Rodoni Archive Now Online

Public Parade ‘Domain Artillery of the Front’, Sydney? c.1914

It is with great pleasure that we announce that the photographic glass and film negatives of Thomas James Rodoni (1882-1956) have now been digitised and are freely available in high resolution on our flickr site as The Rodoni Archive:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157651638124931/

This amazing collection was donated in February 2014 by Thomas (‘TJ’) Rodoni’s son Bill to the Cultural Collections, UON-Library, with the assistance of family friends Chris and Frances Fussell.  Since Bill’s death in late 2014, other members of the family have stepped in and assisted in donating further negatives, and providing important papers to the University’s Archives. We thank Ian Rodoni and family for his help in the identification of family members and in providing family records to assist in the accessioning and description process. We also thank renown Hunter Valley military historian David Dial OAM for his help in describing the military related photographs documenting World War 1 patriotic recruitment drives across New South Wales, and military campaigns in German Papua New Guinea.

Special thanks has to go to our volunteers Natasha Schroder, and historians Ken Thornton and Dr Ann Hardy for their work on this project. Natasha scanned every glass negative, while Ken and Ann researched the historical background of each image, documenting as much as they could find on the dating, geo-tagging and synthesising information that is continuing to come in through our social media networks.

Dr Ann Hardy (Uni Historian) and Mark Sutherland (Associate Librarian Research and Information Services) (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

Dr Ann Hardy (Uni Historian) and Mark Sutherland (Associate Librarian Research and Information Services) (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

The initial upload of the negatives to our flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/ broke all our records with 119,000 hits in a single day. Since then, information continues to stream in from across the communities about the locations, buildings, streetscapes and people captured in the images.

Thanks to the wonderful team at the University Gallery led by Gillean Shaw, the exhibition Australia’s Forgotten ANZACS: Lost Images from Australia’s first conflict: the fall of German New Guinea curated by Gillean Shaw and Naomi Stewart was launched on the 27 March 2015 in the presence of Rodoni’s family and friends. Tess McLeod (nee Rodoni) travelled from Dorrigo to bring Thomas James Rodoni’s war medals to the Gallery so they could be exhibited with his photographs.

Naomi Stewart, one of the curators at the Exhibition launch 27 March 2015 (Photo: Chris Fussell)

Naomi Stewart, one of the curators, at the Exhibition launch 27 March 2015 (Photo: Chris Fussell)

Amir Mogadam (Uni Conservator) and Gionni Di Gravio (Uni Archivist) speaking at the Exhibition launch 27 March 2015 (Photo: Chris Fussell)

Amir Mogadam (Uni Conservator) and Gionni Di Gravio (Uni Archivist) speaking at the Exhibition launch 27 March 2015 (Photo: Chris Fussell)

Gillean Shaw (Curator) with -Tess McLeod (nee Rodoni) and husband Jim Mcleod (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

Gillean Shaw (Curator) with Tess McLeod (nee Rodoni) and husband Jim Mcleod (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

Tess McLeod (nee Rodoni) travelled all the way from Dorrigo to bring T.J. Rodoni's war medals could be part of the exhibition.

Tess McLeod (nee Rodoni) travelled all the way from Dorrigo so that her grand father T.J. Rodoni’s war medals could be part of the exhibition.

Ian Rodoni (right) grandson of T.J. Rodoni pictured with Deputy Vice-Chancellor Andrew Parfitt, Uni Librarian Greg Anderson and Ian's wife at left (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

Ian Rodoni (right), grandson of T.J. Rodoni pictured with Deputy Vice-Chancellor Andrew Parfitt, Uni Librarian Greg Anderson and Ian’s wife at left (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

One of Rodoni's cameras, donated by Ian Rodoni, grand son of Thomas James Rodoni. (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

One of T.J. Rodoni’s cameras, donated by Ian Rodoni, grand son of Thomas James Rodoni. (Photo: Naomi Stewart)

Thomas James Rodoni was born in 1882 at Hotham East, Victoria, to Swiss and Irish parents. While living in Sydney in August 1914 as a man of 31, Rodoni joined the first Australian Imperial Force that would engage in the Great War: the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force.

T.J. Rodoni's Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force Discharge Papers 28th January 1915 (recto)

T.J. Rodoni’s Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force Discharge Papers 28th January 1915 (recto)

T.J. Rodoni's Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force Discharge Papers 28th January 1915 (verso)

T.J. Rodoni’s Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force Discharge Papers 28th January 1915 (verso)

A week after enlisting, Rodoni’s company embarked on the HMAS Berrima and sailed to German New Guinea among a fleet with orders to seize two wireless stations and to disable the German colonies there.

After the fall of German New Guinea, c.1914-1915

After the fall of German New Guinea, c.1914-1915

Rodoni’s unofficial photographs – many of them “candid” shots, captured in the moment – are a rare glimpse of this pivotal moment in Australia’s history. He has documented the energetic atmosphere of prewar Sydney and its surrounds, from civilian and military marches to battleships docked in Sydney Harbour, with accompanying crowds of people brought together for these special events. His camera voyaged with him on the expedition to the Pacific region, taking images both from the ship’s deck and then again on dry land after disembarking.

