Hunter Valley Theatre Company records archived

This photograph was scanned from The Hunter Valley Theatre Company Archives (Box A9029). This collection contains images of Theatrical Productions staged by The Hunter Valley Theatre Company, Newcastle, Australia between 1976 and 1997. This box is held in archives of the University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.  Please contact us if you are the subject of the image, or know the subject of the image, and have cultural or other reservations about the image being displayed on this website and would like to discuss this with us. If you have any information about this photograph, please contact us. More about this image: "The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll" was first performed by The Hunter Valley Theatre Company on 2 March, 1988. Cast and Crew: Sian Newey (actor) Barry Shepherd (actor) Derrick Cox  (Designer)    Brent McGregor  (Director)    Ray Lawler  (Playwright)

“The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll”, first performed by The Hunter Valley Theatre Company on 2 March, 1988. (This photograph was scanned from HVTC Archives Box A9029)

See more of the Hunter Valley Theatre Company’s Photographic Archives here:


Conduit: Dr Gillian Arrighi
Donated: October 2012


A9029 Photographs – Theatrical Productions circa 1980s
A9030 Photographs – Actors, Productions, Star Hotel Riot circa 1970s-1990s
A9030(i) Actor’s promotional photographs, c1970s-1980s.
A9030(ii) Photographs relating to production of The Coast Mongrels, 1989.
A9030(iii) Photographs relating to production of Educating Rita, 1987.
A9030(iv) Photographs relating to production of Master Class, 1987.
A9030(v) Photographs relating to production of Summer of the Seventeeth Doll, 1988.
A9030(vi) Photographs relating to production of Diving for Pearls, 1994.
A9030(vii) Assorted photographs c.1970s-1990s
A9030(viii) Photographs and promotional material relating to The Trust: The Elizabeth Theatre Trust’s production of Lipstick Dreams, 1989.
A9030(ix) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of Us and Them, 1985.
A9030(x) Proof sheets relating to unidentified production(s) c.1980s
A9030(xi) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of Christian Brothers, 1984.
A9030(xii) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of A Hard God by Peter Kenna, 1984.
A9030(xiii) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of Bed of Roses, 1984.
A9030(xiv) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of Same Time Next Year, 1985.
A9030(xv) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of What If You Died Tomorrow by David Williamson, 1986.
A9030(xvi) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of A Happy and Holy Occasion by John O’Donoghue, 1986.
A9030(xvii) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of Machiavelli Machiavelli by John Upton, 1986.
A9030(xviii) Photographs and promotional material relating to production of The Bastard from the Bush by Rodney Fisher and Robin Ramsay, 1984.
A9030(xix) Assorted proof sheets and colour slides of unidentified gatherings and occasions. c.1980s.
A9030(xx) Photographs of the Star Hotel Riot, 1979.
A9030(xxi) Colour Photographs and negatives of unidentified production at Fort Scratchley c.1980s or 1990s?
A9031 Photographs and Slides – Various Productions circa 1980s – 1990s
A9032 Negatives – Two Albums (to be rehoused)
A9033 Newsclipping Scrapbooks 1980-1984
A9033A (Oversize – to be rehoused) Newsclipping Scrapbooks 1984-1985 with large photographs
A9034 Newsclipping Scrapbooks 1986-1995


"A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum" was first performed by The Hunter Valley Theatre Company on 1 January - 1 February, 1981.

“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” was first performed by The Hunter Valley Theatre Company on 1 January – 1 February, 1981.


B17336 Minute Book No. 1 – 18 Aug 1975 to 5 May 1977
B17337 Minute Book No. 2 – 30 May 1977 to 10 May 1978
B17338 Minute Book No. 3 – 24 May 1978 to 15 Oct 1980
B17339 Minute Book No. 4 – 19 Nov 1980 to 29 Sept 1982
B17340 Minute Book No. 5 – 10 Nov 1982 to 29 April 1984
B17341 Minute Book No. 6 – 9 May 1984 to 6 Aug 1985
B17342 Minute Book No. 7 – 1 Oct 1985 to 5 Aug 1986
B17343 Minute Book No. 8 – 1 Sept 1986 to 6 Sept 1988
B17344 Minute Book No. 9 – 10 Oct 1988 to 16 July 1991
B17345 Minute Book No. 10 – 20 Aug 1991 to 27 Sept 1993
B17346 Minute Book Annual General Meetings – 9 Oct 1977 to 7 April 1991



