On the other side of the trenches

On the other side of the trenches : The Ottoman Empire Display title poster

If you are passing through the corridor adjacent to Cultural Collections in the Auchmuty Library over the next two or three weeks, you will see a very interesting display curated by two students of the Library and Information Services Certificate III at Newcastle TAFE.

This display looks at the history of the Ottoman Empire, the forces of which were on the other side of the trenches at Gallipoli in 1915. It features 14 great posters created by the students, as well as some chosen by them from our collections. There are also many books on various aspects of the Ottoman Empire society and history, and on the Gallipoli and Palestine campaigns.

Looking back at the war

Finally, there are some artefacts from the First World War, some chosen from our archives and others provided by the curators themselves.

Many thanks to the two students for preparing this display – they are a credit to the TAFE!

Lost Diggers of Weston – Update

Towns with Heart & The Coalfields Heritage Group present

Alexander Galloway’s Lost Diggers of Weston

A group of Australian soldiers outside a hotel, [Criterion Hotel-], [1914-1918]

A group of Australian soldiers outside a hotel, [Criterion Hotel-], [1914-1918]

Lost to the world for almost 100 years, these timeless images will be on public display for the first time.

Who were they? What is their story? Are they your Great Grandfather or Uncle?

When:

  • Thursday April 25
  • Friday April 26
  • Saturday April 27
  • Sunday April 28

Where:

St. Paul the Apostle Anglican Church Hall
Lang Street, Kurri Kurri
10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Entry by gold coin donation.

Lost Diggers of Weston

On Friday 1 March 2019, two members of the Cultural Collections team attended a very interesting presentation on Alexander Galloway’s Lost Diggers of Weston at the Kurri Kurri Library.

The presentation was given by representatives from Towns with Heart and the Edgeworth David Museum, including Lexie Matthews and Cheryle Shoesmith (Edgeworth David Museum) and Graham Smith, Bill Holland and Sharon Dyson-Smith (Towns with Heart).  The presenters covered the story of Alexander Galloway, coalfields photographer, as well as the stories of the Great War diggers whose photos he captured prior to their embarkation.

This presentation was the prelude to the Lost Diggers Exhibition to be held on the 2019 ANZAC weekend in the Saint Paul the Apostle Anglican Church Hall, Lang Street, Kurri Kurri. The exhibition will feature photos of all 60 Lost Diggers, together with the stories of those who have been identified. These photos were produced from scans of the original glass plate negatives.

Full details of the forthcoming exhibition will be posted as soon as they are available.

 

The Birdwood Flag Conservation Project

Birdwood Flag After Restoration 2017

The Birdwood Flag After Conservation-2017

The Birdwood Flag Conservation Project
Amir Moghadam, UON

This blog, and the ones that will follow, look back over three and a half years to detail the preservation and conservation measures that returned the restored Birdwood flag to Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral in July 2017.

The posts will be presented as a narrative, relying on my own notes, images and memories and interspersing this narrative with comments from other members of the Birdwood Heritage Committee. The aim is to make an account that includes a variety of perspectives so that community members gain knowledge they can use in their own preservation projects.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”

The Birdwood Flag’s preservation story is well described by applying Lao Tzu’s quotation above. The first definite steps in restoring the flag were made in November 2013 following a number of comments on the flag in previous years. The reality we faced was thousands of fragments of mostly reddish looking textile stored in a plastic back within a large cardboard box in a damp vault of the Cathedral.

Birdwood Flag Before Conservation-02

The Birdwood Flag Before Conservation-2013

The other reality was the complete absence of any substantial funding and support that would be required for a major restoration. No group of people who might have the expertise to manage such a project could be identified and the one conservator at the University of Newcastle, myself, was so occupied with other projects, there was no time available, even for discussion or planning. Everything had to be established and negotiated from scratch. As a conservator, I knew this would involve the creation of a strategy for preservation of the flag to gauge the feasibility and practicality of the process. Only then could there be some negotiation between interested groups (including the University and the Cathedral) and then applications for resources, grants or other help through public and private benefactors.

As a principle of conservation, the level of material disintegration of an object is also considered. The Birdwood Flag’s utterly fragmented and delicate state would usually rule it out of consideration for restoration. The time for conservation would be judged as having expired so that any effort to restore it would be seen as pointless or worse still, as endangering the authenticity of the item. Indeed, such conservation would be perceived as blurring the lines between conservation and total re-construction of the item.

However a different principle of conservation argued against dismissing the idea of conservation and labelling the Birdwood Flag as a hopeless case. The significance of an item, be it art-work or monument, argues for or against the dedication of scarce resources to preserve it. Even so, the integrity of the item’s fabric is very important in deciding its significance. An item can only be considered as significant if enough of it remains to show what it is.

There was a Catch 22 involved with arguing the significance of the Birdwood Flag in its disintegrated state. To do this, some assurance was needed that it could be put together and made recognisable as a flag of a particular design, dimension and colour. A bag of confetti does not easily lend itself to such an assurance. Many people engaged in cultural heritage work experience such dilemmas. This is the moment when a project is often abandoned. However the Birdwood Flag was too important to be forgotten. It narrates the sacrifices of soldiers of a nation established only 15 years earlier during one of the most cruel and catastrophic wars in human history. Moreover the flag tells a story above and beyond a tale of WWI. Produced by a community yet official, flown on the battlefield yet returned to the community who built its own War Memorial and ‘laid up’ the flag there, this object provides important evidence for larger historical and social enquiries.

Birdwood Group

From left: Major Roland Millbank, Birdwood Committee; Dr.Rosemary Barnard, Birdwood Comittee; Dr. Amir Mogadam, Conservator, UON; Mr. Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, UON; Dr. Patricia Gillard, Birdwood Committee; Mr.Julian Bickersteth, Managing Director, ICS.

