New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Historical climate change on the Arabian peninsular, hominin occupation and the pattern of Aboriginal settlement of Sahul

The second lecture in my introductory course on the history of Australia's New England, the Tablelands and surrounding river valleys, traces the journey of the Aboriginal and Papuan ancestors from Africa until their arrival on the mega continent we now call Sahul. 

On 1 September 2021 an article by H S Groucutt et al was published in Nature that bears upon our story. The abstract including link to the paper follows. Comments follow the abstract.  

Pleistocene hominin dispersals out of, and back into, Africa necessarily involved traversing the diverse and often challenging environments of Southwest Asia. Archaeological and palaeontological records from the Levantine woodland zone document major biological and cultural shifts, such as alternating occupations by Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. However, Late Quaternary cultural, biological and environmental records from the vast arid zone that constitutes most of Southwest Asia remain scarce, limiting regional-scale insights into changes in hominin demography and behaviour. Here we report a series of dated palaeolake sequences, associated with stone tool assemblages and vertebrate fossils, from the Khall Amayshan 4 and Jubbah basins in the Nefud Desert. These findings, including the oldest dated hominin occupations in Arabia, reveal at least five hominin expansions into the Arabian interior, coinciding with brief ‘green’ windows of reduced aridity approximately 400, 300, 200, 130–75 and 55 thousand years ago. Each occupation phase is characterized by a distinct form of material culture, indicating colonization by diverse hominin groups, and a lack of long-term Southwest Asian population continuity. Within a general pattern of African and Eurasian hominin groups being separated by Pleistocene Saharo-Arabian aridity, our findings reveal the tempo and character of climatically modulated windows for dispersal and admixture.

Groucutt, H.S., White, T.S., Scerri, E.M.L. et al. Multiple hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia over the past 400,000 years. Nature (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03863-y

Comment

To the best of our present knowledge, the ancestors of the Aboriginal and Papuan peoples came out of Africa arriving in Sahul perhaps 65,000 years ago. This was during the Pleistocene, a period marked by ice ages separated by warmer periods. 

Today, Saudi Arabia is marked by arid deserts. This study suggests that the Arabian Peninsula experienced wetter green periods approximately 400, 300, 200, 130–75 and 55 thousand years ago. Each period was marked by different hominin occupations, with people withdrawing and reoccupying as the climate changed. 

From our viewpoint, the green period from 130-75,000 years ago would appear to fit with Aboriginal migration patterns given the present earliest indicated occupation date of c65,000 years ago.  

Postscript 

 An article in the Conversation  provides more commentary. Research reveals humans ventured out of Africa repeatedly as early as 400,000 years ago, to visit the rolling grasslands of Arabia  

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Armidale's buildings mirror the city's history


Laying of the foundation stone for the Armidale Teachers' College Building.This is the fifth in a series exploring the rise, fall and slow recovery of the city of Armidale.  

The story of Armidale’s rise, fall and slow recovery is mirrored in the city’s built landscape. 

The city’s expansion over the last two decades of the nineteenth century is mirrored in the large generally brick homes and commercial buildings concentrated in the CBD and on South Hill. While little evidence remains of Armidale’s manufacturing base, the generally weatherboard workmen’s cottages built for industrial and railway workers remain, especially in West Armidale. 

By the mid twenties, the still small city was prosperous enough, although growth had stalled. Then in 1927 came the decision to establish the Armidale Teachers’ College. 

I explored the remarkable story of its establishment in an earlier series of columns. For the present, it brought staff and students to Armidale that compensated many times over for the 1926 shift of St John’s Theological College to Morpeth. 

Construction also began on one of Armidale’s most iconic buildings, the Parthenon on the Hill.  

In 1929 the Great Depression struck. Around Australia, a third of the workforce lost their jobs. 

Even as depression struck, construction of the new college building was pushed ahead, pumping money into the local economy. There were fears that the College might close, but the project was too far advanced. 