C2004 (i) Production of ‘A Rare Jewel’, a musical dramatization of “the last rehearsal and opening night for the gala opening concert of the refurbished Civic Theatre”, 1993.
C2004 (ii) Correspondence re Civic Theatre refurbishment, 1991 – 1993.
C2004 (iii) Correspondence re Civic Theatre refurbishment, 1992.
C2004 (iv) Civic Theatre management proposals, 1993.
C2004 (v) Planning for the opening production, ie ‘A Rare Jewel’, marking the refurbishment of the Civic Theatre, 1993.
C2004 (vi) Correspondence re ongoing Civic Theatre refurbishment, 1993 – 1994.
C2004 (vii) Civic Theatre technical specifications and conditions of hire, rates and charges for use of the Civic Playhouse, 1996.
C2004 (viii) Hunter Association of Performing Arts Companies minutes, June 1992.
C2004 (ix) Correspondence re potential involvement in the proposed Honeysuckle Performing Arts Complex, 1994.
C2004 (x) The New South Wales Regional Theatre Network, 1997.
C2004 (xi) Correspondence from the Australian Centre – International Theatre Institute, 1982 – 1983.
C2004 (xii) New South Wales State Theatre Project, 1993 – 1994.
C2004 (xiii) Correspondence with Daniel Skeffington and Paul Zorzi and their Octave Above Productions, 1991 – 1992.
C2004 (xiv) Assorted HVTC productions 1982 – 1997.
C2004 (xv) Industrial relations correspondence with Actors Equity of Australia; Musicians Union of Australia; Australian Writers’ Guild; Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees Association; and the Australian National Playwrights Conference, 1983 – 1988.
C2004 (xvi) Actors Equity pay rates, 1994 – 1997.
C2004 (xvii) Stage professionals in Newcastle – actors, directors, designers etc , 1992.
C2004 (xviii) Actors’ resumes / curriculum vitae, 1996.
C2004 (xix) Actors’ resumes / curriculum vitae, 1996.
C2005 (i) Advertising, promotion, newsletters, 1986 – 1994.
C2005 (ii) Applications for funding grants from the Australia Council for the Arts, 1986 – 1997.
C2006 (i) Corporate sponsors and sponsorship, 1989 – 1995.
C2006 (ii) Funding and fundraising, 1983 – 1995.
C2006 (iii) Applications for funding grants, 1985 – 1997.
C2007 (i) Membership and subscriptions, 1982 – 1996.
C2007 (ii) Correspondence re community consultation and sundry other matters, 1977 – 1995.
C2007 (iii) Box office summaries, 1982 – 1987.
C2008 (i) Annual Arts Ball, 1984 – 1994.
C2008 (ii) Fundraising social events, 1982 – 1993.
C2008 (iii) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1988 – 1989.
C2008 (iv) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1990 – 1997.
C2009 (i) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1982 – 1985.
C2009 (ii) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1986.
C2009 (iii) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1987 – 1989.
C2009 (iv) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1990 – 1991.
C2010 (i) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1992 – 1993.
C2010 (ii) Play production folders for HVTC productions 1994 – 1997.
C2010 (iii) Audited and unaudited financial statements, 1991 – 1997.
C2010 (iv) Insurance, 1983 – 1996.
C2011 (i) Company logo, 1993.
C2011 (ii) Newspaper articles and diagrams of the Civic Theatre collected towards 10th birthday celebrations for the Playhouse, 1916 – 1989.
C2011 (iii) Liquor license, 1996 – 1997.
C2011 (iv) Newcastle City Council Cultural Survey, 1996.
C2011 (v) Staff timesheets, 1987.
C2011 (vi) HVTC Annual Report 1991 + folders re Annual General Meetings 1992 – 1996.
C2011 (vii) Commissions of work from playwrights; proposals for commissioning of work; and contracts, 1992 – 1997.
C2011 (viii-ix) Financial records, notable for considerable agonizing over how to save HVTC from insolvency, culminating in its winding up and handover of the Playhouse to the Newcastle City Council, 1978 – 1997.
C2012 (i-ii) HVTC Board minutes, correspondence, papers, Certificate of Registration of Business Name, and official stamp, 1975 – 1997.


