SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Happy Birthday House!

I'm a history student from way back, so when I read a flyer in our local library - where else? - encouraging residents to research their houses, I was delighted. For one thing, it gave me an excuse to hang around more in libraries, which are just about my favourite places, and to confer more with librarians, who are just about my favourite people. Also, ever since we moved to inner-city Melbourne thirty years ago, the whole family has been intensely curious about our home's history and its previous occupants, so I grabbed the opportunity to learn more.
The flyer was the brainchild of the Fitzroy Residents Association. Under the banner 'Happy Birthday House!' the FRA hopes to increase the participation of fellow Fitzroy residents (who occupy some of Melbourne's oldest homes) in the National Trust Heritage Festival, which starts later this month. The actual FRA Birthday Party will be on 20 April.

The State Library of Victoria didn't really fall down. This is just a sculpture in its forecourt

I got my birthday wish well in advance of the party though because my investigations led me straight to libraries.
First I spent time at the State Library of Victoria, where I learned heaps about getting started at an introduction to geneaology seminar. Participants got to sit beneath the famous dome at leather-topped desks with swan-necked reading lamps that would have looked right at home in the London of Sherlock Holmes. It was the perfect setting for people bent on following in the great detective's footsteps.

Doctor Watson - where are you? 

From there I moved on to the wonderful Fitzroy Library. By the way, the adjoining Town Hall, or to be more precise, the hall's steps, will be the venue for the party. Revellers will meet there and each will be presented with a balloon decorated with salient details about their home's history, for displaying on their fences to impress passers-by.

Party venue and Fitzroy library

At the Fitzroy Library, I settled in the research room, which I had mainly to myself for the duration and where the highly-skilled librarian, aka Information Service Officer, Lina Favrin, took me in hand. She began by reacquainting me with the vagaries of microfiche, which I learned the hard way can make you nauseous if you look at them too long without a break. Lina introduced me to the Sands and McDougall post office directories, rate books and the frail and musty-smelling Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works maps.
I spent a delightful few days at the library, immersed in the past and only occasionally emerging, blinking in the sunshine, to relax under a tree in the tiny park opposite.
Last time I had devoted myself so single-mindedly to historical research was as a twenty-year-old Uni student. It was sheer pleasure to re-visit that time - with no thesis looming - and to experience all over again just how satisfying discovering a few ancient puzzle pieces can be.

Run-away horses. Illegal burial grounds. Obscene demands of docile young women. Who needs Holmes' London? Read my next post to hear all about the seamy side of early Fitzroy.


Blogger Tom Keel said...

Hi Sue.
Love your post.
It's so exciting to search through historical data and unearth the little treasures of information.
- Tom, Fitzroy

3:31 PM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

I couldn't agree more, Tom. Now that I'm on a roll, there will be no stopping me!

3:58 PM  

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