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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The remarkable contribution of Vera Deacon to the preservation of Newcastle history

The Newcastle Herald carried some archival photos of Newcastle during the Great Depression. The photos were supplied by the University of Newcastle's Cultural Collections with the help of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.

I hadn't heard of Vera Deacon nor the Fund set up in her name to support the work, so I followed the links through.The University describes Vera's work in this way:
Vera over the past 17 years has donated to assist the University’s Cultural Collections (formerly Archives, rare Books & Special Collections Unit) in the Auchmuty Library. That has provided employment for over half a dozen people, who have accessioned over 637 boxes of regional research archives containing many thousands of individual items, digitised over 2.5 kms of Hunter Regional maps and plans, and many thousands of local photographic images that have had over 41.1 million hits on flickr, sponsored the creation of a Virtual 3D Colonial and Aboriginal Newcastle landscape and a Newcastle WOW smartphone app. Not a bad achievement for a pensioner from Stockton, New South Wales. We are forever thankful for this help, and for the cultural riches it has provided for the wider global community.
As an original resident of Moscheto Island (now part of Kooragang Island), Mrs Vera Deacon became acquainted with the University Archives during her research work into the history of the Islands of Newcastle, especially her childhood home; Moscheto (or Mosquito Island).

Later moving from Sydney to Stockton she became involved in her local community joining the Stockton Historical Society and the Booklovers group that regularly met in Cooks Hill Books. The latter organisation consisted of a number of University of Newcastle academics and staff including the late Professor Godfrey Tanner. A friendship grew and following the death of Professor Tanner, she made her first donation to Cultural Collections to have the published papers of the late Professor collated. This was then succeeded by a steady stream of cash donations to Cultural Collections to have the papers of the late Merv Copley accessioned as well. She has continued to this day to make donations to accession the University’s archival holdings relating to labour history and environmental themes.

The UoN piece lists the remarkably wide range of projects she has contributed to. Now the University is seeking donations to continue the work.

As a regional historian, I know how important the work of people like Vera is to the preservation of our past.


Anonymous said...

Had no idea there was a Stockton Historical Society. I knew Godfrey Tanner quite well; he taught me at Newcastle Uni. The Auchmuty connection is quite strong with Stockton also. The Auchies originally lived in a Housing Commission house in Stockton. Devout Anglicans, it used to be a bit of a joke amongst the locals to sit behind them in church, and comment on which one of them had the biggest holes in the soles. Mrs Auchy used to wander around looking like the mad woman of Chaillot; fairly unkempt, fag in the corner of her mouth and ankle socks with sandals. Stockton in the early '60s was totally unused to the vagaries of academic families. Both the kids were brilliant, if also 'differently abled'. Giles, the elder was universally known as 'Stinky', although I don't remember any bodily offensiveness. Rosemary used to go to NGHS looking as though she's been dragged backwards through a bush. NU eventually found a 'proper' home for the Vice Chancellor in a much more salubrious area. They were also renowned in Stockton for having sparse window treatments, which meant that any passers by could wonder at the lack of furniture and the preponderance of books and bookcases.

Jim Belshaw said...

Really laughed at these descriptions. Thought you would be interested in the piece.