A NSW Local Studies Librarian meeting at Lithgow this week heard from WWI centenary projects at Mudgee, Lithgow and Orange (Mosman got a guernsey too). The Coo-ee March from Gilgandra, first of the recruiting marches organised in New South Wales in 1915, passed through Lithgow, so it was an appropriate venue to hear what NSW libraries are doing with their communities for the Anzac centenary.
Heather Nicholls opened the day with a passionate talk about her research at Manildra for the book Echoes of Anzac — and where it led her. Having published the book in 2006 with the generous assistance of Manildra people, she visited in Gallipoli, France and Belgium all but six of the graves of the Manildra men who did not return. As a geographer, she found touring these sites essential to her understanding of the story. Heather spoke of her childhood memories of Anzac Day as one of the sacred dates in the calendar, the importance of railway stations in the Anzac story (points of departure and – not always – return), and how she dealt with still sensitive topics like illegitimate children, VD and alcohol.
Sandy Sheridan from Mudgee spoke with similar passion about her WWI research, describing it as putting faces to names, bringing to life the lists seen on memorials and honour boards. She echoed the sentiments of all in the room when she described Trove as “a blessing”.
Helen Taylor, convenor of Lithgow’s WWI project, spoke of preserving local stories. Many of these will feature in a book, A long march from Lithgow. Cemetery walks and displays of memorabilia are also among their projects.
With so many employed at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, an appropriate allocation of research resources requires that Lithgow makes some differentiation between those of the area, and those who passed through. A number of speakers shared their parameters, all generous, including Ryde, who have an innovative points system to help define the scope of their project.
Orange have a significant program in progress, driven by a Working Party and a broadly based approach that incorporates civic and community commemorations. Jan Richards, Manager, Central West Libraries, spoke of the medical history of Orange that has already touched on the area’s WWI heritage, and future arts-based projects like a film festival, concert party and dance, and street parade. Of particular interest was the detailed maps and plans in their archive of trees planted in commemoration after WWI. Orange know what was planted where, and who paid for what. Keep track of their project at centenaryww1orange.com.au
Speaking of flora, there was an intriguing story of a register of poppy seeds from France distributed by the Botanic Gardens in Sydney after WWI that might reward further investigation.
Mosman too had an opportunity to share its progress. Key points were around the diversity of volunteers who are contributing to the project, the impetus of web technologies to new forms of research and understanding, and the value of making resources discoverable and reusable on the web.
A number of librarians and volunteers spoke of the need to share resources and research. Kerry Farmer, who did a family history workshop at Mosman Library last year, said much the same thing. In response we set up a spreadsheet to collate URLs for local, web-based projects in Australia. See who is listed, and please add to the spreadsheet if you know of other projects.
We also referenced a couple of great tools that Tim Sherratt has made available. The Australian WWI Records Finder allows you to search for people across the NAA, AWM and CWGC databases and Archives viewer is a fantastic interface to the NAA’s RecordSearch database.