The online version of Volume 18 of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, which tells the life stories of hundreds of significant and celebrated Australians, will be launched tonight at The Australian National University. Featuring articles on 670 individuals with surnames from L to Z who died between 1981 and 1990, the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) presents a colourful mosaic of twentieth-century Australia. Included in the ADB are explorers, farmers, criminals, ballet dancers, speedway riders, and authors and politicians such as Patrick White, Christina Stead, William McMahon and Billy Sneddon. Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young, who will officially launch the latest version of the online Dictionary, said that the stories and lives featured in the ADB illuminate major themes in our recent history. “A vast range of people are consulting the Australian Dictionary of Biography online – researchers, students at primary, secondary and tertiary level, genealogists, and people watching documentaries and historical dramas on TV,” he said. “Since going online in 2006, the ADB now attracts 70 million views a year.”
In today’s era of ubiquitous computing and global online connectivity, e-research is enriching research across a growing range of academic disciplines. Its reach is extending beyond the science and technology fields where it originated, and is now “penetrating the social sciences and humanities, [though] sometimes with differences in accent and label” (Jankowski, 2009). This chapter discusses some of the ways in which humanities researchers are embracing new digital resources, formats and modes of collaborating in ways that further the traditional goals of humanities research, “to better understand ourselves, our history, and our cultural heritage” (Cole, 2007). Topics covered in this chapter include the growing opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches, building the information commons for public benefit, and the growing need for strategic investment in research infrastructure to support the humanities.
On a triangle of land that points out to sea at the mouth of the Swan River is Fremantle’s heritage district, the West End, renowned for its colonial architecture that includes the largest collection of heritage-listed buildings in Western Australia and its oldest public building, the Round House gaol (1831). Although Fremantle has often been threatened by the demands of redevelopment, today it is recognised as one of the world’s best preserved examples of a nineteenth-century port city and colonial townscape. ‘Freo’, as it is known locally, also has an exceptionally diverse multicultural community, lending a special character that is the legacy of its role as a historical gateway to Australia, the first point of contact for generations of migrants and visitors arriving by sea from Europe. This mix of cultures and traditions has shaped the life of the cosmopolitan city, which now has a population of close to 30,000.
The early novel was based upon and drew upon the textual traditions of descriptive travel writing, with the narrative structure of the novel mimicking the activity of travelling. The connection is so strong that travelling can be aligned with characteristics of narrative itself. As Paul Carter puts it, “voyaging and storytelling go together” (1998, p. 19). According to another critic, novels share a “spatial metaphor” with the accounts of voyages. The early novel, “more than any other genre,” is “spatial” (Freedman, 1968, p. 72). The spatial impulse is also illustrated when the protagonist takes on the role of the intrepid explorer, a position that removes the character from the familiarity of home and its known geographies and places them in unknown geographies as a discoverer.
Almost a decade in the making, the Historical Encyclopedia of Western Australia, edited by Jenny Gregory and Jan Gothard, is now the most up to date and authoritative composite portrait of the state’s history. This work is a remarkable achievement. It is the result of a sustained collaborative effort that is a credit to the skill and energy of the editorial team and to the more than three hundred contributors, along with hundreds of expert readers. In 1912 J. S. Battye, the well-known State Librarian of Western Australia, produced the Cyclopedia of Western Australia: An Historical and Commercial Review, Descriptive and Biographical Facts, Figures and Illustrations, which remained a central reference resource for WA history throughout the twentieth century. The highly regarded volumes of the sesquicentenary series appeared in 1979, followed in 1981 by the influential A New History of Western Australia, edited by Tom Stannage.
Digital history spans disciplines and can take many forms. Computer technology started to revolutionize the study of history more than three decades ago, and yet genres and formats for recording and presenting history using digital media are not well established and we are only now starting to see large-scale benefits. New modes of publication, new methods for doing research, and new channels of communication are making historical research richer, more relevant, and globally accessible. Many applications of computer-based research and publication are natural extensions of the established techniques for researching and writing history. Others are consciously experimental. This chapter discusses the latest advances in the digital history field and explores how new media technologies are reconfiguring the study of the past.
A life can be recovered in many ways: through retrieving, reclaiming, remembering, re-imagining, revising, restoring, recognising, re-telling or re-placing. In this special issue of Life Writing the impulse to pay respect to lost, hidden or unacknowledged lives flows through the papers, all of which are drawn from the major international conference on ‘Recovering Lives’ convened by Cassandra Pybus, Caroline Turner and Paul Arthur in 2008, and hosted by the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University. With sessions held at the National Museum of Australia, accompanying exhibitions, artists’ talks and film screenings, the conference aimed to break down traditional barriers between disciplines, media and ways of seeing. Historians, writers, filmmakers, anthropologists, curators, journalists, artists and activists interpreted the theme in ways that put the spotlight on people and practices that the global vision, for all its benefits, has left behind, overlooked, marginalised, or even enslaved.
When Hitler’s troops invaded and occupied the city of Kharkov in Ukraine, my grandparents Nadia, 26, and Petro, 30, had two young children, aged 7 and 5. My mother had not yet been born. In this tense and uncertain period it was unclear whether Ukraine would ultimately be controlled by Stalin or Hitler. There was nothing to recommend one over the other, they often said. Both regimes were brutal and both targeted Ukrainians. Mid-1943 marked a turning point—the end of their lives in Ukraine and the first stage of a journey into the unknown that led to their eventual arrival in Australia in 1949 as post-war refugees. They were packed into railway goods wagons with other Ukrainians and were taken from Kharkov, where they had built their world, to Dwikozy in Poland. This was the place of their first displacement from everything that made up their history and identity—homeland, language, culture, family, community, and career. Like many other refugees my grandparents attempted to compensate for the loss of their past by trying to recover it repeatedly years later in the stories that they told.
Australian researchers are recognised internationally for delivering solutions to the most complex and challenging questions facing cultures and communities. Their contributions are vital to the nation’s social wellbeing. Encompassing the study of society, identity, economy, business, governance, history, culture and creativity, this broad field links universities, government agencies, collecting institutions and creative industries with policy development and with communities. However, complex issues of national and global significance cannot be solved in isolation. They demand collaborative approaches which in turn require the infrastructure to support them. Across all sectors, research practices are being fundamentally influenced by leading-edge ICT, and social and cultural data of immense significance is being generated in many different forms. With considerable investment worldwide in eResearch infrastructure, innovation in the humanities, arts and social sciences is increasingly dependent on enabling technology to support research excellence.
Exploration & Endeavour: The Royal Society of London and the South Seas celebrates the society’s 350th anniversary by bringing together a selection of iconic objects and original documents that highlight the society’s key role in European maritime exploration and discovery in the Pacific. The Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, was founded on the premise that knowledge should be subject to independent verification—‘freeing oneself from unexamined opinion, particularly through the study of empirical data’, as Andrew Sayers puts it in his introduction to the beautifully produced accompanying book publication. The society’s motto, Nullius in verba (‘Take no-one’s word for it’), attests to this commitment to independence of thought, underpinned by methodologically rigorous inquiry. Fellows of the society include larger-than-life figures who in many cases have revolutionised their field: Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Christopher Wren, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Francis Crick, James Watson, Stephen Hawking and, with particular relevance in the Pacific context, James Cook and Joseph Banks.