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Marking time

Marking time on history

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Gough 1916-2014

I met him just once, and heard him speak several times, and feel the expected sadness at his passing. Many of his ac­com­plish­ments made a direct difference to me, to say nothing of their effect on so many other people.

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Friday 18 October 2013

Sawing backwards

One of the best things about the recent refurbishment of the Brisbane City Hall is the new accommodation for the Museum of Brisbane. The museum is up on the roof of the building, hidden neatly behind the parapet, with views of the central dome.

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Tuesday 1 October 2013

What Alex Symons did next

I have kept searching for information about Alex Symons, the purser of the steam yacht Merrie England. Two accounts have turned up, both written by men who worked with him in British New Guinea in the 1890s.

The first is the diary of Henry Mitchell, a crew member on the Merrie England in 1893–1895, now in the John Oxley Library.

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Friday 2 August 2013

Steam Ship ‘Hibernian’

To go with the carte-de-visite of the SS Denmark with its cabin plan on the back, I have another​—​showing the SS Hibernian. Perhaps this is the start of a collection.

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Tuesday 30 July 2013

The rowdyism and brutality of the uneducated and ill-bred

As I was searching for references to the Merrie England in the Australian newspapers, I turned up a piece of moralising tit­il­ation which connected that steam yacht with stories of Victorian scandals. The commentary was prompted by the death and life of George Baird, one of Lillie Langtry’s lovers, but it also mentioned Mr Bailey for whom the Merrie England was originally built.

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Saturday 27 July 2013

More about the heliograph

For the record, I have identified the heliograph my father is using in the photo I showed here the other day.

It is a British Mance type heliograph, mark V. On the web are pictures, more pictures, a copy of the 1905 handbook, and the memoirs of a Second World War British army signaller​—​who remembers the special excitement of using the heliograph during a training session on the golf links over­look­ing the Firth of Forth in the early 1940s, when with the aid of a bright moon the heliograph worked well and the signals could be read clearly.

Best of all, here is a set of cigarette cards published in 1911 that explain the whole business​—​something we will not see again, in this new era of plain packaging…

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Tuesday 23 July 2013

The purser of the steam yacht ‘Merrie England’

Since Papua New Guinea is in the news, I’ll mention a cabinet photograph I recently bought from a dealer in England. It’s a portrait of a handsome young man wearing a naval officer’s cap and coat. It suggested a few lines of inquiry.

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Wednesday 17 July 2013

Moon signals at Bustard Head

I found this in the Queensland Figaro news­paper, 24 September 1903. The same story also ran in the Launceston Examiner, the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, the Melbourne Argus, the Hobart Mercury, the Zeehan & Dundas Herald, and the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin:

Moon signals

It was while
locum tenens at the rectory of Gladstone, Queens­land (says a writer in Chambers’ Journal for August) that I became aware that moon-signals could be used in the same way as those of the sun. It was my duty to go to Bustard Head Lighthouse every few months to hold service and visit the Sunday-school and people of the sta­tion. I usually went by land, and rode 30 miles to Turkey Station; and as soon as I arrived Miss Maud Worthington, the daughter of the station owner, would at once helio­graph the news of my arrival at Bustard Head, and enquire by use of an 8 in looking glass at what time a horse could be sent to meet me on the other side of the swampy ground, over which it was wiser to walk. There I was met by Mr Rookesby and his wife, who piloted me to the lighthouse station. Mr Rookesby is a well-known inventor in Queens­land. He erected the heliograph between Turkey Station and the lighthouse, but failed to make communication with Gladstone, 84 miles off, either because an 8 in mirror was too small, or because of other conditions peculiar to the lie of the country. He then experimented with signalling by moonlight, and discovered that​—​notwithstanding the feeble light of the moon as compared with sunlight​—​owing to the darkness of the night, the moon’s reflections were quite powerful enough to carry the intervening 10 miles between the two stations.
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Sunday 19 May 2013

Advice to doorknocking politicians

Social media, 19th century style: This article in the South Australian Weekly Chronicle for 16 July 1859 shows that using the latest technology for electioneering is no new thing.

TO MEMBERS ABOUT TO VISIT THEIR CONSTITUENTS.

