresting, in order to avoid social conflict. What follows is the story of a journey – from the idea that education needed to reform and contain children, to the radical idea that children in public schools should be inspired to learn, and to become curious and informed citizens. Read on to discover more!

For an audio introduction to this story, check out our interview with ABC Radio!

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