Staff and student numbers were cut, but then recovered as the depression began to ease. Armidale grew from 4,738 people in 1922 to 6,794 in 1933. 

In terms of the built landscape, the 1920s saw the emergence of the California bungalow that forms such an important part of the Armidale streetscape. Then, in the 1930s, came the art deco period seen in some Beardy Street buildings in particular as increased wealth translated into new or modified buildings. 

We now come to the most important development of all, the establishment of the New England University College (NEUC), opening in 1938. 

Like the Teachers’ College, the establishment of NEUC came about because of a combination of particular events external to Armidale. 

Yes, funding from particular New England families such as the Whites was critical. Yes, the local organising committee played a critical role. Yes, Armidale’s existing educational structure was important. 

But all these things would have failed had it not been for a basic fact: as with the Armidale Teachers’ College, the new university college was seen as a Northern endeavour, one that drew support from across Northern NSW. 

In my next column I will carry the story through into Armidale’s rapid growth period. 

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020, here 2021 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The railway gave but took away - Armidale's manufacturing decline


In this Armidale panoramic view in 1922 some of Armidale's major buildings can be seen, but the main growth period lies ahead. This is the fourth in a series exploring the rise, fall and slow recovery of the city of Armidale.  

Without the coming of the railway to Armidale in 1883, the city could not have maintained its developing position as an educational centre. The railway also became a major local employer. But while the railway gave it also took away.

It is hard now to think of Armidale as a manufacturing centre, but by the coming of the railway it had developed its own small industrial base spreading to the west near the junction of Martin’s Gully and Dumaresq Creek and then along Dumaresq Creek towards the centre of the city. In all cases, access to water was central.

Industries included tanning, boot manufacturing, soap making, blacksmithing, brewing and flour milling. To the south and west of Armidale lay a belt of farming territory that fed grains to the local mills.

The railway gave local industry the chance to export product to broader markets, but also exposed local producers to outside competition. One by one, local manufacture shut down.

In brewing, the railways brought mass produced beer from Sydney along the railways spreading out from that city, closing the many locally produced beers across Northern NSW.

The railways also brought milled flour from as far away as South Australia. Neither local wheat growers nor local millers could compete. Similar things happened with other locally manufactured products.

Armidale had been a much bigger centre than Tamworth where the Australian Agricultural Company’s large land holdings had prevented growth. As the land opened up and farming grew, so did Tamworth.

By 1901, Tamworth’s population exceeded Armidale’s by 1,550 people. At the 1911 census, that gap had grown to 2,407 people.

Inverell had been growing from the combination of farming expansion and industrial activities servicing the tin and other mines on the Western side of the Tablelands. In 1901, its population was 956 less than Armidale’s. At the 1911 census, that gap had closed to 189 people.

Glen Innes, too, had grown quite rapidly. At the 1901 census, its population was 1,331 less than Armidale’s. At the 1911 census, Glen Innes was only 189 people behind.

Armidale’s problem lay in its small economic catchment area compared to other regional centres. Effectively, the city’s only sources of income were as a rural service centre serving the grazing industries of part of Southern New England combined with its role as a religious, administrative and educational centre.

By 1922, the city had some of the grand buildings that would later form part of its visitor attractions but was effectively in stagnation. Now came events that would put it on a growth path that would last to the 1980s.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020, here 2021 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Armidale's education base established


Founded in 1894, TAS was part of the education growth of Armidale. The photo shows Dorm 2 in 1913. Conditions were Spartan by today’s standards! This is the third in a series exploring the rise, fall and slow recovery of the city of Armidale  

The last decades of the nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth century saw the establishment of the educational base that would determine Armidale’s future. 

By 1923, Armidale had established an articulated school structure that was remarkable for its time and would be familiar to Armidale residents for the next fifty years.  

In public education, there were three primary schools:

  • Armidale Superior Public School (1865) later Armidale Demonstration School, later still Armidale City Public School
  • West End (1890), later West Armidale Public School, later still Drummond Memorial School
  • North Armidale (1900) late Ben Venue (1914).

