Hunter Living Histories 2022 Annual Report

Hunter Living Histories Annual Report 2022 Title
Hunter Living Histories Annual Report 2022 Title

Guest : Digital Archive Project ‘Broken Records’ (Prof. Keri Glastonbury, Dr Ali Lewis, Jodi Vial) (15mins+5min questions) WATCH HERE

Guest : Dr Robert Fuller ‘Aboriginal rock engraving projects in the Northern Sydney Basin’. WATCH HERE


The Hunter Living Histories is one of the University of Newcastle’s most enduring and ongoing tangible links with its regional communities and cultural memory.

It was founded in 2003 as the Coal River Working Party, at the request of Mr Doug Lithgow, President of the Parks and Playgrounds Movement.

It was charged, under the leadership of Dr (now Professor) Erik Eklund, to create an academic research group,  to investigate of the early history of Newcastle, with a view to safeguarding the heritage fabric of Newcastle’s birthplace, the Coal River Heritage Precinct located in Newcastle’s East End.

Soon after its formation the Party were successful in having the Coal River Precinct listed on the State Heritage Register. But when it came time for National Listing, submission, after submission failed to convince Federal authorities.

It soon became apparent, through the work of Professors of History Nancy Cushing, and Erik Elkund, and Dr David Roberts that Newcastle, and its history had been completely eradicated from the wider narrative of Australian history with over 40 texts bearing no mention of us at all.

So the University and its academic, business and community partners set about rectifying this terrible situation, and ramped up the efforts to restore historic evidence of our Region’s stories back into the wider narrative.

With the help of newly arrived conservator, and a team of staff and dedicated volunteers to help, we began flooding the net with the most beautiful crystal clear and large glass negative images from the Ralph Snowball Archive, donated by the Norm Barney Family.

Q. How accessible is our Region’s digital history as at 2022?

A. Here are the stats, and all of it free of charge. At a glance (as at 30/11/2022)

  • Living Histories Data Platform – 7.3M Views (for 2022)
  • Special Collections Flickr Site – 69.3M views (Lifetime)
  • Special Collections YouTube – 109.1K Views with 180 New Subscribers (for 2022), Over 514.8K Views since 2008, with over 30,000 hours watched.
  • Hunter Living Histories Blog Site – 125,961 Views (for 2022)
  • Over 60+ Hunter Living Histories posts were researched and created and published during 2022 and shared through community social media channels, internally through Teams and Yammer.

Up until that time (in 2008) the digital images shared by Cultural institutions across the country were tiny, in the hope that people would purchase the higher resolution images. Unfortunately this cost, prohibited, and locked out many people from disadvantaged areas, such as our local Region, from accessing their own histories up close and personal.

That all came to an end with our digital program that has seen hundreds of thousands of digital objects, together with their intrinsic contexts made accessible globally.

Q. What Has Been Shared During 2022?

Fringe Histories Series:

Students, alumni and academics invited to contribute a HLH blog post on 10 themes reflecting diversity, our marginalised communities and lost histories, using Special Collections resources. Themes and contributions included:



Newly Acquired Engravings Maps and Plans:

Historic Backgrounders:

Presentations and Academic Work:


Our Role in the Australian Story

Newcastle and the Hunter Region has played, and continues to play, an important role in our country’s stories and cultural evolution.

The University is proud to safeguard, preserve, scrutinise, and communicate the evidence in ongoing relationships in partnership with community. We are honoured to serve the community.

Nineteen years later, thanks to a student audit, we are collaboratively known as the Hunter Living Histories.

Our scope takes in the whole region, providing a congress through which our University can meet and work in collaboration with Aboriginal & Indigenous peoples, and migrant peoples including the individuals, families, organisations across labour, business, religious, and political divides, who have helped to create and shape the University of Newcastle and world as we know it today.

Together, we pick what our communities and researchers need, and bring our students into these networks to experience and build their skills working with the archives and historic materials, across a myriad of formats, along with industry professionals and technologies that get it out to the public.

Newcastle University grew out of the community

As a recognised regional repository of Museums of History N.S.W. (formerly N.S.W. State Archives & Records Authority) the tangible (and intangible) archival records of our region’s ancestors and their achievements are safely held in the University Library’s custody.

