Take Cover! Tasmania’s WWII Air Raid Shelters

The next time you’re in Franklin Square, consider this: you’re standing on an air raid shelter. In 1942, the ground beneath your feet was dug up by Civil Defence Force volunteers –  ordinary Hobart residents protecting their neighbours, families, and friends from enemy attack. All around Tasmania, people were digging shelters – in their backyards, at their children’s schools, and in public parks. It’s an amazing story of spirit and pluck in a time of darkness.

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Island Life: The Volunteer Work and Photographs of Trauti and David Reynolds

At the end of National Volunteers Week, we wanted to take a moment both to thank our volunteers, and to highlight a new collection that tells stories of volunteering in Tasmania’s historic and wild places. These are the photograph albums of  Trauti and David Reynolds, which document their volunteer and conservation work around Tasmania over many years. Thanks to their generous donation, these albums are now digitized and available to everyone. 

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Adventurous Beginnings – Te Bibilia Tapu Ra

Books travel. Throughout their lives, they are passed from hand to hand: given, borrowed, stolen, buried, discovered. Like all travelers, they also gather stories. This is the story of the Raratongan Bible, Te Bibilia Tapu Ra,  in the Australian Collection of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office. It begins on a Pacific island and ends in Tasmania, and its story is fascinating. Interested? Read on!

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The Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery

Have you ever driven past the Alexandra Battery in Sandy Bay and wondered what it was for? Have you ever heard rumours of a planned Russian invasion of Tasmania in the 19th century? As Anzac Day approaches, we’d like to share the story of the Southern Volunteer Artillery Regiment with you. Thanks to our new corps of online volunteers, we can now tell this amazing story in a new way, preserve it for future generations, and maybe even link it to your own family history. Intrigued? Want to get involved? Read on!

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A convict portrayal: The Lewis family portraits by Thomas Bock

Nothing said ‘I’m important’ in 19th century Van Diemen’s Land more than having your portrait done.

The convict artist Thomas Bock was Hobart’s most fashionable portrait painter in the 1840s. The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts has possibly the largest collection of Bock’s works, and it has just expanded to include an extensive range of portraits of the Lewis family, made between 1835 and 1854.

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Jewelled Nights: The Surprising Story of Two Tasmanian Women and their Lost Silent Film

Almost a century ago, two Tasmanian women wrote and produced a lost classic of Australian cinema. Set in the osmiridium mining fields of Tasmania’s Western Wilderness, Jewelled Nights was one of the first productions of its kind, created by the novelist Marie Bjelke Petersen and the silent film actress Louise Lovely in 1924.

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Colonial Cunning Folk, part two: Moses Jewitt and Benjamin Nokes

Our previous post described the notebook of William Allison, a cunning man or traditional healer active in Van Diemen’s Land during the 1830s and 1840s. Survivals of such documents are extremely rare, and unheard of in colonial Australia. Besides recording Allison’s activities, his notebook sheds light on his network, naming two other practitioners from whom he obtained recipes: Moses Jewell or Jewitt, and Benj Knokes also noted as ‘BN’. Continue reading “Colonial Cunning Folk, part two: Moses Jewitt and Benjamin Nokes”

Colonial Cunning Folk, part one: William Allison

A nondescript little notebook, hidden in plain sight in the state archives, has opened a window onto two extraordinary lives and yielded some startling insights into the popular beliefs and practice of traditional medicine in colonial Tasmania. William Allison (ca.1789-1856) and Benjamin Nokes (ca.1780?-1843) were ‘cunning men’, skilled in the use of herbal remedies, lacking formal qualifications but widely respected, operating somewhere on the spectrum between magic and science.

This post is about William Allison’s notebook, and what it reveals about his life and career. Our next post will explore the life of his co-practitioner Benjamin Nokes. Continue reading “Colonial Cunning Folk, part one: William Allison”

Cricket and patriotism: Hobart Town and Oyster Cove

Hobart Town

In the late summer of 1862, Hobart Town residents awaited the arrival of the first ever All England Eleven to play against a Tasmanian Twenty-two team.

The game was played over three days at the cricket ground on the Domain, near Government House, on Friday, 21st, Saturday, 22nd, and Monday, 24th February.

The English visitors proved to be so popular that an additional game was played on Tuesday, 25th February.

All England cricketers. S. S. Great Britain, 1861

On the eve of the first day of play, crowds welcomed the visitors with an enthusiasm bordering on hero worship. After a rousing reception held at the Horse and Jockey Inn at New Town, coaches for the two teams started towards the city.
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Life at The Steppes

A stop at The Steppes was once essential for every traveller in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. On our list of recently digitised materials is a sketchbook of birds and plants  by Marjorie (Madge) Wilson, who was the last resident of the house at The Steppes.

Starting as just a small cabin in the bush, the Wilson family transformed their home into a way-station for travelers and a hub for the highlands community.

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