Welcome to issue 6 of Provenance! Before I introduce the current issue of the journal, I would like to tell you about a prize awarded to last year’s issue (September 2006). At the recent Australian Society of Archivists Conference in Alice Springs, Provenance was announced as the winner of the 2006 Mander Jones Award in category 2: Best publication that uses, features or interprets Australian archives, written by or on behalf of a corporate body. I would like to congratulate and thank all of those involved with last year’s issue of the journal, particularly the members of the Editorial Board: Lesle Berry, Diane Gardiner, Shauna Hicks, James McKinnon, AGL Shaw, Katherine Sheedy, Bruce Smith and Lynette Russell.
I can happily report that the journal continues to grow, and this year we have doubled the number of articles since 2006. The range of themes and subjects covered in this year’s twelve articles is diverse, as is their approach to researching PROV records, although the predominant theme this year is Victorian places: government institutions, heritage sites and relic landscapes.
Four peer-reviewed articles in this year’s issue also provide some interesting insights into the way that records can be interrogated to yield information that exceeds the strictly administrative intention for which they were created. In her methodological study, Lee-Ann Monk has undertaken a careful reading of the available records to report on what they can tell us about patient abuse. Monk’s analysis is as interesting for its interpretation of the gaps and silences in the record as it is about what has actually been documented in the treatment of patients at Kew Asylum in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Valerie Lovejoy, on the other hand, has continued the exploration of the history of Victoria’s Chinese immigrants that has emerged in recent years through research into public records. Lovejoy has researched inquest records relating to Chinese people on the goldfields to learn about their communities through the testimony presented by the peers of those who had died. Originally intended as records of investigation into a person’s untimely death, these records yield all sorts of insights into social relations and networks, attitudes and behaviour, as well as a range of statistical data about this immigrant community and its interaction with the broader goldfields population.
Keir Reeves and Benjamin Mountford also explore the history of Victoria’s Chinese in their article about the traces Chinese miners have left in the landscape of central Victoria. They focus on Vaughan Springs, a locality on the Loddon River in the central Victorian goldfields. Through their careful reading of legal and police records, contemporary newspaper and mining wardens’ reports and the relic mining landscape itself, they seek to reconstruct a more accurate understanding of the complex communities on the Victorian gold diggings and the experience of Chinese working and living in this area. Awareness about how public records can be used to discover information about the transient Chinese goldrush populations was raised in recent years by the very successful PROV exhibition Forgotten Faces: Chinese and the Law, which continues to tour around Victoria.
The fourth peer-reviewed article transports us to the early twentieth century frontier community of Mallacoota. Located in far east Gippsland near the NSW border, the residents of this community found themselves relatively isolated from the rest of Victoria. Sarah Mirams explores this community’s quest for a permanent school and the way in which records of correspondence between community leader, poet and journalist EJ Brady and Education Department officials can now tell us about the social and political life of this remote community at the start of the twentieth century.
The first article in this year’s Forum section continues the education theme by looking at the establishment of the Gippsland town of Loch in the 1880s and its first primary school. Told by Lyn Payne, the story of Loch’s beginnings reflect similar challenges as those encountered by the people of Mallacoota in convincing a distant bureaucracy to provide their children with permanent and adequate educational facilities. The records of the Education Department are also used to create a portrait of life in a remote town.
Three of our Forum articles this year explore heritage landscapes or sites through a combination of public records and other sources. In ‘Merely Corroborative Detail’, Jan Croggon reviews the way in which many of the historical details of interpretation programs developed by Sovereign Hill, from building designs to school curricula, have been based on archival research. Peter Barrett examines the history of the Collingwood Stockade, one of Victoria’s earliest prison facilities located on the site of today’s Curtain Square and Lee Street Primary School in North Carlton. Abigail Belfrage takes us on a stroll down the Merri Creek, a cultural and natural landscape whose history she interprets through public records, photographs and sound recordings.
Two articles explore the impact of Victoria’s Land Acts on the development of Victorian politics and society. Sonia Jennings looks at the connection between the gradual extension of the Victorian electoral franchise and moves to democratise land ownership in Victoria through land legislation. Cate Elkner reports on a recent project to digitise one of the truly unique documents in the PROV collection, a 4.5 by 6 metre map of Victoria, created by the Parliament of Victoria in 1862. The digitisation of this map opens up the exciting prospect that this resource can be made available through the PROV website to assist research into patterns of Crown land administration in Victoria. Elkner’s article explores the way in which map-making, surveying and naming were intimately intertwined with the colonisation of Victoria.
This year we feature two more articles from La Trobe students who participated in the history honours program offered by PROV which offers students the opportunity to experience primary research into government records. Last year’s group of students focused on the 1880s and 1890s, and their research centred on capital case files. Alain Hosking looks at the sad case of John Hassett, a man imprisoned for the violent assault on Victorian Police Constable Albert Ernest Vizard despite serious doubts being present from the outset of his trial. Noni Dowling transports us to 1890s Port Melbourne, retracing the series of events that led to the murder of Minnie Hicks by her lover Frederick Jordan.
This year Professor AGL Shaw announced that he would resign from the Editorial Board. On behalf of PROV and the Provenance Editorial Board, I would like to thank Professor Shaw for his contribution to the journal over the past three years.
A final note of thanks to my colleagues Charlie Farrugia, Colin Kemp and Daniel Wilksch for their invaluable assistance in preparing this year’s issue of the journal for publication.