These primary schools, along with those in the surrounding districts, fed into the newly established Armidale High School (from 1920, buildings completed 1923). With time, a number of Church hostels would be established to provide boarding accommodation for those attending Armidale High.

The Roman Catholic school system covered what is now St Mary’s Primary School (from 1848), St Ursula’s College (1882) and De La Salle College (1906). Both St Ursula’s and De La Salle provided boarding facilities.

The two Anglican boarding schools were the Armidale School (1894) and the New England Girls’ School (1895). In addition, the New England Ladies College had been established in 1887. Later this would become the Hilton School, later still the Presbyterian Ladies College.

Armidale also had its first tertiary institution, St John’s Theological College, established in 1898 to provide training to prospective Anglican clergy. This college would move to Morpeth in 1926.

These developments brought considerable economic and cultural benefits to the still small city. Boarders and the staff required to teach them brought economic benefits, as did construction associated with new school buildings.

The growth in the city’s educated class would feed into cultural and community activities and later into moves to bring new educational facilities to the city.

The developments could not have happened without the combination of the city’s role as a religious and administrative centre with the railway that made it easier for people to get to Armidale. But what the railway gave, it also took away.

I will look at this in my next column on the story of the rise, fall and slow recovery of Armidale. 

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020, here 2021 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Greater wealth came to Armidale

Mallam House is Armidale's best surviving example of a mid-Victorian fashionable house. Built in 1870 for Henry Guy Mallam to service the high end rental market, its first tenant was Bishop Timothy OMahony, Armidale's first Catholic Bishop.This is the second in a series exploring the rise, fall and slow recovery of the city of Armidale 

Four things contributed to Armidale’s growth over the second half of the nineteenth century: mining, agriculture, the coming of the railway and the city’s role as an administrative, religious and educational centre.

The first gold discovery came in 1851 at Swamp Oak Creek near Tamworth, followed by multiple rushes across the New England. Then came tin from 1871-72, diamonds (1875), copper (1876) and silver (1878)

From an Armidale perspective, the most important rushes were Rocky River (from 1852) and Hillgrove (from 1881), although there were a series of smaller rushes near Armidale.


Mining created demand for beef and other agricultural products and increased wages. Local demand increased. As it did, towns grew including Armidale and Uralla. 

Fortunes were won and lost in mining, more lost than won, but the extra capital generated by mining helped fund new building. Armidale’s Imperial Hotel (1890) was built from Hillgrove profits.

The Great Northern Railway reached Armidale in 1883.

The original plans for the railway had bypassed Armidale. The town and district (Armidale did not become a city until 1885) had sufficient political influence to redirect the line through Armidale.

It was a critical decision. Apart from direct jobs, the railways became Armidale’s biggest single employer, the north-south rail connection reinforced the new city’s position as an educational and administrative centre. Armidale as we know it could not have developed without the railway.

Construction of the line triggered a building boom that began in advance of the arrival of the line and continued for a decade after.

West End (now West Armidale) had already emerged as an industrial area, but now expanded near the new line as cottages were built to house railway and other workers.

Elsewhere in the city, greater wealth led to the construction of new homes, schools and commercial and official buildings. The Victorian city that still forms the architectural heart of the old city was in creation.

At the 1901 census, Armidale’s population had reached 4,249, rising to 4,736 at the 1911 census. There was great civic pride in the city’s progress. However, Armidale had begun to fall behind in relative terms.

Armidale had been the second largest town outside the Lower Hunter. Grafton as the main Northern port after Morpeth had then passed it. By 1901, Armidale had fallen to fifth in population rankings, to sixth in 1911. 

Armidale’s greatest growth lay ahead, but that growth would come not from the city’s local or regional marketplace, but from the city’s role as an educational centre.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020, here 2021 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

City story: - the rise, fall and slow recovery of Armidale


Armidale owes its existence to the decision by Commissioner Macdonald to establish his headquarters on what we now know as Macdonald Park. This is the first in a series exploring the rise, fall and slow recovery of the city of Armidale 

In 1971, the population of the City of Armidale reached 18,156. The NSW Department of Decentralisation and Development population projections suggested that the City’s population would reach 47,301 in 2001, passing that of Tamworth.

