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What is Camden’s heritage, does it really matter and what does it mean?

What is Camden’s heritage?

 

Journalist Jeff McGill wrote an oped in April 2017 in the Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser opening with the headline:

Camden heritage worth saving

McGill continued:

Such a pretty tree-lined streetscape, full of old-world charm. I’ve often stood at that green paddock next to the church, with its views across the valley…  locals are up in arms as online rumours swirl about moves by the church to sell the land…Right next to Camden’s most famous heritage landmark, an 1840s gem described by one government website as “a major edifice in the history of Australian architecture”.

In May 2017 the views of Wollondilly Councillor Banasik on heritage were reported in the Camden Narellan Advertiser by journalist Ashleigh Tullis with respect to greater urban development at Menangle.

Cr Banasik said this development opposed the shire’s ethos of rural living. The heritage of the area is amazing – there is Camden Park, Gilbulla, Menangle Store and the rotolactor site,” he said. This development just ain’t rural living.

Camden Park 1906 (Camden Images)
Camden Park House and Garden in 1906 is the home of the Macarthur family. It is still occupied by the Macarthur family and open for inspection in Spring every year. (Camden Images)

 

Journalist Kayla Osborne reported  the views of town planning consultant Graham Pascoe on heritage and the Vella family’s new commercial horticulture venture at Elderslie in the Camden Narellan Advertiser in May.

Mr Pascoe said the heritage nature of the site and its proximity to Camden had been well-considered by the Vella family…the land was ideal for farm use…the land has been farmed in the past…We believe we will provide a model…farm at the entrance to the Camden town centre.

Camden Community Garden 2018 IWillis
Paths, plots and patches at the Camden Community Garden 2018 (I Willis)

 

The views on heritage expressed in these stories do not actually define heritage.

There is an assumption or a presumption that the reader understands the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these contexts.

So what was the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these articles?

To answer that question another must be asked: What is Camden’s heritage?

 

What is heritage?

 

The term heritage is not that straight forward. There are a range of definitions and interpretations. The term is not well understood and can raise more issues than it addresses. Jana Vytrhlik, Manager, Education and Visitor Services, Powerhouse Museum (Teaching Heritage, 2010) agrees and says:

I think that heritage is one of the least understood term[s], it’s like culture, it’s like art, it’s like tradition, people really don’t know exactly what it means. http://www.teachingheritage.nsw.edu.au/section09/vytrhlik.php

Camden Whitemans Building 2018 IWillis
The Camden Whiteman’s building shown here from the street frontage in Argyle Street. The building has undergone adaptive re-use in accordance with the Burra Charter (ICOMOS) and continues to be busy retail outlet as it has done since the Victorian days. This means that their has been a retail outlet continuously occupying this site for over 130 years. The current building usage continues to contributed the delight and charm of the Camden town centre that attracts thousands of tourist every year. (I Willis, 2018)

 

To start with it is a useful exercise to say what heritage is not. Heritage is not history. Historian David Lowenthal says that

Heritage should not be confused with history. History seeks to convince by truth… Heritage exaggerates and omits, candidly invents and frankly forgets, and thrives on ignorance and error… Prejudiced pride in the past… is its essential aim. Heritage attests our identity and affirms our worth.

David Lowenthal “Fabricating Heritage”, History & Memory Volume 10, Number 1. <https://muse.jhu.edu/article/406606/pdf&gt;

 

What is history

 

The word ‘history’ comes from the Latin word ‘historia’, which means ‘inquiry’, or ‘knowledge gained by investigation’.

History tells the stories of the past about people, places and events. History is about what has changed and what has stayed the same. History provides the context for those people, places and events.

Camden Show 2018 promo
The Camden Show is an annual celebration of things rural in the township of Camden for over 100 years. (Camden Show)

 

History is about understanding, analysing and interpreting the past based on evidence. As new evidence is produced there is a re-examination and re-interpreting of the past.  History is about understanding the why about the past.