A member can pay a visit now to his constituents either in person or in the more elegant form of a visiting card, that not merely contains his electioneering address, but also his name and physiognomy in full. This is a new feature, that has never yet been put on the canvass of an election. For instance, we are informed by an advertisement that​—​

“Messrs. A. Marion & Co. think it will be of great advantage to candidates who cannot possibly wait personally upon all their constituents to use their Photographic Visiting Cards, which will prove a great saving of both time and trouble in canvassing. They will also afford the electors an op­por­tu­ni­ty of having a correct portrait of the hon. gentleman seek­ing their suffrages.”

In this way are likenesses brought home to every man’s door. What a boon, too, conferred on those delinquent M.P.s, who, conscious of having voted wrong, hav’nt the courage to face their constituents in any other form than that of photography. If they are not gifted with the call of eloquence, such a visit saves them an infinity of stuttering and stammering ; and yet, the little they so say is spoken strictly by the card, and must go home, if left at the right house. The boon would be further increased if Messrs. Marion would take off the entire supporters of Lord Derby, and take them off so effectually, that we should never see them again.
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Thursday 18 April 2013

Pricing timber

I have scanned a pair of timber price lists from my col­lec­tion. See the PDFs here. They were produced in the 1930s by timber mer­chants in Queensland and New South Wales. They allow some interesting comparisons.

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Saturday 1 September 2012

A sawyer’s no robber

I have been working on a project at Fairview, a farm house near Maleny. The house was built around 1907 for Emily and John Robert Pattemore by their four sons. They felled the trees (with an axe and cross-cut saw), cut the logs to length (with a cross-cut saw), ripped them into boards (with a pit-saw), seasoned the boards (stacked criss-cross on a trestle), then planed and moulded the boards (with hand planes). Then they built the house in the usual way. It adds up to a vast amount of hand labour. That’s the bad news.

Now the good news. In the scrub​—​soon to be cleared to make way for cattle pasture​—​were enough white beech trees to build the house. White beech (gmelina leichhardtii) is a rainforest hardwood that saws easily, and is buttery smooth to plane by hand. The old timber handbooks recommended it for planking boats, for pattern-making, and called it the premier carving timber in Queensland.

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Wednesday 23 November 2011

Town gas

Gentle reader, if you know where this photograph was taken, please send me a message. The picture shows a small town gas­works, newly built or under construction. In front of the camera is the gas holder with five blokes sitting or standing on the empty vessel. Behind on the left is a shed (for storing feed stock?) and in the centre a brick building (the retort house?). No chimneys are visible (odd?). The style of the photographic print sug­gests a date in the 1870s, ’80s or ’90s. The name of the photographer sug­gests the place shown may be one of the 61 former gasworks sites in New South Wales. Any ideas?

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Friday 11 November 2011

Renaming the Great War

This is a fitting day to mention some clever projects that Tim Sherrat has done to extract and process information from a mass of digital data. He describes in his blog how he worked with the Trove archive of Australian newspapers to see when people stop­ped talking about the Great War and started talking about the First World War. He discussed a wider range of work concerning the Great War in a keynote address.

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Thursday 22 September 2011

The real face of White Australia

I’m a fan and follower of Tim Sherrat through his discontents blog. Today I read about his Invisible Australians project. The website explains:

The White Australia Policy was about people - people whose lives were monitored and restricted because of the colour of their skin. This experimental browser enables you to explore the records of the White Australia Policy through the faces of those people.

These portraits were extracted from a range of government documents using a face detection script. We’ve tried to weed out the mistakes, but you may still notice a few oddities. Many portraits are duplicated, as multiple copies of the forms were often kept.
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Tuesday 20 September 2011

Cairns Railway Red Cross Guild

My grandfather John Victor Marquis-Kyle (1897-1981) believed in doing volunteer work for the common good. During the Sec­ond World War, working at weekends and evenings with a small group of men in a workshop under his house, he made crutches for the Red Cross. I can remember him talking about this, and it sounded like he enjoyed both the companionship of working together and the feeling of ‘doing something useful’. Making a pair of crutches for an injured soldier was a very personal and practical help.