Even then, some expressed doubts, but the prevailing mood was one of confidence, of complacency. There was also growing concern about the need to control growth to preserve the City’s amenity.

Twenty years later, Armidale was in the midst of an economic and demographic crisis.

Many blamed the City Council, many still do, for its failure to identify and address the emerging problems in an effective way. While there is some truth in that, I think that the reality is far more complex.

To show this, I will tell you the story of the rise, fall and slow recovery of a city. While I am writing as an historian, it’s also a personal story for I was involved in some of these events. I do not pretend to be totally objective. 

Our story begins in what is now called Macdonald Park. Today the Park is small and manicured. It is hard to see it as the centre of a considerable official complex.

In 1839 newly appointed Crown Lands Commissioner for New England, George James Macdonald, established his headquarters on what is now the Park, chosen for its central location in an extensive plains area.

Macdonald arrived with a party of eleven – three regular Mounted Police plus eight convict Border Police.

In addition to official duties – and these were many and varied – Macdonald and his convicts had to construct buildings, erect fencing and grow food. He was, in fact, expected to act like a squatter in terms of providing for his party.

You can still see signs of this today in the names Police Paddock and Commissioner’s Waters.

To the north west of the Commissioner’s headquarters, a straggling collection of slab huts emerged along the Great North Road, really track, across Dumaresq Creek.

The Government required order and planning.

In 1848, surveyor John James Galloway drew up a north-south-east west grid pattern. This cut across existing tracks and indeed through buildings including five inns.

After protests including a public meeting and a petition to the Governor, the north south grid pattern was rotated to the east, giving the layout we know today

Armidale now had structure, but remained small. The stations had their own stores and supplies, so the little village really serviced travellers with inns and then stores. With time, trades would be added and then professionals including clergy men and teachers, but numbers were initially not large.

Growth would come, but we can already see two key future features, the relative smallness of the local geographic catchment combined with Armidale’s importance as an administrative centre.

 Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020, here 2021 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre 6 -Despair and then rebirth

Graham Wilson OAM. Both University Archivist Gerry Purkis and Graham as Director of the New England Historical Resources Centre resigned over the failure of the networked University of New England to properly address the organisation of regional records.

This is the sixth and final in a short series on the remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre and Regional Archives. 

By 1980 both the Armidale College of Advanced Education with its Museum of Education and New England Historical Resources Centre and the University of New England were providing valuable services to staff, students and the Northern NSW community.

Both institutions had experienced significant growth over the previous decade. Some problems were already apparent, but the future still seemed secure.

Nine years later, both had vanished into the maws of that mess called the networked University of New England, an uncomfortable amalgam of the Armidale College of Advanced Education, the University of New England and the Northern Rivers College of Education. Orange Agricultural College was added a little later.

I will tell you a little of those turbulent years in my next series of columns. It’s a story of Armidale’s rise, fall and then slow recovery. It’s also a story of the way hubris, loss of vision, political divides and complacency reduced the capacity of institutions and community to respond to external threats.

For the moment, the merger of the Armidale College of Advanced Education and University left open the question of what should be done with the Archives, Historical Resources Centre and Museum of Education.

In August 1989, Graham Wilson as Director of the Historical Resources Centre and Gerry Purkis as University Archivist wrote a joint report on future directions. They proposed that the University Archives, the Family History Collection and the Historical Resources Centre should be gathered together at the Mossman Street Campus.

The networked university was already struggling with the integration of ACAE staff and activities into the new institution, as well as broader integration questions across the whole network. In these circumstances, the future of these historical resources was not seen as a high priority.

Gerry Purkis resigned as archivist. His position would remain vacant for three years.