The Birdwood Flag has been restored and this blog is being published 31 July 2017; the day after the Birdwood Flag was re-hallowed in a special service to mark its return to Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. The brochure, Two Lives, tells the story of the one hundred years between the first making of the flag and its successful restoration and return. Further blogs will show the steps during three and a half years that brought us to this day.

MEDIA

“Re-Hallowing of the Birdwood Flag Service” Newcastle Anglican (1 August 2017)
http://newcastleanglican.org.au/re-hallowing-of-the-birdwood-flag-service/

“WW1 Flag Returned to Newcastle After Painstaking Restoration” NBN News (20 July 2017)
http://www.nbnnews.com.au/2017/07/20/wwi-flag-returned-to-newcastle-after-painstaking-restoration/

“Australia’s first flag forgotten, found and restored all in 100 years” ABC News (30 June 2017)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-29/australian-first-flag-found-and-restored-in-nsw/8663158

“Precious WW1 Flag on the Mend” by Mike Scanlon. Newcastle Herald (2 June 2017)
http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4700307/precious-relic-on-the-mend/

Richard Thurnwald and Thomas James Rodoni in the Upper Sepik 1914

New Guinea Tribesmen circa 1914 - 1915

Telefolmin men from the highland valley near the source of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, September 1914. Image by Dr Richard Thurnwald

A small number of an historic hoard of rare images taken in German New Guinea at the outbreak of WW1 are now understood to have been looted, by an Australian military expedition, from German ethnologist Dr Richard Thurnwald.

And so, another intesting chapter in the life and times of Thomas James Rodoni (1882-1956) and his fellow troops in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) has now emerged thanks to Dr Barry Craig, Senior Curator, Foreign Ethnology at the South Australian Museum.

Following the launch of Rodoni’s digitised photographic glass and film negatives in the freely accessible Rodoni Archive, Dr Craig commented on the site’s pages in May/June 2015 that he had recognised that a number of Rodoni’s images had not been taken by him, but, in fact taken by a German ethnographer Richard Thurnwald possibly in Sept-Oct 1914.  He stated:

“Thurnwald had returned from his exploration to the source of the Sepik, apparently leaving his photographs at his base camp, and set off up the Sepik again in November to explore the Sand and North Rivers (the latter as far north as the Bewani Range). While he was away, the AN&MEF arrived (with Rodoni) on the Nusa and took all of Thurnwald’s boats, his engineer Theodore Fiebig, and supplies, collections, notes and images back down the river, eventually to Madang. When Thurnwald returned to find his camp ransacked, he went down river in a paddle canoe, sustained by a few cans of beans, and reported to the police station at Angoram, and then went on to Madang where he was befriended by Captain Walter Balfour Ogilvy, the District Officer there. Thurnwald then attempted to get all his things back but it took many years and not everything was returned. It seems these images in possession of Rodoni were part of the looting.” – Dr Barry Craig Wednesday, 20 May, 2015 at 10:57 am

Dr Craig published The Fate of Thurnwald’s Sepik Ethnographic Collections, and it was interesting to finally be able to locate a small portion of the collection, after a hundred years, that had been lying in a suburban garage and lost to the world.

We invited Dr Craig to prepare an article on this story, in order that these images could have their original provenance properly reassigned, which he did, with the assistance of Dr Christine Winter.

We thank both Dr Barry Craig and Dr Christine Winter for permission to publish their work that recounts the story of the images, and the locations in which they were taken.

The following two articles can be downloaded to your desktop, ipad or mobile device.

Richard Thurnwald and Thomas James Rodoni in the Upper Sepik Region of New Guinea 1914 [15.2 MB PDF FILE] by Dr Barry Craig, Senior Curator, Foreign Ethnology, South Australian Museum and Dr Christine Winter, ARC Future Fellow – Matthew Flinders Fellow, Flinders University

The Fate of Thurnwald’s Sepik Ethnographic Collections [8MB PDF FILE]
By Barry Craig, South Australian Museum, Adelaide (1997)

From pp. 387-408 in GESTERN UND HEUTE – TRADIONEN IN DER SUDSEE MARKUS SCHINDLBECK (ed.) BAESSLER-ARCHIV Neue Folge, XLV 1997.
(Reproduced with kind permission of the publisher)

These papers are also published on the The Upper Sepik-Central New Guinea Project pages http://uscngp.com/papers/

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 that left Sydney 19 September 1914 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

Australia’s forgotten ANZACS

Australia's forgotten ANZACs: Lost images from Australia's first

AUSTRALIA’S FORGOTTEN ANZACS

Lost images from Australia’s first conflict – the fall of German New Guinea

C50 EXHIBITION

The University Gallery

25 March – 11 April 2015

Thomas James Rodoni’s glass plate negatives were unearthed from under a house in Speers Point by Rodoni’s son Bill, and given to Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle in 2014 – one hundred years after the start of WW1.

These glass negatives were lost treasures that documented the first military conflict of the First War, the fall of German New Guinea, an engagement that witnessed the first casualties of WW1. This extremely rare collection is by one of the few non-official photographers during the war and this is the first time these images will be on display, commemorating 100 years of ANZAC.

The University Gallery and Cultural Collections acknowledge the support of the late Bill Rodoni and his family and Chris and Frances Fussell in bringing this extraordinary collection to light.

The exhibition is a part of a series of events celebrating the University of Newcastle’s 50th anniversary.

Gallery talk with the University archivist and conservator about Rodoni’s glass plate negatives:
Friday 27 MARCH at 5:15pm

Then join Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Andrew Parfitt at the official launch and cocktail party at the University Gallery: from 6pm