Category: photography

The Broken Years

P04604.016

Image source: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P04604.016

Dr Bill Gammage AM, FASSA is an academic historian who wrote The Broken Years based on his PhD thesis at the ANU. First published in 1974 it tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War through the private records created by a thousand Australian soldiers in their diaries and letters home.

At that time Bill was still able to correspond with some veterans of the Great War and he also  skilfully selected records that were mostly collected by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in the 1920s and 1930s and ties them together to form a chronological story from 1914-1918, covering campaigns in Gallipoli (ANZAC), Egypt, Palestine and France.

I first read this book back in the late 1970s whilst training at RMC Duntroon and studying military history. It had an enormous impact on my attitude to war and made me fully aware of the awful realities, well beyond what I had heard from veterans, or seen in movies or on TV. I think the power of this book comes from the voices of those who served, who tell their own stories so powerfully. As the cover of the book notes, it is both a horrifying and emotionally moving account. What Bill Gammage does in The Broken Years is demonstrate the enormous importance and power of those archival collections at the AWM and he also highlights the vision of the historians, librarians, and archivists who created them so many years ago.

It is also worth noting that Bill Gammage is a highly respected historian and that he revived the tradition of Dr C.E.W. Bean, the official Australian historian of the First World War who focussed his story on the experiences of those who served rather than the battlefield strategies. Bean was also the founder of the AWM. Bill was later employed by Peter Weir as the military advisor for the film Gallipoli.

Bill’s book also seems to have had a not insignificant influence on at least part of my working life. I did not spend that long in the Army after graduating from Duntroon. I had a number of career changes and then somehow managed to wind up at the AWM as Head of their Research Centre (library and archive) in 2001. I was privileged to be responsible for the collections that this book was based upon and also for managing the addition of names to our Roll of Honour as we were again at war in the Middle East.

The critical thing with archival collections is that one must not just concentrate on preserving, cataloguing and exhibiting or providing access to what is already there. Those collections need to be developed as time marches on. With my curatorial colleagues at the AWM in the early 2000s, we soon realised that we faced new challenges in order to do what the AWM had done in the 1920s and 1930s to collect contemporary records of war – in the form of both official accounts (like unit war diaries) and private records in the digital age. We soon began asking to make curatorial visits to war zones to see what was being created for ourselves and to tag or collect what the AWM would need for future exhibitions and research into the conflicts that were still being waged. This started to happen from about 2007-2008. A colleague visited Iraq to mark and collect military technology and paraphernalia and then in late 2008 I was sent to Iraq (Baghdad) and out to sea with the RAN in the Northern Arabian Gulf to collect war records before our forces withdrew from Iraq. I was able to mark or tag some items such as map collections and official records, find out how people were corresponding or keeping diaries, made many photographs and recorded oral histories for the AWM collections. I left the AWM for UTS Library in 2009, but those AWM curatorial visits to war zones have continued in places such as Afghanistan ever since.

The Broken Years will be part of our featured book display at UTS Library for ANZAC Day 2017. I am not aware of any volume like this that has been written about any conflict after the First World War, so it is still unique. As a librarian, curator and collection manager I think it reminds us of the important and continuing role of archives and collecting institutions to preserve public knowledge, even as formats change.

Books, eBooks and Preserving Public Knowledge

Here is a link to a recent radio interview that I did with 2ser 107.3 on a range of topics concerning libraries. At nine minutes it is not that long and the wonderful producer Jake Morcom has edited out all of my incoherent mumblings and ramblings.

http://www.2ser.com/component/k2/item/25657-books-vs-ebooks-making-libraries-more-sustainable 

And here is a totally irrelevant image that I took on the weekend, just because I can:

Mess

My place in time – photo project

Featured image

https://flic.kr/p/qa6pXt

So I ran across this project via the twitter and decided to give it a go: https://blackcurrantphotography.wordpress.com/the-my-place-in-time-photo-project/ Currently I’m posting my images to Tumblr via Flickr (as I didn’t want to re-caption the Flickr originals).  In order to keep track on my progress, I’ll progressively add links to the content I’ve uploaded against Kell’s list below: The list.