At the end of 1992, a frustrated Graham Wilson also resigned as Director of the Historical Resources Centre. He had been working on a volunteer basis with no relief from teaching load available to accommodate Centre management.  

The entire range of regional archival and support services that had been provided since the 1940s was now in effective suspension. One result was a sharp drop in research and publications focused on regional interests including history. A second was loss of community support for the university.

The network university was abolished in 1994 leading to re-establishment of a separate if much diminished independent UNE.

As had been recommended in 1989, UNE now finally decided to use C.B Newling Library building as a central site for the management of U.N.E. Archives, the Historical Resources Centre and the Museum of Education. The Heritage Centre as we know it today had been born.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020, here 2021.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre 5 - Lionel Gilbert and the foundation of the New England Historical Resources Centre

Lionel Gilbert played a critical role in the promotion of local and regional history.

This is the fifth in a short series on the remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre and Regional Archives. 

Both Armidale and the broader North have been lucky in the people who have fought to build and preserve our institutions, including those concerned with the preservation of our history and culture. Lionel Gilbert was one such man.

Lionel Gilbert was born at Burwood in Sydney on 8 December 1924. After graduating from Sydney Teachers” College in 1942, Gilbert served in the Royal Australian Airforce, returning to teaching in 1946.

As a teacher, Gilbert taught at Nabiac Central School, Wauchope Primary School and then Rocky River Primary School. At Nabiac, he met and married Margaret Roberts. Daughter Anne was born in 1960.

In 1955, Gilbert enrolled as an external student in the first class of the University of New England’s new external studies program, the first of its type in Australia. In 1963 he graduated with first class honours His honours thesis covered the history of botanical knowledge of the eastern seaboard of Australia 1788–1815.

In 1961, Gilbert was appointed by UNE as a Research and Information Officer in the Department of External Studies. In this capacity, Gilbert taught weekend classes on the methodology of local history for the university's adult education department throughout inland New England.

In many ways, the 1960s and 1970s marked the peak of UNE’s extension efforts across Northern NSW and indeed beyond, a focus that would later be lost in constant institutional change. The current NERAM exhibition on the UNE summer schools provides a partial picture of the period.

In July 1963, Gilbert accepted an appointment as lecturer in applied history and curator with the Armidale Teachers' College (later College of Advanced Education) Museum of Education.

The focus of the ATC and later from 1971 the Armidale College of Advanced Education was on hands on learning. By 1973, more than a 1,000 school students each year were visiting the Armidale Folk Museum to learn about the exhibits and their connection with local history.

The new NSW Junior Secondary History Syllabus based on ‘enquiry’ and ‘problem solving’ provided an opportunity for Gilbert to extend outreach because the need for students to match the new curriculum with primary and secondary resources was not being met by traditional museums. A new type of hands on repository was required.

In December 1974, Gilbert obtained funding to establish a new Regional Historical Resources Centre. This involved collection of new material along with the copying of archival and other resources to make them accessible to teachers and students.

Although the cataloguing and collecting of material was on-going, sufficient progress had been made to enable an official opening of the new Centre on 20 February 1976.

The Historical Resources Centre was an immediate success, welcomed by teachers, students and historical societies across Northern NSW. However, events were now to occur that would threaten the survival of both the Centre and UNE’s own regional archive.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020, here 2021.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre 4 - UNE only institution interested in preserving the records of the North

David Drummond in later years. Australian National Librarian Harold White wanted the Drummond papers to come to the National Library as a collection of national importance. To White's annoyance. Drummond insisted that they go to the University of New England Archives.

This is the fourth in a short series on the remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre and Regional Archives. 

Writing in the Australian Library Journal in March 1963, University of New England Archivist R J McDonald commented that the distinctive feature of the UNE case was the absence of any other intuitions interested in the records of the North.

If  "the University had not begun collecting records in this area they would not have been collected at all", McDonald wrote.