They make up the magnificent regional research archives and rare book collections that have been donated over time.

In the words of the University’s Foundation Archivist, interviewed in 1981:

“Newcastle University grew out of the community. And, indeed, this is particularly true of the Library in which the archives are housed. In the year 1943, for example, the Trade Unionists of Newcastle paid a shilling from their pay packets to help finance the establishment of the University Library. Which is the building in which the archives is housed. Now, since then, on the archival side, we have collected the records of a number of institutions which were closely involved with the establishment of a University at Newcastle. I suppose the two most significant institutions in setting up the University were the Newcastle Trades Hall and the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.”

This spirit of a “bob a week” helped create the University, before it was even a “thing”.

The archives help provide the evidence of the stories of our region, and our people’s  contribution to the world around them, and supports the actions that need to be done right now to create a better future for everyone and everything.

We help to ensure that our region has a memory backup, that its stories are out there and inspiring people everywhere.


Ngukurr to Newcastle Possum Skin Rug Smoking Ceremony Friday 3 June 2022
Ngukurr to Newcastle Possum Skin Rug Smoking Ceremony Friday 3 June 2022

Associate Professor Kate Senior made extraordinary finds within the University of Newcastle’s Copley Archive, that resonated with Australia’s land rights movement and the unknown role of Newcastle’s Trades Hall Council and Unionists in inspiring Aboriginal activist Dexter Daniels. In his honour, local students from the Cooks Hill Campus, under the tutelage of a possum skin maker are creating one to be worn by his descendants at the presentation of her UON honorary doctorate. For more on the story: Click: Hunter Living Histories Ngukurr to Newcastle, University of Newcastle Press Release, University of Melbourne Living Archive, Newcastle Herald,


Thanks to Lemnos Parade residents Irene Saltos, and her neighbours Fiona and Phillip Bush for the use of their rooves and verandahs in obtaining the 2022 drone panorama. Thanks to drone operator and photographer David Diehm, for sharing his work with us, and Robert Watson, who kindly finish the project begun by the late Russell Rigby with this outstanding Then and Now using the 1906 Snowball glass plate negatives.

Looking for Lemnos Parade Resident to Help Complete a 116 Year Old “Then and Now”

1906-2022 Ralph Snowball/ David Diehm Cooks Hill Panorama (Taken 22 March 2022)
1906-2022 Ralph Snowball/ David Diehm Cooks Hill Panorama (Taken 22 March 2022)


1906-2022 Ralph Snowball/ David Diehm Cooks Hill Panorama with Annotations (Taken 22 March 2022)
1906-2022 Ralph Snowball/ David Diehm Cooks Hill Panorama with Annotations (Taken 22 March 2022)


The Lycett and Wallis: Unlikely Preservers of Aboriginal Knowledge film made for the Stories of Our Town Series had gone national, with its airing on NITV and SBS on Demand.
Lycett and Wallis (SBS on Demand)
Lycett and Wallis (SBS on Demand)
At the time of writing, Chit Chat von Loopin Stab reports:
“it has had almost 1000 extra views on the YouTube Channel and the Indigenous Facebook page Sovereign Union has shared it 150 times. The film has received a glowing review in the Sydney Morning Herald.”
Lycett and Wallis SMH Review (November 2022)
Lycett and Wallis SMH Review (November 2022)


– The Biraban and Threlkeld film will also go national in early 2023 airing on NITV and SBS on Demand.

– The theatrical premiere for the Biraban and Threlkeld film was held at the start of NAIDOC Week 2022 at the majestic Civic Theatre. We thank the Lord Mayor  of Newcastle Nuatali Nelmes and her team for making this happen. Public screenings and QandA sessions were also held at the Lake Macquarie Public Libraries at Speers Point and Charlestown.

– All films remain free to view through the Stories of Our Town YouTube Channel.