  1. The price of fuel/petrol.
  2. A mode of transportation.
  3. Teenage wasteland – use your common sense when photographing kids that aren’t yours.
  4. A small business.
  5. A view you pass on your way to work. And here too.
  6. Construction And here too.
  7. Destruction
  8. Something that was here 10 years ago.
  9. The corner shop or deli – basically anywhere you run to if you need something late at night.
  10. Where I go to relax.
  11. I can’t believe the news today.
  12. My favourite restaurant.
  13. What arrived in the post.
  14. A local service – think delivery/post/bin collection/ranger.
  15. People playing sport.
  16. An outing with friends (with the background in shot).
  17. Somewhere I used to visit as a kid.
  18. A handwritten note from someone I love.
  19. Something that was here 20 years ago.
  20. The end of the day. And here too.
  21. What I can see from my window. And here too.
  22. A river view.
  23. The price of a cup of coffee.
  24. Something I’ve never seen before – this can include a place.
  25. How we communicate.
  26. A view with train/rail lines in it.
  27. My favourite thing to drink – make sure the label is in shot.
  28. The receipt for something I bought today.
  29. Three O’Clock in the afternoon.
  30. How I tell the time – I know most of us use our phones these days. Be creative!
  31. Graffiti – If you can see the artist’s name please credit them. And here too.
  32. A sculpture.
  33. Nothing but trees.
  34. This sign makes me laugh.
  35. The view from somewhere high up.
  36. One kilometre from my house.
  37. The view from the end of my street.
  38. I’m in a supermarket.
  39. A ticket.
  40. A trip to the movies/cinema.
  41. What’s showing at the movies.
  42. This week’s music chart.
  43. Something old.
  44. A busy intersection – Do not take this whilst driving!
  45. Authority – Police, security, someone in a position of power. Be respectful and don’t get in the way.
  46. On my way to work/school.
  47. I wish this place had never changed.
  48. Ten dollars in my currency – this will be more interesting if you use change.
  49. I had to stop the car and take a photo.
  50. Somewhere I used to live.
  51. Someone outside your family/group of friends that you would miss if they were gone.
  52. This place has been here for my whole life.
  53. If I had kids I would want to take them here.
  54. Somewhere I visited with my first love.
  55. Out on a date – if you are single then photograph a date with friends or family.
  56. Power / electricity.
  57. A neon or electric sign.
  58. A concert or show poster.
  59. Somewhere I visit every day – not the toilet!!!
  60. A postcard – why not buy it and send it to a friend?
  61. Postage stamps from my country.
  62. Postage stamps from another country.
  63. I wish I didn’t have to pay this bill!
  64. A car I would love to own. And here too.
  65. The car I do own (or bike/scooter etc). And here too.
  66. Where all the cool kids go.
  67. It’s show time – interpret as you wish.
  68. Somebody’s special day.
  69. A photo from the coast.
  70. To market, to market.
  71. Fresh produce.
  72. A local playground – Again, use your common sense. Photograph your kids or a friends or wait til nobody is there. Don’t be creepy.
  73. Education.
  74. If I had a permanent marker, I would correct this sign.
  75. Road work.
  76. Somewhere I belong.
  77. Somewhere I don’t belong.
  78. My local library.
  79. Waiting for a bus.
  80. This week’s trashy magazines.
  81. I bought a Lottery ticket.
  82. An old painted sign on the side of a building.
  83. The view from the passenger’s seat. And here too.
  84. Some groceries I bought this week.
  85. Where I was at 11:11 am.
  86. Where I was at 11.11pm.
  87. A car numberplate.
  88. A shop that’s no longer open.
  89. This place is for sale.
  90. Coca-Cola. – It’s been around for most of our lives. Let’s see how it looks around the world.
  91. The price of a Big Mac at McDonald’s.
  92. On the way to the airport.
  93. Out on a bushwalk / hike. And here too
  94. Only in my country.
  95. Absolute junk.
  96. Street lights.
  97. Friday afternoon.
  98. How I spend Sunday morning.
  99. Someone I’ve just met.
  100. My place in time – any photo at any time of the day that describes how you feel with life.