WW1 in colour

World War 1 in Colour

Recently, we were delighted to receive a copy of The digger’s view : WWI in colour  edited and collated by Juan Mahony. (New Lambton, N.S.W. The Digger’s View Pty Ltd, 2014. ) for our collections. This book was kindly donated by the author who has brought to life two of our black and white photos taken by soldiers during the First World War. The following report was written by Mr Chris Bourne, a team member who has a special interest in military history.

Major Brent B. Rodd Photo scanned from the original in the Brent B. Rodd Collection

Major Brent B. Rodd
Photo scanned from the original in the Brent B. Rodd Collection

The black and white photos right and below are from the Cultural Collections’ files and were recently included by Juan Mahoney in his latest First World War publication, The digger’s view : WW1 in colour. Juan and his team have skilfully coloured the images digitally with an emphasis on detail to really bring some life into these old photos. The two photos Juan chose from our collections were: a fund raising/recruitment drive for the 35th Battalion featuring a horse and cart from Scott’s Ltd on the corner of Hunter and Wolfe Streets, Newcastle ( and; Major (later Colonel) Brent Burnell Rodd 9th Brigade, First AIF, 1917 ( The before and after images of the Scott’s Ltd photo are shown below.

Major Brent B. Rodd was himself from Newcastle and an officer in both the 35th and 36th Battalions during the war. Much of his family and military history is held here at Cultural Collections.

Along with hundreds of photos the book also includes many letters written in the trenches, by Australia soldiers fighting in Gallipoli and later Belgium and France. This combination gives an interesting insight to a very tragic chapter of history that could hardly be imagined by anybody who wasn’t actually there. Mateship, humour and induced indifference were some of the ways for these men to escape the horrors without going totally insane.

As Juan Mahoney is from Newcastle many of the published letters and photos that have been collated are from people throughout the Hunter Valley Region. The 9th Brigade of the AIF features prominently as it was made up of 33rd Battalion (New England’s own), 34th Battalion (Maitland’s own), 35th Battalion (Newcastle’s own) and 36th Battalion, which was also formed and trained in Newcastle.

Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle Library has collected and digitised hundreds of images of the First World War which are available to the public via the Flickr website.

This is the second occasion Cultural Collections has been able to assist Juan. His first publication, From the Home Front to the Front Line: Images of the Great War also featured a number of photographs from our collections.

Chris Bourne


Before After

Horse and cart with supplies for the Front

Fund raising for the 35th Battalion
Photo scanned from the original in the Brent B. Rodd Collection, held by the University Library

Horse and cart with supplies for the Front

Fund raising for the 35th Battalion.
From The Digger’s View: WW1 in colour by Juan Mahony

The Joan Bowden Collection

The Joan Bowden Collection

Recently Cultural Collections in the University Library was privileged to receive a collection of sheet music, photographs, news clippings and theatre programs which had belonged to a local identity, Joan Bowden (1935-2013). We are very pleased to have been entrusted with this material by her family, especially her cousin, Gayle Brown. Here is Joan’s story, provided by her family.

joan - redThe Joan Bowden Story

Joan Bowden was the elder, by twenty minutes of a set of twins born to Maud and Walter Bowden on June 11th 1935, in Hillcrest Salvation Army Hospital at Merewether. Joan’s mother Maud was unaware that she was having twins, so preparation had only been made for one baby – not two, what a surprise!

Warren James – Joan’s twin was very sickly, so he was given the proper baby’s cot whilst Joan’s bed was the washing basket. Warren died 6 months before his 21st birthday so Joan celebrated their 21st birthday alone.

Joan cutting her 21st birthday cake

Joan cutting her 21st birthday cake

Joan and Warren had an older sister – Gladys June, who died at 7 years of age during the Diphtheria epidemic of the 1930s when she was mistakenly given a

n adult injection instead of a child’s dose.