Stories of Our Town Project (Series 1)

Wrap Up of Fortress Newcastle Films and Exhibition

Fortress Newcastle Team Harbour Cruise on the William IV (25 June 2022)
Fortress Newcastle Team Harbour Cruise on the William IV (25 June 2022)

Fortress Newcastle films and exhibition were a great success; the launch attended by Federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, and hosted by Head of Knowledge at Australian Maritime Museum Peter Hobbins. This was a great community project involving work integrated learning student placements and community partnerships. See project reports here:


Freda McGrady and the El la Wamanbila
“Here Look, Let’s Go” Exhibition

Freda McGrady’s internship at Special Collections in 2022 enabled collaboration with the team to design and curate the exhibition ‘Ea La Wamanbila’, held during September – October 2022. It encouraged a right of reply conversation to the colonial lens that has been imposed on Aboriginal histories, knowledges, culture, and intellect.

Reflection – Ea La Wamanbila exhibition


Emily Connell and Newcastle’s Golden Age

Our inaugural Vera Deacon Intern for 2022, Emily Connell, prepared the Archives of a Newcastle female radio pioneer from the 1930s, Elma Gibbs, as well as rehousing over 3000 colour slides taken by Merv and Janet Copley during Newcastle’s “Golden Age”

A Snapshot of ‘Golden Age Newcastle’ – The Merv and Janet Copley Slides

NEXTGEN: Student Project Officer

Brayden Maybury and CRAFTED exhibition

Brayden Maybury (Creative Industries student) was project officer at Special Collections in 2022 and worked with the team to design the ‘CRAFTED: Book design of the Arts and Crafts Movement’ exhibition currently on level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus until mid-Feb 2023.


Oliver Salmon and Sue Beisty Oral History

Women in Sport – Sue Beisty interview

For Our Students

Oliver Salmon, was a work integrated learning (WIL) student (HUMA2000) in 2022. He was keen to get experience working with the community and assisted with the oral history interview, researching the topic ‘running’, formulating questions, videoing and editing the interview, scanning family archive. Finally curating the video for online access. Oliver also reviewed the ‘How to Conduct an Oral History’ online processes.  Listen to Oliver speak on his experience as a WIL student HERE

For Our Community

We had contact with the Beisty family early 2022, they are a running family strongly associated with the running community in Newcastle. Women in sport is an area of interest to some of our researchers at the university.  Sue was a former marathon and long distance runner, and participated in many ‘Fun Runs’ in Newcastle and the Hunter Region, as well as nationally. Sue relived some of the special moments about her running career and what it was like to be a women runner in the 1970s and 80s. Many thanks to her son Mike who shared information and his family’s archive.

For Our Researchers

This resource about athletics, women and running contributes to our collections, is a topic where not many resources exist.  Sue’s story adds to the region’s history of women and their contributions and will be of interest to researchers now and in the future.


Isabel Whittle and the “Accidental Nurse” Robin Gordon

Robin Gordon: The Accidental Nurse

For Our Students

Isabel Whittle, gained experience at the GLAMx Lab, first as a volunteer then as a WIL student (HUMA2000) interested in further developing her interpersonal and communication skills. A self-confessed good listener and interest in hearing people’s stories, she was able to complete a oral history from start to finish. Included:-

  • Planning and pre-interview phase
  • Booking and use of Micro- recording studio at Library.
  • Editing interview,.
  • Permissions and copyright.
  • Scanning/editing photos, uploading AV file and images online.
  • Created transcription using

For Our Community

Many of our health-related photos come from the community or government agencies, there are hundreds of digitised photos of nurses, other medical staff and hospital buildings. What is often missing are the descriptions, memories and stories behind the photos. This is where the community can contribute to enrich descriptions, working with students to document what they know about a topic, to better understanding our collections. With this is mind, the idea of interviewing former nurse and well-known local identity Robyn Gordon OAM was conceived.

For Our Researchers

The project has enriched some of our photos by adding people and ‘voice’ into our collections. The oral history and a transcription of the interview is available to researchers, and an oral history can add a qualitative and more personalised element to any research.



Susan Zaia & The Valleys People

The Valleys People (NBN Television series) 1980-81

For Our Students

Susan Zaia, WIL student (HUMA2000) at the GLAMx Lab during Semester 2 saw the project through to completion. She was particularly interested in gaining skills in digitisation and curation of online cultural collections. ‘The Valleys People’ series was the ideal project, as it not only provided Susan with digital experience, but expanded her knowledge of local identities and other related sources held in Special Collections. Episodes include interviews with Mark Richards, Zell Meehan, Reg Drayton, Professor Beverley Raphael, Judy White, John Risby, Alice Ferguson, Ian Pender.

