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Report on Australian Historical Association conference Brisbane July 2014
Well I spent last week attending the Australian Historical Association (AHA) conference at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. The University has changed a lot since my time there. It was five days of history, catching up with friends, networking, social events and library visits. I am not going to attempt to summarise even the sessions I attended as there were 14 streams over the five days with a choice of 8-9 sessions in each stream most days plus the plenary sessions. In fact some days it was hard to decide which sessions to attend and as some of the buildings were quite distant from each other it was not always possible to change streams during a session. The AHA has published the abstracts of all the papers online here.
There was a strong emphasis on WW1 history but I tended to go to colonial history sessions. Lynette Stewart’s paper on a murder her ancestor was involved with was interesting and I am looking forward to reading her book Blood Revenge: Murder on the Hawkesbury 1799 when it is published later this year by Rosenberg Publishing. On a similar theme I went to Meredith Walker’s talk on The Murdering Creek Massacre: Family Stories, Veracity and Context. When we were looking for our new home we drove past Murdering Creek many times (off the Sunshine Coast motorway) so it was good to learn the history. Another session I enjoyed was Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History and this was a good chance to catch up with Melbourne friend Dr Liz Rushen. A Brisbane friend I caught up with was Niles Elvery and his paper on Researching the First World War Conflict at the Queensland State Archives showed how much material may be in places that you don’t immediately think of.
Also part of the conference was a one day seminar hosted by the Professional Historians Association Queensland Branch (PHAQ). This started with a white gloves tour of the John Oxley Library (JOL), State Library of Queensland. I was very impressed with their new (to me) surroundings and it was certainly a long way (although just across the river) from where I first started working at the JOL in early 1982. From there it was a bus trip out to the University and I must say that I am impressed with Brisbane’s underground busways and bus stations. No wonder I didn’t see that many buses on the road.
Again lots of interesting sessions but I particularly enjoyed the talks on the Special Collections Library at James Cook University and the Capricornia Collection at Central Queensland University. I also liked Greg Cope from the National Archives of Australia Brisbane office speaking about Queensland’s Hidden History in the Archives. He also gave out a paper copy of his presentation so lots to follow up there. At lunch time I did a walking tour of the University’s Great Court buildings and attendees were given a copy of the Brisbane History Group‘s 1998 St Lucia Campus Heritage Tour booklet.
At the end of the sessions we had a white gloves tour of the Fryer Library again with a WW1 military theme. So many treasures in these special collections held by university libraries across Australia. I also picked up a few of the old Fryer magazines as they have interesting articles on various parts of the collection. Then it was a quick taxi trip into the CBD and Old Government House for the launch of the PHA‘s Circa: the Journal of Professional Historians. Wine, cheese and other nibbles were most welcome before we then went on a tour of parts of Old Government House which has been substantially restored since I last saw it.
The catering over the five days was impressive with lots of delicious morning and afternoon teas and substantial lunches. Probably just as well I had to do so much walking from the car park, to and from buildings and up and down stairs each day to get to the food area. The noise level at break times was amazing but it highlighted just how many people were catching up with each other and discussing the sessions. I took the opportunity to talk to two of my favourite history bloggers. Marion Diamond (one of my Australian history lecturers from way back when) now writes Historians Are Past Caring which I try to read on a regular basis. Marion has also written about the AHA conference and you can read it here.
Another person I follow on Twitter and whose blog I read regularly is Yvonne Perkins (or Perkinsy as I think of her tag). I was watching her tweet during the conference and I wished for two things – that my fingers moved as fast and that my Twitter app on my phone had not died. I need to get a new more modern phone but I did miss reading her tweets live. But you can catch up with them here – the Twitter tag was #OzHA2014 and other people tweeted too. Since the conference Yvonne has also done a number of posts on her Stumbling Through the Past blog (where does she find time) but the main one on the conference is here.
Of course I can’t go anywhere without buying a book or two. There was quite a bit of temptation but I couldn’t go past Mark Pearson’s Blogging & Tweeting Without Getting Sued: A Global Guide to the Law for Anyone Writing Online and Matthew Ricketson’s Telling True Stories: Navigating the Challenges of Writing Narrative Non-Fiction, both published by Allen & Unwin.
It was a pretty full on five days and some lecture rooms had more comfy seats than others. I am glad I made the decision to go and it is my first AHA conference for quite a few years (I think the last one was Armidale). Catching up with people I knew from Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra was great and meeting more PHAQ members was good and I hope to get to more of their functions now that I am back in Queensland. Having Mum’s place to stay in Brisbane was handy and cheaper. The 2015 conference will be in Sydney but I won’t be able to go as I will be on the Unlock the Past Baltic cruise! Maybe the year after will be an option and if not there are always the blogs and tweets to keep us informed.