Joan and Warren were born 12 months later. Joan also had health problems because, at birth her eyelids refused to open, and it wasn’t until a relative – Mrs Walton of Lambton suggested heating lump Alum in boiling milk then bathing the eyelids in the “whey” it produced so that the eyes eventually opened.

Joan’s grandmother ran outside shouting with excitement, “Quick Maud, Joan’s eyes are open and they are blue”.

Joan lived in May Street, Islington till she was 5 years of age. During WWII the family moved to Northumberland Street, Maryville. Joan attended Islington and Tighes Hill Primary then finished her education at Wickham Home Science School.

Joan’s first job was as cashier and window dresser at McGavin’s Butcher shop in Hunter Street Newcastle and she worked there 13 years.

Joan’s musical talents were encouraged at an early age by her grandmother Walton, who was once organist at The Tabernacle Church in Sheldon England. Her grandmother taught her the scales on the piano.

Joan on stage

Joan on stage

At 17 years Joan entered a Talent Show on Radio 2KO mimicking Johnny Ray singing “Broken Hearted”, Hazel Evans accompanied her on the piano. As Joan left the studio Matthew Tapp said “You have a great voice, why don’t you get it trained?”. “How could I do that?” Joan asked, his reply was “Colin Chapman Studios”.

Joan joined Colin Chapman and over the next 30 years was part of many productions and excelled in “Look Back in

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady

Anger” by J.B. Priestley when, due to her performance she was recommended for a Dramatic Arts Award. Another production “They Came To A City” by J.B. Priestley was reported in the newspaper as follows……”The night’s best performance was that of Joan Bowden who played the titled woman’s daughter, assuredly”.

June 1962 saw Joan sailing for England on a 2½ year working holiday, which gave her the opportunity to study singing under the famous teacher Gwen Cately.

Joan’s love of singing and performing continued right through her life.

She  regularly entertained in nursing homes and church meetings with the “Le Belle Dancers”.

From 1975 Joan became an Amway Distributor, becoming a very successful business woman marketing their products and left The Store in 1978 to do Amway full time going for the first of many trips with that company.

After a courageous, hard fought battle with illness, Joan passed away on 6 February 2013.

The following slide show features some photos which were kindly supplied by her family.

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A Moment in Time – Arrival of Wallis Book to University 1994

Presentation of 1821 Wallis Book to University Library 1994

A copy of the famous work by former Commandant of Newcastle Captain James Wallis (1785?-1858) entitled An historical account of the colony of New South Wales and its dependent settlements : in illustration of twelve views engraved by W. Preston from drawings taken on the spot by Captain Wallis. To which is subjoined An accurate map of Port Macquarie and the newly discovered River Hastings by J. Oxley. London : Printed for R. Ackermann by J. Moyes, 1821 was donated by Mollie Steere and her family back in 1994.

Mrs Di Robson, daughter of the late Mollie Steere sent us a photograph from the day the book was presented to the University of Newcastle Libraries.

In the photograph are (from l-r) Mrs Mollie (Ella Hope) Steere, husband Bill (William George), Mr Bill Linklater University Librarian and Diane Steere (later Di Robson).

Di writes:

Mum, Dad and I had recently been to Sydney for Dad to march on ANZAC Day with his old army mates. It was the first time he wore his medals! And his first Sydney march.

The following day we went to Barrenjoey Lighthouse (where Dad’s father had been born) and visited Jervis Sparks who lived in one of the cottages. Jervis had written a history of the lighthouse – It was a perfect day!

It must have been just a few days later that we went to the Uni with the book.

Dad was very ill with cancer and sadly died in July later that year (1994)

We wish to thank the late Mollie Steere and family for what is a wonderful and generous donation to the University.

To access a digital version of the work click on the Flickr link here:

To access a text searchable pdf version click here:
James Wallis – An historical account (1821) (51MB PDF Version)

Wallis’ personal copy of the book will be one of the Newcastle treasures that will make a return back to Newcastle in March 2013 for the eagerly anticipated “Treasures of Newcastle from the Macquarie Era Exhibition”.

For further information:



Unbound Lepidoptera

Australian Lepidoptera Plate 7

Australian Lepidoptera - Plate 7


Recently, the University Library was very fortunate to receive a copy of what appears to be the unbound 1899 edition of A. W. Scott, Australian lepidoptera and their transformations drawn from the life. Vol. I. by Harriet and Helena Scott ; with descriptions, general and systematic by A.W. Scott.