By now, the holdings had begun to expand rapidly, a process continued under the second archivist Alan Wilkes. Wilkes was determined to collect and preserve as many records as he could and would go to considerable lengths to do so, including collecting remote records by horse!

The 1960s marked the start of a period of great change.

Many smaller organizations such as dairy and banana cooperatives were closing. Long standing pastoral families who held records dating back to the foundation of the first runs were making hard choices about the retention or destruction of property and family records. Newspapers were deciding what to do with their records and past editions.

Under Wilkes’s vigorous collection policies these records started to flow to the UNE archives from across Northern NSW, a process aided by the loyalty felt by many to UNE and the North.

The transfer of the Drummond papers in the early 1960s is one example.

National Librarian Harold White, a good friend of David Drummond, had expected the collection to go to the National Library as a collection of national importance. He was not pleased when Drummond chose to pass them to the UNE Archives.

Drummond would not be budged. To his mind, the papers belonged with the University he had helped found.

The rapid rise in the collection saved many records that would have been lost, in so doing creating an archival collection of national importance. However, Alan’s vigorous approach also created a difficulty, the need to document the collection and to create finding aids that would allow easy access. This remains a problem today.

While the UNE archives were expanding, another move was taking place in a sister institution that would form the third important leg in the future New England Heritage Centre and Regional Archives.

From its foundation in 1928, the Armidale Teachers’ College focused on the practical craft of teaching as compared to the more academic approach followed at Sydney Teachers’ College.

One outcome was the work of Eric Dunlop on building museums including Armidale’s Folk and Education Museums, a second the creation of the Historical Resources Centre by Lionel Gilbert.

Now these moves would come together with the UNE Archives, creating the Heritage Centre and Regional Archives that we know today. 

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Friday, December 11, 2020

The remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre 3 - creation of a professional archive


UNE Chancellor P A Wright with Honorary archivist, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Lane-Poole. Sir Richard began the process of consolidating and documenting the growing regional archival collections, continuing the process of community involvement with UNE and what would become the UNE Heritage Centre. 

This is the third in a short series on the remarkable story of the University of New England's Heritage Centre and Regional Archives. 

The University of New England became autonomous in 1954. In that year, Robert Madgwick, now Vice Chancellor, issued a further call for the public to donate records to the University to support the University’s research plan.

 “This work”, Madgwick said, “can only be done with the sympathetic support and encouragement of the people of the region and I appeal to all those who have family papers and records of any sort to get in touch with the University.”

 The public responded, but Madgwick faced a problem. How should the new holdings be stored and accessed?

The University Library was still in Booloominbah where limited space and poor storage conditions were damaging book holdings. New facilities were needed, but cash was tight.

In May 1956, Frank Rogers, was appointed as Librarian, while work began on the construction of a temporary library on the east of the campus, later the Marshall Building.  

Rogers was a training archivist as well as librarian. In May 1957 space was allocated in the basement of the new building as a dedicated archives repository, while Rogers also recruited an able volunteer in retired Vice Admiral Sir Richard Lane-Poole to be the university archivist under Roger’s guidance.

Sir Richard proved an inspired choice because of his intelligence, energy and local connection, both building and helping document the collection.

In 1959 consideration began on what would become the NSW State Archives Act 1960, Madgwick and Rogers lobbied the Government asking that UNE be recognized in this legislation as a regional repository for the State Archives.

In the end, UNE was satisfied with Rogers being given a seat on the Board created under the Act to manage the state’s archives. The appointment recognized Roger’s specific skills, as well as UNE’s growing archival role.

 Rogers now appointed UNE’s first full time archivist, R J McDonald. In now familiar words, he directed McDonald in now familiar words to: 

Collect all research material likely to be of value in throwing light on the historical, economic and social development of Northern New South Wales from the earliest European settlement until recent times.

The focus on the period since European settlement reflects the times. The Centre’s relevance to Aboriginal history emerged later.

 The stage was now set for the next chapter in the story of the UNE Heritage Centre and Regional Archives, a period of significant expansion. 

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020