Crittercal Archives: A Note by David Lowe

Over the past two months, I’ve been surrounded by creatures when entering or emerging from national archives repositories in different parts of the world.

OK, maybe not surrounded, but nevertheless, I’ve almost literally bumped into quite a few.

Canberra would have to be the most remote of encounters, restricted to the familiar wheeling of currawongs with their mournful cries. My wife, Andrea, accurately observes that currawongs’ drawn-out, up-and-down call equates to, ‘biig deeaal’. That’s unsupportive of someone busting a gut in records, risking paper cuts to fingers, and trying to make contributions to knowledge. But Canberra has long had academics in its sights. Or maybe the scientists spread the currawongs around the place, just before ARC grant adjudication occurs…

In Ottawa, where long opening hours mean that you can work late, I occasionally staggered out at 8.30 pm to find a groundhog emerged from its hole near the front. Fair enough. Pretty easy to see what’s going on there, with me trumping up again to the archives, day after day, same times, same place.

The archives bring a new perspective to many things, critters especially. Photo credit: David Lowe

Now in New Delhi, the trend continues. After a frustrating day at the National Archives, I walked out to have a monkey stroll past me. Monkeys up close trouble me. Their calculating eyes suggest they are constantly trying to figure out how to take advantage of you. But this one kept strolling to chew on an empty juice box discarded nearby. Monkey, bad day at archives, yep there’s probably a connection there.

The next day I was at the Nehru Memorial Library where a resplendent male peacock accompanied me to the front door. This was going to be a good day – and it was mostly pretty good, especially compared to those monkeyed National Archives the day before. Then, back at the National Archives there was a frog sitting out front; then back at Nehru Memorial Library a monkey during my lunch break.

Then it struck me. I’d been myopically linking these encounters to my own researching fortunes, but the bigger picture was the more important. This was a trend. We were going to have to expect competition from creatures in archives use henceforth. Just as the subaltern history movement raided the archives to write back at their colonial writers of history, so too would creatures, in the age of the Anthropocene, storm the records holdings to write against the grain of anthropocentric history.

The crittercal archives movement had begun.   

 

The archives bring a new perspective to many things, critters especially. Photo credit: David Lowe

‘History on the Hill’ Workshop

Carolyn Holbrook, in her role as co-ordinator of the Australian Policy and History network, hosted the ‘History on the Hill’ Workshop at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House in Canberra on 5 September 2018.

Participants gathered to consider the role that historical expertise plays in the policy-making process and the ways that politicians use history to further their policy and political ends.

Participants at the workshop included:

  • Press gallery journalist, Michelle Grattan
  • Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo
  • Author and speechwriter, Dennis Glover
  • Historians Frank Bongiorno, Nick Brown and Tim Rowse
  • Political scientist James Walter
  • Labor Member for Canberra, Hon Gai Brodtmann MP
  • Former Deputy Secretary at PM&C, Meredith Edwards

 

The program is available here. Proceedings and other outcomes from the workshop, including interviews with participants, will be published on the Australian Policy and History website over coming weeks. If you would like more information about this and upcoming events, or want to contribute to Australian Policy and History, Carolyn would love to hear from you on carolyn.holbrook@deakin.edu.au.

 

 

New book release from CHRG member Mathew Turner

Historians at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial: Their Role as Expert WitnessesDr Mathew Turner‘s book Historians at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial: Their Role as Expert Witnesses was published by I.B.Tauris on 30 August 2018. The book examines the role that four West German historians – Helmut Krausnick, Martin Broszat, Hans Buchheim, and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen – played as expert witnesses in the 1963-1965 Frankfurt Auschwitz trial. The book also examines the relationship between this judicial engagement and the post-trial work derived from the historians’ reports, Anatomy of the SS State.

Book launch at the National Library of Australia

 

Paul Hetherington reads an excerpt from his book Moonlight on Oleander
Professor Paul Hetherington’s book, Moonlight on Oleander: Prose Poems, was launched by Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton at the National Library of Australia on Thursday 6th September

 

Professor Paul Hetherington’s book, Moonlight on Oleander: Prose Poems, was launched by Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton at the National Library of Australia on Thursday 6th September, to a packed house. Of Moonlight on Oleander, Cassandra stated, “This book is extraordinary because it pushes the prose poem to its limit – there’s nothing timid about Paul’s use of the prose poem form. He draws on its flexibility to create new and exciting varieties and approaches – from narrative prose poems with long, looping sentences (almost like long reels of film), to stark elegies which are taut and compressed in their lamentation, to sleek prose poetry sequences that grow with a kind of slow gestation to become something bigger than the sum of their parts. Moonlight on Oleander is a significant book in Paul’s oeuvre; it speaks as much in its gaps and silences as it does in its beguiling lexicon.”  

 

Moonlight on Oleander can be purchased here.