 

Meaning of heritage

The meaning of heritage is not fixed and historian Graeme Davison maintains that the history of the word heritage has changed over the decades.

Initially heritage referred to what was handed down from one generation to the next and could include property, traditions, celebrations, commemorations, myths and stories, and memories. These were linked to familial and kinship groups, particularly in traditional societies, through folkways and folklore.

In the 19th century the creation of the nation-state, capitalism and modernism led to the creation of national myths, national stories and national heritage.

Camden Narellan Advertiser HAC 2017June7 lowres
Camden-Narellan Advertiser 2 June 2017

 

ln the 1970s, the new usage was officially recognised. A UNESCO Committee for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted the term ‘heritage’ as a shorthand for both the ‘built and natural remnants of the past’.

(in Davison, G. & McConville C. (eds) ‘A Heritage Handbook’, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards NSW,1991)

 

Graeme Davison defines heritage in The Oxford Companion to Australian History as

inherited customs, beliefs and institutions held in common by a nation or community’ and more recently has expanded to include ‘natural and ‘built’ landscapes, buildings and environments.

http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195515039.001.0001/acref-9780195515039

 

In New South Wales heritage has a narrower legal definition under the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW) as:

those places, buildings, works, relics, moveable objects, and precincts, of state or local heritage significance.

http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ha197786/

 

Heritage can be categorized in a binary fashion: cultural heritage/natural heritage; tangible heritage/intangible heritage; my heritage/your heritage; my heritage/our heritage.

Cooks Garage 1936
Cooks Service Station and Garage at the corner of Argyle and Elizabeth Streets Camden in the mid-1930s. This establishment was an expression of Camden’s Interwar modernism. (Camden Images)

What is significant about Camden’s heritage?

In 2016 the Camden Resident Action Group attempted to have the Camden town centre listed on the state heritage register. The group obtained statements of support which outlined the significance Camden’s heritage. Statements of support were from Dr Ian Willis (UOW), Associate Professor Grace Karskens (UNSW) and Emeritus Professor Alan Atkinson.

Camden Town Centre Significance Ian Willis 2016
A statement of significance by Dr Ian Willis 2016.

 

Camden Town Centre Significance Alan Atkinson 2016
A statement of significance by Emeritis Professor Alan Atkinson 2016

 

Camden Town Centre Significance Grace Karskens 2016
A statement of significance from Associated Professor Grace Karskens 2016

 

 

Camden Whitemans Store 1978[1] CIPP
By 1978 Whiteman’s General Store had undergone a number of expansion and provided a range of goods from mens and boys wear to haberdashery and hay and grain for local farmers from the Hill Street entrance. The mid-20th century building extension is to the left of the image. Upstairs were a number of flats that were leased out to local folk. (Camden Images)
Aesthetics · Attachment to place · Camden · Camden Museum · Colonial Camden · Colonialism · Cowpastures · Entertainment · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · history · Leisure · Local History · Macarthur · Place making · sense of place · Settler colonialism · Tourism · Trust

GLAM, trusted sources and the local museum

In these days of fake news and social media hype people have lost trust in many public institutions. Social media is king and the prominence of news can be driven by clicks and algorithms.

 

Trust is difficult concept to define and measure. It is a fragile belief that people and institutions can be relied upon to be ethical and responsible. Trust is critical in the effective functioning of a democracy.

 

It is more important than ever that there are sources that are trustworthy and produce credible evidence-based information, particularly around scientific and cultural issues.

 

Dr. David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC states in reference to recent controversies:

More and more, the trustworthiness of information is based on the perceived trustworthiness of the source. Libraries and museums are considered honest purveyors of information and places for conversation on issues of local and national significance. Today’s museums are dynamic learning hubs, using the power of art and artifacts to engage, teach and inspire. Museums touch lives and transform the way people see the world and each other.

