Author: Daniel Wilksch
Digital Projects Coordinator
"...I think that the river
is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable..."
T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages, 1941.
Among the delights of Youtube are work-in-progress videos of public infrastructure projects. Time-lapses track railways snaking across grassland in Melbourne's west, or linger over Betty, the giant tunnel boring machine as she prepares to dive under Yarraville.
Interviewed on his retirement in 1959, J.B.O. Hosking nominated the building of an automated steel handling berth and reinforced concrete wharf on the River Yarra at South Wharf as the proudest accomplishments of his quarter of a century as the Melbourne Harbour Trust Chief Engineer. Collated and carefully indexed in the mid-1950s, the collection of photos named for him serve a similar function to today's videos - documenting activity, progress and improvement around the ports of Melbourne.
The images capture the excitement of acquiring big new toys like dock cranes, as well as the intricacies of work to fix the banks of a tidal estuary. They also depict other aspects of the harbour community that Hosking was a steward of: improving worker and public safety, building warehouses and ships, and cleaning up when things went wrong.
The volunteers who’ve been busily digitising these images include Joy Hirst who has curated the exhibition Time and Tide to bring the stories of the port, and of J.B.O. Hosking, to a wider audience.
Launched to coincide with National Volunteers Week, the Time and Tide exhibition opens on Saturday the 25th of May and runs through to September 2019. View it in our Archives Gallery space 10am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and every second and last Saturday of the month.
- Jill Barnard, Jetties and Piers: A background history of maritime infrastructure in Victoria (2008)
- Report to Parliament of the Low Lands Commission (1873)
- Judith Buckrich, The long and perilous journey: a history of the Port of Melbourne (2002)
- Geoff Lacey, Still glides the stream: the natural history of the Yarra from Heidelberg to Yarra Bend (2004)
- Olaf Ruhen, Port of Melbourne 1835-1976 (1976)
- David Sornig, Blue lake: finding Dudley Flats and the West Melbourne swamp (2018)