The CHN blogger was out and about in southern Queensland recently and investigated some of the local aspects of living history.
The CHN blogger was drawn to southern Queensland by the Australian Historical Association Conference held at Toowoomba in early July. The conference was stimulating and challenging and the hosts provided a great venue at the Empire Theatre complex.
The Toowoomba area provided a number of examples of living history starting with the Cobb & Co Museum complex. Apart from the displays there is training in traditional trades for the more than curious and there are a number of special days during the year. The blogger was there during the school holidays and there was a motza of stuff for the littlies to do – all hands on. The kids seemed to be having lots of fun, followed around their Mums and Dads. The coffee was not bad either.
The generous conference hosts organised some activities for conference goers. I tagged along on a town tour one evening led by the president of the local historical society – very informative. ‘Town by night’ was a great way to see the sights of the city centre from a new perspective.
One property that particularly took the fancy of this blogger was the Federation Queen Anne style Harris House. The cottages was bequeathed to the National Trust of Australia (Queensland) in 2017. The 1912 Edwardian villa residence demonstrates the development of Toowoomba in the early 20th century and the place wealthy members of the local society within it.
The single storey red brick dwelling has a Marseilles tiled roof and wide verandahs with bay windows. The concrete ornamentation contrasts with the face red brick and the hipped-roof has decorative finials and ridge capping. The house is in a visually prominent position on a corner block and is described by the Queensland Heritage Register as ‘a grand, Federation-era suburban villa residence’. It is quite an asset to the area.
After the conference this nerdy blogger found himself at The Woolshed at Jondaryan. Originally built in 1859 the woolshed is one of the largest in Australia and today is an example of an extensive living history attraction. The European history of the woolshed illustrates the frontier story of the settler society of southern Queensland and the Darling Downs.
The museum has a collection of fully operational letterpress printing presses and equipment from the 1860s to the 1970s. It is part of the living history movement that is so popular with tourists in North America, Europe and increasingly Australia.
The printing equipment includes linotype machines, flat-bed printing presses of various types and platen presses. There is also a substantial collection of hand-set type.
During the History Week visit the operation of the different presses was explained by retired tradesmen who had been printers and compositors. They kick started the presses and linotype machines and demonstrated their capabilities.
The museum is setup like a 1940s printing shop and the visitor gets the experience of the noise of the press and linotype machines and the smell of the ink. It is the authentic real deal.
Linotype machines were introduced to replace hand-compositing of pages for printing. Hand setting was very slow. What would take a compositor hours to set in a page would take minutes with a linotype machine.
The printing museum is also a site for the demonstration of the traditional trades of the printer and compositor.
The printing museum give a real demonstration of how the local newspapers of the Macarthur region were produced before the current era of off-set printing. The processes for printing the local paper were labour-intensive despite the introduction of these pieces of equipment.
This type of equipment had a profound influence on the production of local newspapers across the world.
It is interesting how much of the terminology used in computer word processing derives from the smell and noise of the print shop and the lives of the printers and compositors.
The Macarthur region newspaper printeries
The Sidmans in the early 20th century introduced the latest equipment at the principal printery located in the building that houses the Camden News office and printery at 145 Argyle Street Camden.
The Richardsons had the latest equipment at their headquarters and printery at 315 Queen Street Campbelltown for the Macarthur Advertiser and other newspapers.
The story of the Museum begins with Alan Connell, the founder of the museum who had a desire back in 1987 to develop a “working museum” of letterpress printing machinery and equipment.
As the story goes, many years had to pass before Alan’s dream was able to be fully realised via a Commonwealth Government Federation Fund Grant. The Penrith Museum of Printing was officially opened on the 2 June, 2001 by Ms Jackie Kelly, M.P. for Lindsay, the then Minister for Sport and Tourism.
A large proportion of the machinery and equipment on display originally started its working life in the Nepean Times Newspaper in Penrith, NSW Australia, while many other items have been donated by present and or past printing establishments.
The CHN blogger was out and about recently and attended an informative and interesting talk at Belgenny Farm in the Home Farm meeting hall. The presentation was delivered by Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA.
Mr Watson, an advocate of the living history movement, was the guest of the chairman of the Belgenny Farm Trust Dr Cameron Archer. Mr Watson was on a speaking tour and had attended a living history conference while in Australia.