Ms Jacqui Jools saw some of the publicity relating to our recent exhibition welcoming home the Scott Sisters’ works, and decided to offer us her copy of this very interesting edition of the work. We accepted her offer with alacrity! You can see the 9 black and white plates on our Flickr site.

We are most grateful to Ms Jools for her wonderful donation to Cultural Collections.


Mapping our Climate

Algernon Henry Belfield



The DOI for the transcribed Eversleigh dataset is :

Belfield, Algernon (2018) Meteorological observations for Eversleigh Station, near Armidale, New South Wales, Australia 1877-1922 (transcribed). The University of Newcastle.

On the 9th March 2011 a digital copy of important climate records dating from 1877 will be deposited with the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections.

Algernon Henry Belfield (1838-1922) arrived in Australia in 1855, and was an astronomer, meteorologist and pastoralist responsible to recording 30 years of meticulous weather data at his Eversleigh Station in the New England district.

The original journals date from 1877-1907 and were originally offered to University academic Mr Martin Babakhan to be deposited here. But after consideration of their place of origin the University Archivist recommended the records be housed closer to home at the Heritage Centre University of New England (UNE) at Armidale.

UNE have kindly provided us with a digital copy of the records, and Richard Belfield (grandson of Algernon Henry Belfield) will be travelling from Armidale to Newcastle to present the University with a digital copy of his grandfather’s climate records in person.

Martin Babakhan believes that there are other local pastoral families who may have in their custody similar climate records, and may be able to provide us with similar collections for ongoing research, thus enabling our climate and environmental researchers to comprehensively map our local climate data from the historical records.

All those interested in climate research are welcome to come along.  Professor Tim Roberts, Director, Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, Professor Howard Bridgman Conjoint Professor Editor, Air Quality and Climate Change, School of Environmental and Life Sciences and Mr Martin Babakhan from the Faculty of Science and Information Technology will speak on the day on the importance of such records to ongoing and future research.

When: Wednesday 9th March 2011 at 10 am

Where: Cultural Collections Level 2 Auchmuty Library

All Welcome.

Please RSVP

For more information:

ABC New England Radio Interviews with Mr Richard Belfield

ABC New England Radio – Sample Images from the Weather Records (1877)

Harry Pugmire – Port Stephens Artist

The Harry Pugmire Collection

Self portrait by Harry Pugmire

Self Portrait: Harry Pugmire

The University has recently received two wonderful donations of the works of Harry Pugmire, a well-known artist from the Port Stephens area. We are most grateful to Leonie Bell and Louise Phillips for their generosity in entrusting these original works to our care.

Mrs Phillips has kindly donated numerous framed works by Harry Pugmire. These will be photographed as soon as possible and added to our online collections.

The collection donated by Leonie Bell consists of pastel works, watercolours, and pencil sketches from Mr Pugmire’s sketch books, as well as some framed works. In addition, she has given us a copy of her book from which an extract appears below, digitised images of the sketches (which are now available to all on our Flickr site), a catalogue of the works and some very useful research material.

The following information has been extracted from Leonie Bell’s book, Art of Harry Pugmire : treasure to hunt. Nabiac, N.S.W. : L. Bell, [2009].

Harry Pugmire was, according to Art Critic Melville Hansom in the 1950s, “one of the greatest exponents of the medium of pastel within Australia.” Harry’s prolific output of work occurred between 1938 and 1970. Born in Scarborough, England on 25th December 1901, Harry arrived in Australia in 1927 as a Cabinet Maker. Harry enlisted in the A.I.F. between 1940 and 1945. His earliest dated sketches appear to place him in Queensland, but research shows that he worked with a picture framing business as framer and gilder, possibly Young and Lucas Picture Framers, Gilders etc. Foster St. Sydney, while he lived near the Presbyterian Church in Castlereagh Street. Harry’s close friendship with Alan Baker and his wife Marjorie provided many painting excursions and joint exhibitions as they were all members of the Royal Art Society.

