The Orphan Schools

This year marks the 150th anniversary of public education in Tasmania.

To help us understand where we’ve come from (and perhaps where we’re going!) the librarians and archivists of the State Library and Archive Service are producing a series of blogs on the history of public education in Tasmania. These aren’t comprehensive – rather, they’re snapshots of places, people, and institutions, as well as a guide to the resources we hold at the State Library. Some of the common themes that feature throughout the blogs are concerns about the curriculum; about health, physical fitness, and nutrition; about sanitation; about industrial training and academic outcomes. But these blogs are also something more – they’re about the history of childhood in Tasmania, and how our view of children – and what education means – has changed since the nineteenth century. We hope you enjoy the journey!

The Orphan Schools established in Hobart in 1828 were an early form of public education, but a harsh one. Their aim was to transform poor children into ‘respectable’ industrious adults. The system was cruel even by the standards of the day – based on discipline, religion, punishment and control. Most of the children were not true orphans, but the children of convict parents, whose imprisonment and work for the convict system prevented the parents from caring for them. Others were the children of the unemployed, destitute, or those that the authorities perceived to be leading immoral lives. Some Aboriginal children were institutionalised as well. All were separated from their parents, housed in cold rooms with no fires and poor sanitation; disease was rampant and mortality was high.

What follows is not easy reading, and it is not suitable material for young children. The story is characterized by cruelty, abuse, and neglect, but also by tremendous resilience, resistance, and compassion. The historical records in the Tasmanian Archives tell this story – and throughout this blog, we will link to them. You, the reader and researcher, can choose to follow the story further in as much in depth as you choose to.

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“Wild Delight of the People”: Tasmania rejoices as peace declared, 11 November 1918

On the evening 11th of November, 1918, everyone in Tasmania was holding their breath. At any moment, news of the Armistice – the official end of the War – was expected. Every minute must have been agony.  In an era where news could flash from one end of the world to the other in mere seconds, when men had taken to the skies, when pictures could move, and while men were still dying in the mud of Flanders, this waiting was torture. But it was all you could do – stand outside the newspaper offices, bite your nails, and wait, wait, wait. This story is about the moment that the wait stopped, and a roar of joy erupted before the guns on the Western Front finally fell silent.

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Two forgotten bushranger plays

For more than 200 years, bushrangers have captured the imagination of storytellers and audiences alike.  Their exploits have inspired songs, books, and, of course, plays. Read on to find out more about two forgotten bushranger plays that span the centuries and the globe, from the floorboards of the Royal Coburg Theatre in London to the airwaves of Tasmanian radio.

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A Peek Inside the Cascades Female Factory, 1833-1834, and a New Digital Volunteer Expedition

 

At the foot of Mount Wellington stands the remains of a forbidding institution.  Nearly two centuries ago, the walls of the Cascades Female Factory housed hundreds of women, children and babies. Some of these convict women were waiting to go to new masters, others were being punished. Now you can help to tell their stories through our newest digital volunteering project, transcribing the Register of Female Convicts at the Cascades Female Factory, 1833-1834.

 

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Take Cover! Tasmania’s WWII Air Raid Shelters

The next time you’re in Franklin Square, consider this: you’re standing on an air raid shelter. In 1942, the ground beneath your feet was dug up by Civil Defence Force volunteers –  ordinary Hobart residents protecting their neighbours, families, and friends from enemy attack. All around Tasmania, people were digging shelters – in their backyards, at their children’s schools, and in public parks. It’s an amazing story of spirit and pluck in a time of darkness.

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Island Life: The Volunteer Work and Photographs of Trauti and David Reynolds

At the end of National Volunteers Week, we wanted to take a moment both to thank our volunteers, and to highlight a new collection that tells stories of volunteering in Tasmania’s historic and wild places. These are the photograph albums of  Trauti and David Reynolds, which document their volunteer and conservation work around Tasmania over many years. Thanks to their generous donation, these albums are now digitized and available to everyone. 

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Adventurous Beginnings – Te Bibilia Tapu Ra

Books travel. Throughout their lives, they are passed from hand to hand: given, borrowed, stolen, buried, discovered. Like all travelers, they also gather stories. This is the story of the Raratongan Bible, Te Bibilia Tapu Ra,  in the Australian Collection of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office. It begins on a Pacific island and ends in Tasmania, and its story is fascinating. Interested? Read on!

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The Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery

Have you ever driven past the Alexandra Battery in Sandy Bay and wondered what it was for? Have you ever heard rumours of a planned Russian invasion of Tasmania in the 19th century? As Anzac Day approaches, we’d like to share the story of the Southern Volunteer Artillery Regiment with you. Thanks to our new corps of online volunteers, we can now tell this amazing story in a new way, preserve it for future generations, and maybe even link it to your own family history. Intrigued? Want to get involved? Read on!

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A convict portrayal: The Lewis family portraits by Thomas Bock

Nothing said ‘I’m important’ in 19th century Van Diemen’s Land more than having your portrait done.

The convict artist Thomas Bock was Hobart’s most fashionable portrait painter in the 1840s. The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts has possibly the largest collection of Bock’s works, and it has just expanded to include an extensive range of portraits of the Lewis family, made between 1835 and 1854.

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Jewelled Nights: The Surprising Story of Two Tasmanian Women and their Lost Silent Film

Almost a century ago, two Tasmanian women wrote and produced a lost classic of Australian cinema. Set in the osmiridium mining fields of Tasmania’s Western Wilderness, Jewelled Nights was one of the first productions of its kind, created by the novelist Marie Bjelke Petersen and the silent film actress Louise Lovely in 1924.

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