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Friday 9 September 2011

Chelsea Physic Garden

Roger Dean, London photographer and partner of Penny, an old friend of my sister’s, compiled a list of places we should see while in London in September 2010. Chelsea Physic Garden was on the list, and Roger and Penny took us there for lavish cakes, tea, and a wander around.

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Sunday 15 May 2011

Steam Ship ‘Denmark’

Millions of carte-de-visite photographs were produced in the second half of the nineteenth century. Almost all of them were studio portraits, but there were also a few topographic subjects like buildings and landscapes. Even rarer were cartes produced as commercial advertisements, and here is an example.

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Sunday 23 January 2011

After the flood

When I was a child in primary school an old man gave me a stack of photographs​—​a couple of dozen whole-plate contact prints with scenes of the 1893 Brisbane River flood and its aftermath. At the time, I thought those pictures were wonderful, and I still do. They started my interest in the history of photography, and they were the beginning of my own little collection.

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Friday 24 September 2010

Climbing Brunelleschi’s cupola

In Florence, at the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, tourists are welcome to climb to the top of the dome. The other day we joined the horde queueing in the piazza outside, bought tickets and threaded our way through a turnstile and along passages and up stairs. Many, many stairs. Stone stairs spiralling up inside the walls until I was giddy. Stone stairs stepping up the curve of the inner dome. Stone passages low and narrow, patinated with the sweat of visitors accummulated since the completion of the dome in 1436, and decorated with mundane graffiti.

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Thursday 7 January 2010

New year’s resolution for 2010

I have resolved to compile a checklist of lighthouses I would like to visit some time. I have already said I want to visit Muckle Flugga. Next on the list is in Chennai (formerly Madras) in south­ern India. The postcard below shows an amazing architectural mashup of lighthouse and courthouse. The building, described as an exquisite example of Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, incorporates the lighthouse lantern room and optical apparatus in the top of its highest dome. Flickr user NavneethC took a nice telephoto shot that shows the Chance Brothers lantern grafted into the Indo-Saracenic dome.

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Monday 3 August 2009

Goondiwindi wheelwright

On 24 August 1942 R A Cook, wheelwright and blacksmith of Goondiwindi, wrote a note on his printed invoice paper. I can’t be sure of the name of the recipient, but the note went like this:

Dear Sir
Just a line to ask you if you can supply me with some river oak billets for bullock yokes. They want to be 4ft 11 long by 6 x 6. If you can, let me know what price for same. I require (15) Fifteen and I want them quick.
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Saturday 4 April 2009

David Malouf at West End Library

My local public library opened in 1929, and today we marked it’s 80th birthday with a talk by David Malouf, and a birthday cake.

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Tuesday 10 March 2009

Geohistoriography

Artist Tim Schwartz illustrates on his website his installation piece Geohistoriography.

This show captures how America views the world as seen through the lens of the American media. All data was collected from the New York Times, namely the number of articles written about a certain country for each year.

The two wall drawings are representations of the 2008 state of America’s view of the world. In one piece countries were morphed and expanded or contracted if they were written about more or less than average. In the pyramid piece, countries were organized in a ranked fashion depending on this same data.

The animation shows how America’s perspective changed over the last 150 years.
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Tuesday 3 March 2009

Panoramic Queensland

The other day I went to the State Library of Queensland to see Panoramic Queensland, an exhibition of panoramic pho­to­graphs from the John Oxley Library collection. This is a fine showing of several dozen panoramas of Brisbane and other Queensland places.

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Thursday 12 February 2009

Lighthouse life in Queensland

It was my pleasure today to talk to members of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association on the subject of lighthouse life in Queensland. The association hosts morning talks each month at Miegunyah, its house museum at Bowen Hills. Before the talk we gathered on the verandah for introductions and chat. There were white table cloths, tea in china cups, and platters of dainty sandwiches. It was a warmish day, and kind ladies handed out fans to the members as they filed into the dining room for the talk.

My audience really enjoyed seeing a series of photographs of the Byrne family, taken at Sandy Cape Lightstation between 1903 and 1913. The photos are now in the John Oxley Library collection, and published on the web. The Byrne family story is also told as one chapter in the library’s virtual exhibition Travelling for love.