One group of trusted institutions are museums, galleries and libraries, and within these are local community and folk museums, pioneer villages and house museums. They are genuinely authentic.

camden-library museum
Camden Library Museum in John Street Camden. The Camden Museum is a volunteer-run local social history museum that tells the story of the Cowpastures and Camden Districts. It has a significant collection of local artefacts and objects, archives and image collection. (I Willis, 2016)

 

 The landscape of local museums is one of the characteristics of rural and regional Australia. These local museums are managed and conducted by a host of local community organisations.  According to the National Museum of Australia there are over 1,000 local and provincial museums across Australia.

 

Local museums tell local truths and are trusted sources of local stories and histories.  Local museums are stores of memory that are built on nostalgia and contribute to well-being of the community. They are sites of volunteerism and strengthening of community. They promote local tourism, local employment, skill enhancement and training opportunities for local people.

Aust Day 2018 Museum Open Frances&amp;Harry
Two local sages on Australia Day 2018 at the Camden Museum. Frances and Harry are two larger than life local characters who are well known local identities. They have spent their life devoted to their community. They have a vast trove of local stories and knowledge that they willing share with others. (I Willis)

 

Centred on local history local museums are not fake. They are are honest and straightforward. What you see is what you get.

 

 The local museum tells local stories about local identities and local events, and are driven by local patriotism, parochialism and localism. They celebrate local traditions, myths and commemorations.

 

The local museum can vary from world class to cringingly kitsch, from antiquarian and to professional.  Individuals create them from ‘mad ambition’ and shear enthusiasm.

 

For all their foibles they can build trust within a community. The local museum can help to build resilience through strengthening community identity and a sense of place. Local museums are a trusted local institutions, contribute to a dynamic democracy and active citizenship.

 

This post was originally published on the ISAA blog.

Attachment to place · Camden · community identity · history · Local History · Philanthropy · Place making · sense of place · Volunteering

Volunteers Have a Night of Thanks

The CHN blogger was out and about at the 2017 Camden Council’s Volunteer Thank You Reception at the Camden Civic Centre.

This is an annual event put on the Camden Council and the mayor Lara Symkowiak. This years those attending volunteers were welcomed by the soulful tunes provided by saxophonist Will from Camden Council.

 

Camden Volunteers Night Will Saxophone 2017.
Those attending the 2017 Camden Council’s Volunteer Thank You Reception were welcomed by the soulful sound of saxophonist Will who is part of council staff (I Willis)

 

The event MC was Sarah from Camden Council, which also supplied eats and drinks a plenty for the assembled throngs of volunteers. A number of council staff and councilors attended the evening.

There were over 220 representatives from 53 voluntary groups present from Oran Park, Narellan, Camden, Gregory Hills, Cobbitty, Macarthur, Harrington Park and Catherine Fields.

 

Camden Volunteers Night GeneralView 2017.
The assembled volunteers were treated to a sumptuous supper and entertainment for all their efforts at the 2017 Volunteer Thank You Reception at the Camden Civic Centre (I Willis)

 

Mayor Lara Symkowiak addressed the audience and said, ‘volunteers make a difference in the community and that the evening was a thank you by council’.

The mayor said, ‘It was an opportunity for volunteers to be served rather than serve’.

 

Camden Volunteers Night Mayors Notes 2017.tif
Thank you note attached to the gift for volunteers from Camden Council attending 2017 Volunteers Thank You Reception

 

One volunteer thanked the mayor for the recognition and the evening. She replied, ‘It is better that the council put on a thank you evening rather than a ball which would only compete with balls by other organisations’.

 

Camden voluntary sector

The Camden community has a long history of volunteering. Voluntary organisations go back to the mid-19th century  and one of the first was the Camden Farmers’ Club and General Improvement Society  set up in 1857. It became the Camden School of Arts in 1858 which centred on the provision of a library and reading room.

 

Camden School of Arts PReeves c1800s CIPP
Camden School of Arts b.1866 at 40 John Street Camden where there was a reading room and library. This image taken by local identity P Reeves around mid-1880s (Camden Images)

 

The Camden community voluntary sector was very active during the First and Second World Wars and supported the war at home through patriotic fundraising and other events. Their efforts can be seen at the Camden Museum.

