The 2016–17 issue of Provenance introduces some changes to the journal. As part of a complete redevelopment of the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) website, you will notice that layout and design elements of the journal have changed in conjunction with PROV’s new website design. Additionally, while the journal retains its integrity as a standalone online publication, links to articles in the journal will also appear throughout the PROV website wherever the content of an article may be of relevance. The publication cycle of the journal has also changed and it will now be published annually in March, to allow us to better promote its content throughout the calendar year. Along with these changes to the look of the journal and its publication cycle, the journal is now being co-edited by Tsari Anderson and Sebastian Gurciullo. Despite these changes, the journal will continue to present scholarly and general interest articles that illuminate the breadth and depth of PROV’s holdings for historical research, as well as providing a valuable resource for researchers accessing records in the PROV collection.
The six peer reviewed and three forum articles in this issue demonstrate the wide range of subject areas and research opportunities presented by public records, and the ways in which archival and primary research can reveal fascinating stories – whether personal, social or political – and bring new perspectives of our past to light that are not always possible through other sources. Many of the articles utilise case studies or methodological approaches that show how detailed research can contribute to the understanding of larger themes in the history of Victoria. In some cases, otherwise unheard voices can be revealed, or illuminated when examined from a new perspective. A number of the articles demonstrate how new areas of research are being made possible, and simpler, as a result of increased accessibility to records through digitisation and online indexes. They all show the value of public records in being able to tell stories often quite different from the intentions of the original creators of the records themselves.
Lisa Hay’s article ‘Finding Thomas Brookhouse’ presents a vivid and descriptive example of the ways in which the lives of working class people in the mid-nineteenth century can be brought to life through a detailed reading of commonly accessed records in the PROV collection, including inquests and criminal trial briefs. The circumstances surrounding the brutal death of shepherd Thomas Brookhouse described in official records of the inquest and subsequent trial inadvertently reveal much about daily life and habits, as well as the living and working conditions, of the rural working class in Western Victoria during the 1850s.
Miranda Francis reveals a tension between archival and oral sources in her article about Footscray High School Crèche, which operated for ten years between 1976 and 1986. ‘One woman’s crèche is a bureaucrat’s child-minding centre’ shows the role of oral history in filling gaps in the written record about the crèche, particularly in understanding of the meaning of the crèche in the lives of the women who were involved in its operations and made use of its services.
Susan Walter’s methodological essay ‘Quarry and stone research methods’ highlights the growing importance of the history of building stone materials in understanding Victoria’s built heritage. Given the complexity of historical land use research, Walter’s case study into Malmsbury’s bluestone quarries, quarrying and stone use demonstrates the breadth of public records that are available at PROV for undertaking this kind of research, and has broader relevance as a resource for anybody interested in tracing the history, heritage and significance of places, building stone or land use in Victoria.
There has been a growing awareness within the Victorian community of the history of Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, which was located near the town of Healesville. The significance of the station and its people has recently gained prominence in the widely acclaimed play Coranderrk: We will show the country, which has played in theatrical spaces around Melbourne and throughout Victoria in recent years. The story that features in the play tells a tale of Aboriginal political resistance that became a focal point for a number of parliamentary inquiries in the 1870s and 1880s. In ‘Beyond Coranderrk’, Tiernan Morrison examines the records of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines (BPA) in the context of Aboriginal ‘resistance’ to the Aboriginal station system that dominated the lives of Aboriginal people in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Morrison’s article shows that the correspondence files of the BPA reveal various levels of daily or ‘micro-resistance’ to the system by Aboriginal people living on Aboriginal stations. While these forms of ‘resistance’ are generally less visible and acknowledged, Morrison argues that they are significant in understanding the agency and determination of Aboriginal people that lived under provisions of the various Acts that controlled their daily lives.
One of a series of articles published in Provenance examining the impact of World War I, Nicole Davis, Nicholas Coyne and Andrew J May’s article is an example of how a detailed examination of records within a single series can illuminate local stories about the lived experience of war on the home front. The result of a unique project to identify and digitise records relating to World War I contained within Melbourne City Council Town Clerk’s Correspondence, ‘World War I on the home front’ highlights the ways in which the war permeated every facet of daily life in the City of Melbourne and brings to light a bigger story about the far-reaching impacts of the war across the city and on the people that lived and worked in it.
Geoffrey Robinson, in ‘The Victorian railways strike of 1950: a study in public sector enterprise bargaining before its time’ presents a detailed study of the longest railways strike in Victorian history. Robinson’s article takes us through this complex industrial relations dispute that caused major disruptions throughout the State of Victoria for months during 1950 and the various machinations and negotiations between the railways management, the sector’s unions and the Victorian Government.
The three forum articles in this issue explore the ways in which public records can illuminate aspects of Victorian history through detailed research of primary sources. Yosanne Vella provides details of her search through prison registers and published sources for evidence of Maltese ‘troublemakers’ and criminals in Australia, and while she did not eventually find evidence of the female Maltese criminals she was looking for, her research led her to find more general similarities between female criminals in Malta and Australia, as well as evidence of male Maltese criminals in Australia.
In ‘The battle for Bears Lagoon’, Richard Turner explores a case study of land selection and settlement in Victoria during the period of the 1860s land Acts, and how conflicts over entitlement to land between selectors and squatters played out through Lands Department records held at PROV.
Eric Frazer’s article about the death of Mary (Molly) Winifred Dean in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda in 1930 examines evidence surrounding the murder, inquest and subsequent abandoned trial from a variety of published and unpublished sources. The brutal murder and the fact that it remains unsolved to this day, led to a large amount of information coming to light about Molly, her life and relationships, including their dramatic portrayal in a number of books and even a play, decades after the events occurred.
Tsari Anderson and Sebastian Gurciullo