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Thursday 1 January 2009

Merry and happy, again

As a sequel to a previous greeting card here is another nineteenth century photographic greeting card from Tasmania. This one is not an ordinary carte-de-visite, but a somewhat larger card measuring 125mm by 82mm. The Loebenstein Company of Vienna produced more than two dozen sizes of cards for mounting photographs. This size was known by the charming name of Elisabeth.

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Thursday 8 May 2008

Timber and iron in the smart colony

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Queensland Museum, part of a series called Queensland Connections. In this series, speakers about cultural heritage subjects are teamed with Queensland Museum staffers who talk about natural environment subjects. The result is short talks and odd double-bills.

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Thursday 14 February 2008

Where is this?

I’m intrigued to know the identity of the Queensland bush township in this old lantern slide.

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Tuesday 27 November 2007

Who was the motorist?

Could the car in this photo have belonged to the intrepid adventurer Francis Birtles?

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Saturday 30 December 2006

Lighthouse welcome

Just found in the National Library picture collection: a stereo photo of a welcome arch built in Hobart for the 1901 visit of the Duke and Duchess of York. This little object tickles my interest in stereo views, lighthouses, and celebratory arches.

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Thursday 21 December 2006

circusmuseum.nl

Enjoy the fabulous collection of historic circus ephemera at circusmuseum.nl. There are thousands of colour lithographic posters from the Hamburg printing firm of Adolph Friedländer, each one catalogued, digitised, and available on the web. The website nicely explains, in Dutch and in English, the provenance of the collection.

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Friday 26 May 2006

Dili

In June 1972 I took a TAA flight from Darwin to Portugese Timor, as it then was. To me, it was a wonderfully strange and exotic place, a time-warped colonial leftover. A great start to my adventure.

Today, with Australian troops on the way to Timor again, I am thinking about the people I met there, and the hard times they have had.

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Thursday 30 March 2006

John Ruskin’s Daguerreotypes?

From an article in the UK Telegraph newspaper yesterday:

A small country firm of auctioneers has been left em­bar­rassed but elated after selling a box of photographs it valued at £80 for £75,000.
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Sunday 31 July 2005

How the other half lived

My thanks to Paul Giambarba for a link to an online version of Jacob Riis’s How the other half lives.

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Friday 4 February 2005

Snakes and spiders

From Samuel Pepys’s diary entry for this day in 1661:

To Westminster Hall, where it was full term. Here all the morning, and at noon to my Lord Crew’s, where one Mr. Templer (an ingenious man and a person of honour he seems to be) dined; and, discoursing of the nature of serpents, he told us some that in the waste places of Lancashire do grow to a great bigness, and that do feed upon larks, which they take thus: They observe when the lark is soared to the highest, and do crawl till they come to be just underneath them; and there they place themselves with their mouths uppermost, and there, as is conceived, they do eject poyson up to the bird; for the bird do suddenly come down again in its course of a circle, and falls directly into the mouth of the serpent; which is very strange. He is a great traveller; and, speaking of the tarantula, he says that all the harvest long (about which times they are most busy) there are fidlers go up and down the fields every where, in expectation of being hired by those that are stung….

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Tuesday 11 November 2003

Over the top

For Remembrance Day, a reminder that arguments about the authenticity of the photographic record are not new.

Frank Hurley, in France with the Australian troops in 1917, wrote about the problems of recording what was going on around him:

I have tried, and tried again, to include events on a single negative but the results have been hopeless. Everything is on such a wide scale … Figures scattered, atmosphere dense with haze and smoke — shells that simply would not burst when required. All the elements of a picture were there, could they but be brought together and condensed. The battle is in full swing, the men are going over the top — I snap. A fleet of bombing planes is flying low, there is a barrage bursting all round. But on developing my plates there is disappointment. All I find is a record of a few figures advancing from the trenches and a background of haze.
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Thursday 23 October 2003

$87,000,000,000.00

It’s hard to imagine what 87 Billion US Dollars is. That’s the amount the US government plans to spend to finish a mission of securing peace and eliminating terrorist threats in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Friday 10 October 2003

Paris photographed and rephotographed

As an aside to my special place for this month, here is a link to images of 494 photographs of Paris by Eugène Atget in the George Eastman House collection.