Harry moved to Nelson Bay in the 1960s where he earned a living by the sale of his art works until his death by coronary occlusion on the 25th April, 1971 aged 69 years. At the time of his death Harry was blind in one eye, possibly due to the occupational hazard of pastel particles. In 1970 Harry executed a remarkable self portrait conveying the feelings of pending blindness, which was recently donated to the University of Newcastle by Louise Phillips.

Harry exhibited in the Wynne Prize for Landscape works in 1938 with “Old Cremorne”, 1939 with “Morning Middlehead”, 1940 with “Castle Creek”, 1952 with “Mount View”, 1953 with “West Wind”, and 1959 with “National Park.”

Alan Baker painted Harry’s portrait for the Archibald Prize in 1952 and Garrett Kingsley submitted a portrait of Harry in 1960 and both were selected.

Being a member of the Royal Art Society, Harry regularly exhibited his works with his contemporary artists: William Dobell, Norman Lindsay, Arthur Boyd and many others.

Attention needs to be directed to the many styles Harry used: hatching, cross hatching, contour drawing, simplicity of line, abstract patterns and brush work, to mention a few. His feature of form, whether trees, animals, clouds, landform or buildings provide the primary interest in the work. Some of his brief sketches show the lyricism of line with eloquent beauty. Others teach the finesse of focus, so necessary for the power of the composition. Yet the intention of some sketches is to imprint the truth of tone necessary to give space dimensionality.

You may view the digital version of the Harry Pugmire Collection at

Highlighting our Special Collections

The Special Collections at the University of Newcastle, Australia

At present, Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle houses more than 32,000 volumes, many of which are very valuable and unique to Australian libraries. The existence of these Collections is largely due to the generosity of a number of benefactors as most of the items have been acquired by donation, or purchased from bequest funds. Collectively, they not only form a major resource in their own right, but also enrich our capacity to support a multitude of research programs. Some of the collections are:

  • The Bishop’s Library is a collection of books dating from 1584 and was established by the second Bishop of Maitland, Dr. James Murray (1865-1909) and substantially augmented by his successor, Dr. P.V. Dwyer (1909-1931).
  • The Cornell Collection is a collection of French works, part of the personal libraryof the late Emeritus Professor James Gladstone Cornell, M.A., Dip.Ed. (Melbourne), L.(Paris), F.A.C.E., Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, who was Professor of French at the University of Adelaide for some twenty-five years (1944-1969).
  • The Hartley Collection, comprising some 600 books donated to the Library by Professor Kelver Hartley, Foundation Professor of French. Kelver Hayward Hartley (1909-1988) was Foundation Professor of French in the University of Newcastle, holding the Chair from 1965 until his retirement at the beginning of 1969.
  • The James Joyce Collection is perhaps the strongest in Australia. It was begun in the 1960s at the behest of the internationally distinguished James Joyce scholar, Professor Clive Hart.
  • The Light Collection comprises 130 items purchased with Light funding. Most are first editions printed in the nineteenth century and many of the items are very rare.
  • The Morpeth Collection is a collection of some 2,700 volumes from St. John’s College Morpeth, generously donated by the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, and includes editions of major theological and philosophical works printed in the 16th-18th centuries.
  • Norman Talbot’s William Morris Collection was donated in November 2004 by Dr Jean Talbot  in memory of her husband who died earlier in the year. Norman Talbot was very much a scholar of the life and work of William Morris (1834-1896). William Morris was an author, poet, artist, manufacturer, and founder of the arts and crafts movement. The Collection consists of around two to three shelves of books, the substantial portion being two complete sets of William Morris’ Collected Works; a limited edition set published between 1910 -1915 of The Collected Works of William Morris. With introductions by his daughter May Morris. London: Longmans Green and Company, 1910-1915. Limited to 1,050 numbered copies (of which 1,000 only are for sale) in twenty-four octavo volumes, and the 1966 edition.
  • The Renaissance Collection consists of volumes drawn in part from the Morpeth Collection and from the existing Auchmuty Library collections, but the majority were purchased through the Reta Light Trust Fund.
  • The Sparke Collection comprises family books principally of Edward Sparke (1831-1902) and his family from Maitland, including a Bible and accountancy reference aids.
  • The Tanner Library is the personal collection of some 6,000 works belonging to the late Professor Godfrey Tanner (1927-2002). Containing works on texts and commentaries on Latin and Greek classics, the Classical Tradition, the Christian tradition in antiquity, histories of the ancient world, its literature and ideas – religious, philosophical, social, political – studies in the form and development of ancient languages, commentaries on texts and so on in English, French and German and much more.
  • The Tomson Collection is the private library of Brian Tomson who died in 1986. He was a lecturer in the English Department teaching in the fields of Old and Middle English studies as well as being a fine chess player.