 

Red Cross Sidman women work for Red Cross causes 1917
The Sidman women volunteer their time and effort during the First World War for the Camden Red Cross. Patriotic fundraising supporting the war at home was a major activity and raised thousands of pounds. This type of effort was quite in all communities across Australia and the rest of the British Empire. (Camden Images and Camden Museum)

 

Current community organisations in the Camden Local Government Area are listed in the Camden Community Directory which has a number of categories of organisations. They include: Accommodation and Housing; Animal Services; Community Facilities; Conservation and Environment; Education; Employment and Business; Equipment; Financial Support and Low Cost Goods and Services; Government; Health and Wellbeing; Information Services;  Law and Justice; Sport and Leisure; Transport; and Volunteering.

 

Benefits of volunteering

Studies have shown that volunteering is good for a person’s well-being and health. It reduces risk of depression, provides a sense of purpose, provides mental and physical activity, reduces stress levels, provides the ‘happiness effect’, and provides opportunities for overseas travel.

Volunteering builds social capital by encouraging social interaction, social networks and networking opportunities between people and strengthen personal and emotional support, choice (sovereignty) and power. Volunteering builds community resilience and community cohesion and strengthens the local community.

Volunteering is a form of active citizenship and allows citizen participation in our democracy. This in turn strengthens our democracy.

In Australia according to the Queensland University of Technology there are around 600,000 voluntary organisations which made up over 3.5% of Australian GDP in 2012 with an annual growth rate of 6% per annum. The sector employed around 9% of the Australian workforce which total over 1 million people and it made up of the top 5 sectors which are social services, education and research, culture and recreation, health and environment. These organisations have nearly 3 million volunteers across the country.

According the PrivacySense.net the voluntary sector is

 The Voluntary Sector is usually comprised of organizations whose purpose is to benefit and enrich society, often without profit as a motive and with little or no government intervention.

Unlike the private sector where the generation and return of profit to its owners is emphasized, money raised or earned by an organization in the voluntary sector is usually invested back into the community or the organization itself.

One way to think of the voluntary sector is that its purpose is to create social wealth rather than material wealth.

Although the voluntary sector is separate from the public sector, many organizations are often tightly integrated with governments on all levels to support it in the delivery of programs and services.

 

Night finishes up

To say thank you to Camden volunteers the council gave those attending two small gifts, a succulent from Little Miss Succulent with funds going to Turning Point and a boiled Christmas cake from the Campbelltown Uniting Church.

Council provided entertainment for volunteers attending with music, a magician, an artist and a photo booth.

 

Camden Volunteers Night PhotoBooth 2017.
A photo booth was provided for volunteers Ian, Marilyn and Katherine to entertain themselves along with a host of others at the 2017 Volunteer Thank You Reception at the Camden Civic Centre (Photobooth)

 

Music was supplied by Will on Saxophone on arrival, while Theo and Bel provided vocals and guitar on the main stage for enjoyment of all the attendees.

 

Camden Volunteers Night Theo&amp;Bel 2017.
Music was provided by the pleasant sounds of Theo and Bel from the stage of the civic centre at the 2017 Volunteer Thank You Reception (IWillis)

 

The evening ended with mayor drawing out the lucky door prize. The fellows from the Men’s Shed seemed to score most of the prizes but then again they had the largest group attending the evening.

A good evening was had by all.

 

So what is the take out of all this?

If you are thinking of volunteering for anything just do it.

Sometimes folk who want others to volunteer their valuable time really do not understand the needs of volunteers. They do not understand that volunteers time is valuable. Most people are happy to volunteer if they have a reason. Volunteers need to understand the reason they are volunteering. Ad-hoc volunteering is OK and often time is more valuable than money.

Volunteering is productive and good for you so get to it. What ever it is. What ever takes your fancy will all of the community.