Last week I was lucky to attend the second annual Museums Australia Victoria branch conference, held at the National Wool Museum in Geelong. I was most interested to see the museum, given that the theme is similar to the Sheep’s Back Museum at Naracoorte. The museum is divided into two main exhibition sections – one about wool production and the other about transforming wool into fabric. The centrepiece of the displays was a huge loom on which the museum produces a specially-designed rug for sale – a unique fundraiser.
I enjoyed hearing a range of speakers exploring the conference theme Reinventing Museums: Collaborate, Innovate & Transform and getting perspectives from small and larger institutions, some with substantial paid staff and some with none. But it was especially interesting talking with lots of people from a huge variety of museums over lunch and morning tea, including from the Civil Aviation Historical Society, Telstra Museum in Melbourne, Yarra Ranges Museum and the Pioneers Settlement Museum at Swan Hill. And I got to catch up with Liz and Monica from Museums Australia Victoria who run the Museums Accreditation Program (MAP) in Victoria, a similar program to History SA’s Community Museums Program (CMP). In an interesting conference session featuring four museums that are in the Victorian MAP I heard about community engagement initiatives at the Coal Creek Community Park & Museum, how the Surfworld Museum is tapping into the younger museum-going market by presenting topics and collections that resonate with their target age group, the incredible musical collection of the Victorian Jazz Archive, and a disaster preparedness story from the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum. The latter museum suffered a disaster about a year ago when their historic newspaper office burnt down and much of the printing collection was lost. Fortunately they had a disaster plan! South Australia played a part in the re-establishment of the collection with some replacement typeface acquired from the Mallee Tourist and Heritage Centre, Pinnaroo.
The recent news story posted on our website about Allison Reynolds’ search for the oldest Anzac biscuit recipe, resulted in many old cookbooks coming out of the kitchen drawer. Since then this Adelaide Hills’ culinary historian’s hunt has been radio broadcast on ABC891 and FIVEaa Adelaide as well as printed in the Advertiser and the Hills Courier. It seems everyone wants to help in solving the mystery.
It was fascinating to catch up with Allie on Sunday at her presentation at the Adelaide Farmers’ Market, at the Wayville Showgrounds. There was quite a gathering for the session, and many had brought with them their family heirloom recipes or cookery books. Allie’s enthusiastic research crew got down to business, photographing pages and taking notes, before and after the event. It was good to see Carol Moore of the Mount Lofty Districts Historical Society with her grandmother’s handwritten cookbook from the WWI period, with its topical amendments – the word ‘German’ being replaced by ‘Belgian’ in some recipes!
While baking up a batch of Anzac biscuits, Allie reported on her recent research which she is undertaking in readiness for the start of ANZAC centenary commemorations in 2014. There is still a hot debate regarding whether the first printed Anzac biscuit recipe was from New Zealand or Australia. And we learnt a lot about ingredients: that butter was the only consistent ingredient in all the different recipes; and that coconut only began appearing in recipes from the 1920s. Whether the biscuits should be chewy or crispy was also another issue in question. Allie went on to discuss the difference between the Anzac ‘wafer’ or ‘tile’, that was a hard ship’s biscuit given out to soldiers by the army and sometimes made into ‘trench porridge’ when pounded with water; and the Anzac biscuit, made by loved ones at home to send to the Boys overseas, and is the biscuit that we know today. Eggless so that they would last the long voyage of several weeks to Europe, these biscuits were generally sent in air tight tins. Allie shared with us some delightful information gleaned from newspaper articles and advertisements about how thousands of tins were repurposed with this aim in mind, even old kerosene tins. She also brought with her a large size vintage golden syrup tin, like those used for sending over sweets (lollies) as part of comfort parcels to soldiers overseas.
Allie also has a Facebook page where you can join in the great Anzac biscuit debate! She is still on the lookout for pre-1920 Anzac biscuit recipes. Contact her direct if you can help with information.
The History Council of Australia has announced a call for nominations for the 2013 South Australian Historian of the Year Awards.
These annual awards honour the achievements of South Australian historians. Three awards and an essay prize recognise individuals for outstanding research and scholarship and acknowledge their broader contribution through teaching, leadership, mentoring and community involvement. The closing date for award nominations is 31 May 2013. The Governor of South Australia will present the awards on 29 July 2013.
The four awards are:
- South Australian Life-Long History Achievement Award
- South Australian Historian of the Year Award
- Emerging South Australian Historian of the Year
- Wakefield Companion to SA History Undergraduate Essay Prize
The History Council of SA introduced the awards in 2012. Dr Susan Marsden won the Life-Long History Achievement Award while Emeritus Professor Eric Richards was named SA Historian of the Year.