Thursday, August 26, 2010

Preserving New England's past


One of the best things to come from New England's sense of regional identity and all the movements it spawned was the establishment of the New England University College, later the University of New England. Without this, our sense of our own past would have been greatly impoverished.

The photo shows then University Archivist Alan Wilkes in 1964 in search of records.  

In 1947, the Warden of the New England University College (NEUC), Dr Madgwick wrote to the Under Secretary of Justice of NSW stating ‘This was all very silly.’ He was referring to a decision that records located in the Armidale Court House could only be researched by NEUC staff and students at the State Library in Sydney  over 500 kilometres away). Local access to historic records was forbidden.

That decision was overturned.

In 1960, University Librarian Frank Rogers briefed the first full time UNE archivist R J McDonald in these terms:

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.

Note the reference to European settlement. In fact, 1960 was the year of appointment of Isabel McBryde as the first lecturer in prehistory. Fourteen years later, New England was the best documented region in Australia in regard to Aboriginal pre-history.

Today when New England is so much diminished that even the name has shrunk in popular recognition, our history survives only because of this past work.  

Note on sources

This post is drawn especially from “This is all very silly” : An interesting start to a regional archives.

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