e-Newsletter No. 29, 1 September 2015

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

New on the site https://honesthistory.net.au/

  • Freedom and the Australian War Memorial: is Honest History not a force for good?
  • Wilfred Burchett (in Moscow and out of it) recalled by Rupert Lockwood: highlights reel (I)
  • Clive James' book Latest (and likely last) Readings reviewed by Paddy Gourley
  • How women's fashion survived World War II: Janet Wilson on Julie Summers' book
  • Serbia World War I, popular resistance World War II: Derek Abbott finds a common thread
  • Andrew Leigh MP analyses a century of Australian inequality: highlights reel
  • Farewell Les Jauncey, wandering radical; it's been good to know you
  • Honest History needs your money (in modest amounts)

Centenary Watch

Barking up Lone Pine; Blood will out; Calling Campbell; Victoria remembers VC winners; Aoatearoa New Zealand and Samoa commemorate World War I


Collection policy I: what fictional Australian tourists see at the Equator museum in South America. 'A tall plastic curtain formed a kind of opaque "box" across the Equator … There stood a standard white bath on cast-iron paws. It had the wire tray for soap and a brick-coloured plug on a chain … On closer inspection they noticed the heavy bath was mounted on two short pieces of tram line. These intersected the Equator at right angles. The bath could be pushed with an easy movement of the hand into the Northern Hemisphere, or the Southern (where it rested now), or smack on the Equator itself … [Vortex fans came from all over the world to push the bath back and forth and see water disappear down its plug-hole, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, anti-clockwise in the Northern.] Setting the bath carefully astride the Equator, Borelli yanked the plug like a man starting a lawnmower, and for good measure imitated a trumpet fanfare. With hands on each other's shoulders, they watched … The water fell straight down the hole. No vortex.' (Murray Bail, Homesickness, 1980)

Collection policy II: what real Australian tourists see at the Australian War Memorial. ‘There are diary pages, letters, postcards, periscopes, paintings, medals, scraps of material, maps, models, flags, waterbottles, whistles, rifles, cannons, pistols, bullets, boats, binoculars, bells, barbed wire, bugles, bombs, tins of tobacco and bully beef tins, trenching tools, jangling things on wire, a stuffed horse’s head, a Furphy water tank on wheels, Monash’s stretcher (captured from a Turk), Brudenell White’s desk and pencil, all sorts of souvenirs, recruitment posters, and lots more … Many of these items are no more than curiosities. They tell us little, other than that someone wore this or carried it or wrote it a century ago and here it is now.’ (Review of Anzac Treasures, Australian War Memorial, 2014)

Collection policy III: spelling it out. ‘Objects acquired for the National Collection relate specifically to the wars and warlike operations in which Australians have served on active service, including the events leading up to, and in the aftermath of, such operations. Also collected are items that relate to the operations of the Australian Defence Force during peacetime, including recent humanitarian operations. Other items acquired relate to the wartime experiences of Australians, such as merchant seamen, war correspondents, and civilians; of Australians in non-Australian forces; and of non-Australian nationals serving in Australian forces. Items which provide information about Australia’s enemies, allies and neutral third parties may also be significant if they relate to events in which Australians have been involved.’ (Australian War Memorial, Collection Development Plan, n.d. 2007? This is the current plan, though the Memorial’s Business Plan 2015-16 says ‘a cross-branch collection development plan and strategy’ is being developed.)

Collection policy IV: givers and gifts. 'The Memorial’s collection is developed largely by donations received from serving or former members of Australia’s military forces and their families. These items come to the Memorial as direct donations or bequests, or as donations under the Cultural Gifts program. In addition, the Memorial works closely with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to acquire material that relates directly to current activities. The percentage of the Memorial’s collections acquired by purchase is very small, compared to other museums of similar size and importance. More recently, important additions to the collection have been funded by several major donations and sponsorships.' (Australian War Memorial, Collection Development Plan, n.d. 2007?)

Collection policy V: the numbers. Number of new items acquired 2013-14, in accordance with the Memorial’s Collection Development Plan: 17 217. Number of items disposed of: seven. (Australian War Memorial, Annual Report 2013-14)

Bean less quoted. 'One knew that the Brigades which went in last night were there today in that insatiable factory of ghastly wounds. The men were simply turned in there as into some ghastly giant mincing machine. They have to stay there while shell after huge shell descends with a shriek close beside them – each one an acute mental torture – each shrieking tearing crash bringing a promise to each man – instantaneous – I will tear you into ghastly wounds – I will rend your flesh and pulp an arm or a leg – fling you half a gaping quivering man (like these that you see smashed around you one by one) to lie there rotting and blackening like all the things you saw by the awful roadside, or in that sickening dusty crater.' (From CEW Bean's diary at Pozieres; it is less often quoted than the words on the same page of the Australian War Memorial's website that 'in Australia they will be proud of this'.)

Biodiversity. 'The giant toads are our pet aversion. The past six months have been one long feast for these hideous creatures. Approach a dead Jap and you will find two or three of them perched on the corpse, feeding off the flies.' (Australian correspondent, Winston Turner, reporting from Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands Protectorate, Pacific Islands Monthly, April, 1943)

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