Archives for category: #PublicHist

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What a time it is to an historian!

Here in our corner of the world in Australia, the last few weeks have witnessed a series of social and political events that have absorbed the nation.

To my mind at least, they show that the gaping cracks long evident in the notion of citizenship and belonging (and therefore sovereignty) that underpinned 20th century Australia are now so wide as to be swallowing us whole.

This was a notion of citizenship founded on settler colonialism, racial exclusion, imperial benevolence (British or American), wage arbitration, and the gendered politics that came with it. And it is in this sense that the dual citizenship crisis engulfing parliament, the Manus Island refugee crisis still unfolding with tragic consequences, the politics of the non-binding same-sex marriage postal survey, the Liberal government’s out-of-hand rejection of the Uluru Statement’s proposal for an Indigenous voice to parliament, the ongoing disaster of environmental blindness and destructive resource extraction, and the interlinked outrage of insecure work and tax avoidance are all connected.

Who gets to belong? Who gets to participate and on what (and who’s) terms? These questions underpin our political moment, not just in Australia but across the globe.

They cry out for contextualisation – no wonder the historians are out in force:

Are you an historian who has written for a wider audience? Send your #publichist pieces in for puffing!

 

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Over the last couple of months I’ve been making another radio documentary for ABC Radio National’s Earshot series. It’s about the remarkable life of Adelie Hurley.  A pin-up girl in the 1930s, Adelie quickly moved behind the camera to become one of Australia’s leading press photographers in what, at the time, was an all-male profession.

And she was quite a personality – risk-taking, glamorous and full of good humour. The podcast traces her career, from the nightclubs of San Francisco, through the social changes of the 1950s and 60s, to her retirement in Coffs Harbour. Working with Kate Darian-Smith, who has been part of an ARC-funded project on press photography in Australia, the process of making the show has made me think much more carefully about the changing ways our visual culture has been and is now produced. It also gave me the chance to work with the recently digitised (thank you Trove!) archive of Pix magazine which published Adelie’s early photographs.

Podcasting is (if you haven’t noticed) now a THING, and the new trend is all in the direction of first-person narration – something with which as an old school historian I was initially uncomfortable. But making the show taught me a lot about how to shape the arc of a story, how to work with available audio, the importance of sound effects and – yes – the first person singluar. To state the obvious, telling a story via audio is quite different than working with textual sources and I’m grateful to Adelie  (and ABC RN) for teaching me some of the tricks of the trade.

Adelie ‘Front Page’ Hurley aired on ABC RN’s Earshot programme on Tuesday 14 November 2017 and is available now for download or podcast.

To see Adelie’s photos …

Read the rest of this entry »

Episodically collected pieces by historians writing into the world. If historians don’t think temporally, who will?

And finally, my find of the week:

  • the absolutely fabulous LOOM – a big data collaboration between the State Library of New South Wales’ DX Lab and the creative agency Grumpy Sailor : every story has a thread. See Sydney like you’ve never seen it before.

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