Peter Watson and Howell Living History Farm
Peter Watson presented an interesting and far ranging talk about Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey and its programs. He was responsible for setting up the Howell Living History Farm.
Mr Watson said, ‘He initially worked in the US Peace Corps in West Africa and gained an interest in the living history movement through teaching farming methods.’
‘The 130 acre farm was gifted to the community in 1974 by a state politician with the aim of showing how farming used to be done in New Jersey.
Mr Watson said, ‘We took about 10 years to get going and deal with the planning process, which was tenuous for the government authorities who own the farm. Politics is not good or evil but just develops systems that do good for people. New Jersey state government have purchased development rights per acre from land developers.’
Howell Living History Farm is located within a one hour of around 15 million and the far has 65,000 visitors per year and 10,000 school children.
Mr Watson said, ‘The main aim at the farm is the visitor experience. The farm represents New Jersey farming between 1890 and 1910 – a moment in time.’
Mr Watson says, ‘We do not want to allow history to get in the way of an education experience for the visitor. The farm visitors are attracted by nostalgia which is an important value for them.
Most historic farms are museums, according to Mr Watson and he said, ‘At Howell Farm visitors become involved in activities.’
The farm uses original equipment using traditional methods and interpretation with living history.
The living history movement is concerned with authenticity and Mr Watson said, ‘Living history is a reservoir of ideas in adaptive research using comparative farming methods between decades.
Mr Watson illustrated his talk with a number of slides of the farm and its activities. He stressed to the relieved audience that the farm activities used replica equipment, not historic artefacts.
‘This is a different experience for school groups and we do not want to do up all the old buildings. Different farm buildings show a comparative history – 1790, 1800, 1850,’ Mr Watson said.
Stressing how the farm lives up the principles of the living history movement Mr Watson said, ‘The farm is a learning, education and entertainment facility using traditional farming methods that provide an authentic and ‘real’ experience. The farm seeks to preserve the traditional methods which have cultural value.’
Howell Farm’s educational programs engage students in the real, season activities of a working farm where hands-on learning experiences provide the answers to essential questions posed by the New Jersey and Pennsylvania State Standards of Social Studies, Language Arts, Science and the Next Generation Science Standards. The farm’s classic, mixed crop and livestock operations accurately portray the era of pre-tractor systems, creating a unique and inspiring learning environment where history, technology, science converge…and where past and present meet.
‘The farm is a guided experience and there are interpreters for visitors. Story telling at the farm is done in the 1st-person.’
‘The farm has a cooking programme for the farm crops it grows, which is popular with organic producers and supporters of organic farm products. Crops grown using traditional methods include oats, corn and wheat.’
‘The farm sells some its produce and it includes honey, corn meal, maple syrup, used horse shoes, wool, flour.
‘We sell surplus produce at a local market. Activities include apple peeling. There is a sewing guild every Tuesday and the women make costumes.’
‘The farm has an ice house which makes natural ice during winter. Mr Watson made the point that ice making in the US was a multi-million dollar industry in the 1900s.
The promotional information for the farm’s seasonal calendar program states:
Howell Farm’s calendar reflects the cycles of a fully functioning working farm in Pleasant Valley, New Jersey during the years 1890-1910. Programs enable visitors to see real farming operations up close, speak with farmers and interpreters, and in many instances lend a hand. Factors such as weather, soil conditions and animal needs can impact operations at any time, resulting in program changes that reflect realities faced by farmers then and now.
The farm has run a number of fundraising ventures and one of the more successful has been the maze.
Mr Watson said, ‘The farm maize crop has been cut into a dinosaur maze of four acres and used as a fundraiser, raising $35,000 which has been used for farm restoration work.’
‘The farm is a listed historic site with a number of restored buildings, which satisfy US heritage authorities to allow application for government grants,’ said Peter Watson.
‘Traditional farm fences in New Jersey were snake-rail fences which have been constructed using ‘hands-on’ public workshops.’
Mr Watson stressed, ‘The farm is an experience and we are sensitive about where food comes from. Animal rights are a problem and you have to be honest about farming practices.’
The Howell Living History Farm, also known as the Joseph Phillips Farm, is a 130 acres farm that is a living open-air museum near Titusville, in Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. WikipediaArea: 53 ha. Operated by the Mercer County Park Commission.