A full list of the collections is also available.

These works are not for loan, but may be viewed in our reading room. Please contact us if you are interested in using any of these works.

Windows to another time – Ralph Snowball’s Glass Negatives

Top men, Raspberry Gully, NSW, 24 June 1898

Day Shift – 19/05/2009 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist University of Newcastle

Newcastle University Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses the work to date on the Norm Barney Photographic Collection that was donated to the University’s Cultural Collections in June 2008. The Collection consists of around 990 glass negatives from Newcastle Photographer Ralph Snowball, and thousands more regular negatives from the Collections of Norm Barney and his friend and colleague Bert Lovett.

Broadcast Notes:

There are a number of collections of Ralph Snowball’s images throughout the region in private collections as well as public, most notable is the collection in Local Studies in Newcastle Public Library and available through Hunter Photobank.

This particular Collection of around 990 extraordinary glass slides forms part of Norm Barney’s Photographic Collection that was deposited with the University’s Cultural Collections in June 2008.

To view our progress to date and see the larger images please visit our flickr site (make sure to click the ‘all sizes’ tab:

These are the largest images of this kind available online anywhere, we are proud to present these photographic masterpieces to the wider community. They are so big you can pick the the breadcrumbs out of the beards!

Wallsend Number 1 tunnel, Wallsend, NSW, 11 June 1897

Wallsend Number 1 tunnel, Wallsend, NSW, 11 June 1897

Originally more than 8,000 glass negatives were stored in the cellar of Ralph Snowball’s Clarence Rd house. Most had not seen the light of day since Snowball’s death in 1925 right up until the beginning of 1989 when around the 800 or so boxes were rediscovered by Norm Barney and Bert Lovett.

Most were of two sizes: whole plate, approximately 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in (21.6 x 16.5cm) and half plate, approximately 6 1/2mx 4 1/2 in (16.5 x 12.7 cm).

All were examined and around 2000 were subsequently dumped due to being destroyed by a combination of age and dampness. We estimate that around 5000 were donated to Newcastle City Council’s local history library.

A total of around 990 glass plates remained with Norm Barney in 44 boxes, the ‘cream of the crop’ that was kept with the family to prepare Norm Barney’s publications. Included are also some archival registers and notebooks belonging to Ralph Snowball.

”]Municipal Baths, Newcomen Street, Newcastle, NSW, [n.d.]Over the years these were cleaned, listed, wrapped in acid-free paper, reboxed and placed in metal cupboards and eventually deposited with the University in June 2008 by the widow of the late Norm Barney, Mrs Daphne Barney.


Norm Barney and Bert Lovett were able to identify most of the names, dates and places with the help of the surviving notebooks, details on some of the old boxes, and Ralph Snowball’s habit of writing on some of the negatives.

In addition to the Snowball Glass Negatives (990 images), inscribed box lids (3 boxes) and notebooks (1 box) the collection also includes negatives from the private collections of Norm Barney and Bert Lovett (approx 7000 items).

John Scholey's house, Mayfield, NSW, 7 November 1900

John Scholey's house, Mayfield, NSW, 7 November 1900

We currently have employed a qualified conservator to document the condition of the glass negatives, clean and re-house them. A digitiser to scan the glass negatives at a minimum of 300-600 dpi and import the jpgs (or optimised image files) in to our online Flickr site, and a cataloguer to create library catalogue entries for them in the University Library’s Newcat catalogue. After this process the glass negatives will be retired into the safety and preservation of archive boxes for long term storage.