For Our Community

‘The Valleys People series’ was created by NBN Television in 1980-81. The series was digitised  in 2017 by our Industry professions and volunteers at the library, awaiting summaries on each episode to be written, videos uploaded, and series curated online for public access. Several students worked on the project, including CMNS2035 Media Production: Television students and WIL student Deb Waddell in 2019. The Media Production students were son enthralled with the series and presenter Ron Hurst, that they reached out to him to be interviewed him about his time making the series. With the project so close to completion it needed someone to review detail and quality of work and curate the videos online.

For Our Researchers

This online series thanks to students and volunteers, is now publicly available to researchers. The interviews provide an insight into Australian society and culture, and media literacy in the 1980s, and an example of how our community and students are instrumental in preparing collections for online accessibility.


Kynan & Big Picture Learning

Kynan from the Big Picture Learning at Cooks Hill joined us at Special Collections in Semester 2. His special interest is classics and ancient history and was able to explore some rare books and the Godrey Tanner collection held in Special Collections. Big Picture Learning is very different to traditional schooling, it is personalised, passion-based learning, nurtures creativity, curiosity, independence and preparing students for successful futures.


Sacha & GLAM experience

Curtin University student Sacha spent 2 weeks at Special Collections, as part of a Master’s Information Science practicum. She was able to experience GLAM sector skills and create a Finding Aid associated with ‘South Asia’. (a gap in collections identified by one of our teaching academics). The finding aid contributes to the online sources by amplifying diverse parts of our collection so that can be more easily found and accessed.


This year the Library collaborated with IT team and Linius Whizzard developers to create a search tool to unlock 3K+ of our audio visual content, includes NBN Television News footage from 1982 – late 1990s. Also see Linius History Week presentation for further context.


Internationally published book chapter: “Visualising Deep Time History in Context Using Accessible and Emergent Technologies: The GLAM Sector Experience” See:

Hardy, A., Rasmussen, G., di Gravio, G. (2022). Visualising Deep Time History in Context Using Accessible and Emergent Technologies: The GLAM Sector Experience. In: Ch’ng, E., Chapman, H., Gaffney, V., Wilson, A.S. (eds) Visual Heritage: Digital Approaches in Heritage Science. Springer Series on Cultural Computing. Springer, Cham.


“Dusting off Australia’s Cinderella City: Reflections on the Stories of Our Town Project 2020-2022” by Gionni Di Gravio, OAM has been published in the prestigious Archives & Manuscripts: Journal of the Australian Society of Archivists.

Dusting off Australia’s Cinderella City: Reflections on the Stories of Our Town Project 2020-2022


Thank you to all our dedicated student and community volunteers, they include Phillip, Mark, Terry, Robert, Michael, Mitchell, Angus, Sarah, Isabel, Lillian, Leigh, Greg, Anne, Lorraine and Ken. Projects include audio-visual digitisation/metadata (magnetic tape and film), Hannan Photographic Archive and Linius Project. We greatly appreciate you!


Media Stories published this year include:

– “Newcastle Name a Fern Used for Food” – Newcastle Herald; Newcastle, N.S.W. [Newcastle, N.S.W]. 16 Feb 2022: 17.

-”He had read my name in the Herald'” – Newcastle Herald; Newcastle, N.S.W. [Newcastle, N.S.W]. 21 Feb 2022: 15.

-“Fortress Newcastle captures war years” – Newcastle Herald; Newcastle, N.S.W. [Newcastle, N.S.W]. 11 Nov 2021: 25.

– “A bird’s eye of view of city from 1889” – Newcastle Herald; Newcastle, N.S.W. [Newcastle, N.S.W]. 16 Apr 2022: 3.

– four other articles.




Cynthia Hunter

Dr Jean Talbot

Mr Jack Risby

Sincere condolences to their families and friends.

If there is anyone we have inadvertently omitted, that you wish included,
please let us know.


Best Wishes, Merry Christmas,
and have a Happy New Year


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