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Saturday 30 August 2003

Denis O’Donovan’s library

In 1874 Denis O’Donovan became Queensland Parliamentary Librarian. He was an unlikely arrival in the colonial frontier town of Brisbane — capital of the state of Queensland, separated from New South Wales 15 years before. O’Donovan was a cultivated man, educated in Ireland and France.

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Wednesday 27 August 2003

Celebrating federation

When the Duke and Duchess of York visited Australia in 1901, the loyal colonists turned on a special welcome. See this little gallery of stereo photographs. Of the six triumphal arches, my favourite is the one made of butter boxes.

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Thursday 24 July 2003

Looted treasures

I enjoy the messages I get from people who don’t know me, re­spon­ding to things I write on this website​—​like one today from Suzanne Charlé, mentioning a story she wrote for the New York Times: Tiny treasures leave big void in looted Iraq:

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Wednesday 23 July 2003

Pigments through the ages

See this colourful story at WebExhibits.org.

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Wednesday 15 January 2003

Blogging Australian historiography

My thanks to Dr Cathie Clements for pointing out her post on the Australian Council of Professional Historians Forum (14 January 2003). She starts with an annotated list of blog entries, sign­posting recent arguments about The Truth of what happened between Aborigines and Europeans.

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Thursday 9 January 2003

Signs of discrimination

The US Library of Congress houses the work created in the 1930s by Farm Security Administration photographers​—​Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and others. On the library website is a col­lec­tion of photographs of signs enforcing racial discrimination. From the web page intro:

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Tuesday 7 January 2003

Rewriting Australian history

Gary Sauer-Thompson’s public opinion weblog carries a piece by Dr Cathie Clement — here’s an excerpt:

Australia’s past is under the microscope. Allegations are flying thick and fast as scholars endeavour to defend “orthodox” history against the tabloid version preferred by Keith Windschuttle and his supporters. The term “orthodox”, as it is being used in the press, is misleading because, until the battle over Aboriginal history began, the historiography now targeted by conservative commentators was generally viewed as left-wing rather than orthodox.
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Saturday 18 May 2002

Lest we forget

Alec Campbell died on Thursday at the age of 103. He was the last surviving veteran of the First World War Gallipoli campaign.

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Thursday 11 April 2002

The Nixon tapes

New Yorker columnist Paul Slansky writes: One of the happiest things about life in America is the certainty that, every year or two, a fresh batch of Nixon tapes will be released to the public. In the past few weeks, students of the thirty-seventh President have been busy working their way through four hundred and twenty-six more hours of very special Presidential conver­sations, bringing the total to 1,779. Slansky has sieved thirteen quizz questions out of those hours of talk. Can you answer this one?:

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Tuesday 25 December 2001

The value of history

After Christmas lunch I read a few chapters of Fred Smeijers’ Counterpunch (which I mentioned a few days back). I was taken with the way he answered the question ‘what is the value of history’:

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Search marquis-kyle.com.au

On this page
Gough 1916-2014
Sawing backwards
What Alex Symons did next
Steam Ship ‘Hibernian’
The rowdyism and brutality of the uneducated and ill-bred
More about the heliograph
The purser of the steam yacht ‘Merrie England’
Moon signals at Bustard Head
Advice to doorknocking politicians
Pricing timber
A sawyer's no robber
Town gas
Renaming the Great War
The real face of White Australia
Cairns Railway Red Cross Guild
Chelsea Physic Garden
Steam Ship ‘Denmark’
After the flood
Climbing Brunelleschi's cupola
New year’s resolution for 2010
Goondiwindi wheelwright
David Malouf at West End Library
Geohistoriography
Panoramic Queensland
Lighthouse life in Queensland
Merry and happy, again
Timber and iron in the smart colony
Where is this?
Who was the motorist?
Lighthouse welcome
circusmuseum.nl
Dili
John Ruskin's Daguerreotypes?
How the other half lived
Snakes and spiders
Over the top
$87,000,000,000.00
Paris photographed and rephotographed
Denis O'Donovan's library
Celebrating federation
Looted treasures
Pigments through the ages
Blogging Australian historiography
Signs of discrimination
Rewriting Australian history
Lest we forget
The Nixon tapes
The value of history

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