Letter to Rodoni from the close friend of a deceased soldier, Gilfillan, requesting a copy of a photograph of him (3rd September 1915)

Letter to Rodoni from Lillie Searle, close friend of a deceased soldier, Gilfillan, who died of typhoid fever on route from Alexandria to Gallipoli, requesting a copy of a rare photograph, 3rd September 1915.

Letter to Rodoni from the close friend of a deceased soldier, Gilfillan, requesting a copy of a photograph of him (3rd September 1915)

Letter to Rodoni from Lillie Searle, the close friend of a deceased soldier, Gilfillan, who died of typhoid fever on route from Alexandria to Gallipoli, requesting a copy of a rare photograph of him, 3rd September 1915.

Rodoni was stationed in New Guinea for five months with the AN&MEF after the successful capture of territory from the German forces. His striking images are testament to his ease with the camera, and the ease of his fellow servicemen around this avid amateur photographer. He used his camera to record daily events and significant moments in the expedition, and made several group portraits of the officers and soldiers in his company. Yet his images also suggest a genuine curiosity for the foreign people and places where he was stationed, and a love of the photographic medium in which he practiced during this early period of the war.

New Guinea Tribesmen circa 1914 - 1915

New Guinea Tribesmen circa 1914 – 1915

After leaving New Guinea with the AN&MEF and returning home to Australia in January 1915, Rodoni left the force to work in a Small Arms Factory manufacturing munitions for the war. He soon married and settled in Newcastle with his wife, Catherine Annie Wilson, and had four children: Thomas, Mary, Jim and William (Bill).

Group of slightly drunk looking men, three sitting on Tooth & Co., Limited Morpeth Beer Barrels

Group of slightly drunk looking men, three sitting on Tooth & Co., Limited Morpeth Beer Barrels

The wider collection of glass plate negatives – over 500 in total and with many views of Newcastle and its surrounds is an incredible legacy to Thomas Rodoni and his family.

Advertisement in Newcastle Sun 20 May 1919 (Trove)

Advertisement in Newcastle Sun 20 May 1919 (Trove)

Rodoni died in 1956 as a result of a car accident in Waratah, Newcastle.

The original negatives are held in Cultural Collections at the Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle (Australia).

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist

Reflections on the Rodoni Archive
by Dr Ann Hardy

The Thomas Rodoni Collection was donated to the University of Newcastle in 2014 and interpreting the 500+ photographs has been interesting and overall a positive process.  We have needed to be resourceful in finding ways to research and deliver this significant collection to the wider community.

In this ANZAC centenary year, the Rodoni collection is celebrated 100 years on, in an exhibition at the University of Newcastle (25 March- 11 April 2015), curated by Gillean Shaw and Naomi Stewart.  The focus has been on the WWI photographs in the collection, however the collection is diverse tracing Thomas Rodoni’s life from Sydney to Lithgow, and then to Newcastle between the decades 1910 to 1930s. There are many photographs of industrial work spaces and machinery, later works show his wife Catherine Annie and their four children, as well as friends and acquaintances.

Researching the Rodoni collection has included collaborating with the wider community, consisting the Rodoni family and friends, volunteers of the university, academic and military historians.  This collaborative approach has been particularly effective because of the limited information that was available about the collection, and the relatively short time to research and make the collection available to the public by April 2015.

This community research project was led by University Archivist Gionni Di Gravio. One of the first priorities was to conserve and safeguard the collection, this was done by Conservator Amir Mogadom who worked on the glass and film negatives to carefully preserve them and make ready to be digitally scanned. Natasha Schroder scanned the entire collection over a 3 month period, and Historian Ann Hardy researched photographs in consultation with family and colleagues. Historian Ken Thornton researched in more detail the history of the WWI New Guinea campaign, providing context to the photographs taken by Rodoni during the lead up to WWI war and his time in New Guinea. A ‘Slide show’ presentation of the collection was shared with family and friends and their responses recorded, similarly historians were also invited to a ‘slide show’ and their feedback regarding the WWI photographs were noted. Because of the high number of industrial related images we may run in the future a ‘slide show’ with industrial heritage groups to help to identify machinery and the location of workshops and factories.

A community approach has enabled research of the collection to occur fairly quickly. There are still many gaps in the ‘history’ of individual images, however the general context of the collection has been established well enough to be able to present the entire collection to the community via Flicker.

Community engagement will be ongoing. The local community approach already started will continue, and now that the collection is on Flicker further information provided by a global community will help to build new knowledge about this significant collection.

Ann Hardy
– 27 March 2015

Three men throwing a bottle in the air. c1910s

Three men throwing a bottle in the air. c1910s

3 thoughts on “Rodoni Archive Now Online

  1. The three tribesmen in the image above, wearing rattan loops around their waists and phallocrypts (penis covers), are almost certainly Atbalmin men whose mountain territory is on the southern side of the west-flowing Sepik and west of Telefomin. This image must have been made by Richard Thurnwald around September 1914 (see http://uscngp.com/papers/27 for English translation of Thurnwald’s account in German, published in 1916). I have identified nine images in the Newcastle Rodoni archive, and one in the Australian War Memorial obtained from Rodoni, that must be images made by Thurnwald in 1914.

  2. Pingback: Richard Thurnwald and Thomas James Rodoni in the Upper Sepik 1914 | Cultural Collections, UON Library

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