To view more of these amazing images of Newcastle and the Hunter Region please visit our flickr site (make sure to click the ‘all sizes’ tab:

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist

Media Stories

'Glimpse of an era long gone' Newcastle Herald 11 September 2010 pp 22-23


'Found: the lost photos' Herald Feature by Mike Scanlon 18 September 2010 p.10

'Pictures for posterity' by Jill Stowell Newcastle Herald 18 September 2010 p.18

Life of a Free Settler in 1832

Hunter Valley manuscript leaf

Hunter Valley manuscript leaf

Day Shift -15/07/2008 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Producer: Jeanette McMahon
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

Newcastle University Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses a new addition to the Collections in the form of an authentic manuscript account of a settler’s life in the Hunter Region. The manuscript which was written in early 1832 is by an as yet unknown author. His interesting (and in some instances amusing) views on women, floods, pigs, bushrangers and the legal system will be discussed.

View and read the manuscript online on flickr – Hunter Valley Manuscript c.1932

Broadcast Notes:

Where did it come from?

It was originally donated anonymously to The Tweed River Historical Society Murwillumbah Museum a few years prior to 1998. No records were kept of the transfer and part of the original manuscript was subsequently lost. In December 1998, after preliminary enquiries and due in part to the importance of the manuscript to the Hunter Region, the Society transferred the manuscript to the custodianship of the Newcastle Regional Museum who in June 2008 transferred it to the care of the University’s Cultural Collections (Archives) as a item better suited to documentary research.

What is it?

The manuscript is a portion of a larger work written by settler on the Hunter River, presumably around the Maitland district, in early 1832. There are 41 leaves of hand written text divided into sections and chapters. What has come down to us are chapters 2 sections 4 and 5; Unknown chapter sections 2 and 3; Unknown chapter sections 2,3; Chapter 3 sections 4 and 5; Chapter 4 sections 1 and 2. The order is still being ascertained with some of the leaves. The final two are badly damaged and may have originally formed part of one of the sections dealing with servants. We also know that parts of the manuscript were lost while in the  Murwillumbah Museum. There is a partial transcription which was made prior to this, and which we still need to examine to see whether it includes anything from the lost sections.

How do we know when the manuscript was written?

I can tell you with some certainty that the date at which it was penned was around February-early March 1832. The author (who only refers to himself as ‘the writer’) makes a statement relating to two steamers plying the river and the building of a third. This statement allows us to target a potential date for the manuscript. The Sophia Jane was in operation by November 1831, and the William IV was launched in the same month, but did not begin its run until the 15 February 1832. The ‘third’ being built on the Williams was the ‘Experiment’ which was not completed until May 1832. Therefore our writer penned the manuscript sometime between February and May 1832. Later on in the manuscript he makes reference to a story in the Sydney Herald about a fellow dying of cold in the bush, so this could point to the colder months in 1832. He also appears unaware of the severity of the floods in the district, especially the one in 1826 prior to his arrival in 1829. This is another clue, as another severe flood occurred on the 24 March 1832, so I would assume that he was writing just before that date, sometime around February-early March 1832.

What does it say?

The author begins with a discussion between native born people and emigrants. What he means by ‘native’ is not as we understand as ‘aboriginal people’ but white people born in the colony. He begins by describing the differences between those who emigrated here refer to themselves as ‘Sterling’ while those who are native born are known as ‘currency’. He goes on to speak about a range of topics including the nature of life  in the district, the landscape, shipping along the river, flooding, agricultural matters, female convicts and women in general, the legal system, pigs, the relationships between settlers, emancipists and free settlers (exclusives) and bushrangers.

Who is the author?

We do not know the identity of the author. Wheat we do know is that he was a free settler on the Hunter River (presumably in the Maitland district), who arrived some time around 1829. He has an amazing sense of humour, especially when talking about pigs. The section of the manuscript concerning pigs and the trouble they cause between the settlers is very funny. He talks about quality of life in New South Wales (Australia) in general terms, and breaks off into local examples based in the Maitland district. He is also an apologist for the emancipists’ cause. Who he was remains an interesting mystery.

Hopefully we might find someone out there that recognises who the author might have been, or might be inspired to search him out.

Gionni Di Gravio
University of Newcastle
July 2008

I wish to thank Mr Ron Madden (see comment below) and for information on the Steamers and when they were operating, as it greatly helps in dating this manuscript. (April 2011)