Some of my colleagues are really good at engaging with local history. Since Australian history is not my speciality, my professional “engagement” tends more towards school teachers and international traveling art shows and so on, rather than the immediate world around me. However, recently inspired by my near-and-dear Australianists, I decided last year to become involved in a historical celebration of my own neighborhood. It was co-ordinated by my son’s school, Erskineville Public School, and was supported by the City of Sydney through its own engagement with the NSW History Council’s History week 2016. The volunteer organizing committee was a sight to behold – the energy and creativity of the group, and especially the leader Angel Nunley, put some university committees I have known to shame. The resultant day was an amazingly popular and fun event, with a full day of talks (I did the chairing) run in parallel to numerous stations of “Erko History” for the kids – indigenous erko, convict erko, depression erko, and so on.
My big take-home from that day was how much locals want to know about their history – especially if that history has poverty, scandal, and landmark social reforms included, as has Erskineville’s. That day spurred me to recommend the school to Macquarie University’s PACE unit for undergraduate history students. Chloe Haywood-Anderson took up the challenge and her final product continues to amaze me – take a look and think about setting up your own interactive timeline!
See also this great blog on Erko History: The Macdonaldton Bicycle Club.