Historical research


#Adelaide #history

After the first week of work, I had the first weekend in Adelaide during this internship. There are three cultural activities arranged for three weekends while I am here. The first one was held on 22 July, last Saturday, in which a walking tour around the CBD in Adelaide showed me a brief picture of the history of this piece of land – Adelaide (city), South Australia (state), and Australia (country). The tour guide from “Down to Earth Tours” directed me only, because I am the only candidate from Hong Kong to work in History Trust of South Australia in this internship period. The historical and cultural spots he led me to visit are located along the two major roads – North Terrace and King William Road. The tour started from Parliament House, the influential political arena in Adelaide, whose architecture and building history impress me mostly. It took a long duration for constructing Parliament House in stages over 65 years from 1874 to 1939, which is quite common for ancient architecture but the reason for this case was having financial constraints. The architectural style is another interesting feature, in which Parliament House was built with Kapunda marble and West Island granite. It is like constructing a piece of art with style and historical value.

The place associated with political development of Adelaide in South Australia is Government House. Government House, located at the corner of North Terrace and King William Road in Adelaide, is the official residence of the Governor of South Australia. I have learned from the tour that Australia is divided into different states as the major administrative units, and there are six of them including New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. Each of the six states has its own governor, and the six governors are headed by Prime Minister of Australia. There are two territories (Northern Territory and Australian Captial Territory) and the capital city of Australia is Canberra, the centre of governance.

Near the Government House along the North Terrace, there are many statues portraying the image of the remarkable people in the history of Australia. Australia is one of the advanced democratic countries in the world, in which people’s fundamental rights as humans are highly recognised. Women and sexual minorities are not underprivileged or even marginalised in society, but they have had their progressive development early in Australian history. There are many remarkable women, who excel in the spheres of politics and government, and education. Feminism can be embodied in this aspect of women’s progressive development. Women are allowed to have their autonomous power, and equal rights and freedoms as men with gender equality. Moreover, there are some remarkable people in the history of Australia like Matthew Flinders, who was a pioneering explorer and navigator, but he had great achievements in the 40 years of his short life.          

Two pictures below are of the War Memorial, showing a large piece of memorial stone of World War I (1914-1918) victims, with its front and back sides having symbolic meanings like an artwork, erected at the corner of North Terrace. On the front side, a male angel is represented to commemorate the deaths in the war. On the back side, the representation is a female angel and a male adolescent leaning on her shoulder, in which the male adolescent symbolises all the dead souls in World War I, who was receiving the comfort and love from the female angel in their intimate expression. Inside the area of this large memorial stone, there is a list of names etched on the wall, as the full record of the deceased people in World War I. They were the soldiers / army who devoted their full effort to serve in the war. Apart from World War I, there is another list of names commemorating those served in World War II (1939-1945) behind this memorial stone.

The State Library is the major public library in the state of South Australia, having two blocks – the Institute Building and Mortlock Wing. Both of the two blocks have a circulating library to store the usual collection as well as self-study areas. Regarding the academic function, the Institute Building houses the Royal SA Society of Arts, and the Mortlock Wing houses the Royal Geographical Society of SA and exhibitions are held in the halls there. The State Library is a valuable academic institution for the spiritual enrichment and well-being of citizens. During my stay in Adelaide, I went to this library for self-study also, and I really appreciated the large-scale collection and enjoyed the comfortable environment there.

The Centre of Democracy is located inside the Institute Building of State Library, as a new project co-organised by History Trust and the State Library. It reveals South Australia’s leadership in the development of Australian democracy.

The Migration Museum and the area around was once Adelaide’s Destitute Asylum from mid-19th century to early 20th century (the 1850s to 1918). It is related to the history of diaspora and settlement of Aboriginal People in Australia. Poverty was a severe social problem at that time, so the underprivileged groups, homeless people and aged people lived (and died) in this destitute asylum, providing them the comfort and love they deserve as citizens. Women and children received considerable attention, and their stories are told in the “Behind the Wall” exhibition. Since the History Trust of South Australia was founded in 1980s, it has become the Migration Museum under the management of History Trust. This museum details immigrant life from pioneering days up to today.

Continuing the impressions and reflections on walking tour of 22 July, the tour guide briefly introduced the other significant sites in Adelaide to me. Artlab Australia is a conservation centre providing specialised preservation and conservation services for works of art and historic items. It is a government agency of Arts South Australia in the South Australian Department of State Development. Artlab works hard to maintain a high standard of expertise in contemporary conservation service, and to raise public consciousness towards the importance of cultural heritage in the history of global village.

The history and building materials of this area in Adelaide was introduced to me by the tour guide. In the past, the former function of this area was the training of military troops. The building materials used for construction include red brick, slate and granite. The tour guide specifically indicated the stones of construction to me, which are very beautifully made, and each piece of stone can be viewed as the single unit of building.

In addition, there are some other buildings and features in Adelaide introduced to me briefly during the walking tour. This was once the tallest building in Adelaide, and its appearance and function have been changing throughout history. Such foreign culture of architecture is entirely different from Hong Kong, because Hong Kong is a small city with high-rise buildings / skyscrapers. In Hong Kong, there is hardly enough space for the large population to inhabit, resulting in a densely-populated and crowded, and hustle-and-bustle city. I grew up in Hong Kong, so the foreign architectural styles and related cultures are a shock to me, and they tell different stories and history. After the walking tour on 22 July, I found some sorts of interesting and meaningful “street art” which are specially-designed numbers, created using chalks and hands, on the floor outside the South Australian Museum. A group of youngsters painted on the floor as their collaborative art creation. 

Last week I had a short visit to the History Trust's storerooms, in which my colleague Amy who worked there showed me around. It was my first time to have a glimpse of the museum collections and I find it interesting. The artefacts have been collected since the establishment of History Trust in 1980s. Their sources are mostly from people’s donations to the government institutions. Each piece has a story behind. Only 5% of them are on display in museum halls during exhibitions, and the remaining 95% are kept in storerooms. Throughout the history of the institution, it is hard to find a good condition to store them, due to floods, humid weather, erosion, and decay….so the locations of the storeroom have been changed many times. 

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