Collecting Under Covid 2

Collecting Under Covid 2

It is the end of my working week again, so I thought it might be a good time for another short update. I picked up more material from the PMI yesterday, but I’ll be writing about that next week because I wanted to talk about what I’ve been working on today.

Today has been about finding material to add to the collection, and growing the PMI’s electronic resources.

A big part of my job is being on top of material becoming available that fits with our collection policy, this often includes going through a publisher’s entire listing to see what is relevant. As I’ve explained before, at the moment the book budget is frozen but these checks still need to be made, so new material can be purchased as soon as it is possible again.

So, today I was going through Magabala Books and the publications of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

This means checking their backlistings and new books and other publications (in the case of AIATSIS) and seeing what we have, what we don’t and what fits with the collection policy. For anyone interested you can see the PMI’s collection policy here

Both of the organisations I was going through are Indigenous publishers, so I wanted to talk a little about our policy. The PMI collects:

All works on Indigenous Australians. Indigenous groups do not adhere to state/territory boundaries and interstate policy has had a profound effect on Victorian policy. The same principles outlined for Local Histories also apply.

The idea is to create as complete a picture as possible of Indigenous history, and (largely due to the scarcity of material) this often means reaching beyond Victoria’s boundaries, and collecting material such as children’s books when there is no other resource for the information. This is especially true of books written in Language, because if a children’s book is the only written form of Language available, then it is a vitally important part of the collection, they are also a great source of Indigenous stories.

I was also lucky enough to take part in an online book discussion about Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu today. It tied in beautifully with the material I’ve been looking through today and was really interesting (it also included a virtual tour of Melbourne Museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre by a curator). Additionally, it was an excellent networking opportunity to explain the PMI’s Indigenous collections to other professionals.

But to return to the collecting. Between AIATSIS and Magabala, I managed to find just over sixty books we didn’t have that fit with the collection policy. Some fit more closely than others, as in they are specifically Victorian, so they will receive first priority when purchasing begins again. These books have been added to my growing list of to be purchased items, and they’ll be an excellent resource at the PMI in the not too distant future.

There were some, however, that I was able to acquire immediately. AIATSIS has some electronic resources that you can download for free. I added their two, to two other electronic resources that I’d sourced yesterday when going through the National Library’s Recent Additions. So I had four electronic resources to catalogue. Under normal circumstances, as in if I was in the library, I’d upload them to our server, but for now I have just saved them to Dropbox and I’ll pick the files up in the library next time I’m there.

The PMI has a wide range of electronic resources, ranging from books, to audio, indexes, gazettes, databases, heritage studies and directories. These are all available on the PMI’s computers. We are looking at the possibility of making some available to members online, but it will depend on our new website when it is up and running. Today’s four come under books, using a broad definition of the term.

We have Latrobe Valley Social History: Celebrating and recognising Latrobe Valley’s history and heritage


FOLA anniversary celebrating 25 years 1994-2019 / text: Daniel Ferguson

25th Anniversary Booklet_FOLA_32pp_web

And the two from AIATSIS

The Gunditjmara land justice story / Jessica K Weir


Indigenous partnerships in protected area management in Australia [electronic resource] : three case studies / Toni Bauman and Dermot Smyth.



The four are quite different, but between them they represent both the work I’ve been doing today in finding new Indigenous books for the collection, and the diversity of the PMI’s electronic collection. It’s been an interesting day, finding all these new potential and actual resources, and I’ll be back next week with some of the material I filled the box with yesterday.

Hope you found it interesting

Book Review: Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Book Review: Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Review by PMI Volunteer Renee Rollestone



Scrublands follows Martin Scarsend, a reporter who is visiting a rural town. His purpose is to write an article about how the town of Riversend (a fictional Riverina Town) is healing 1 year after a mass shooting in a local church. Martin has covered many intense situations such as the Gaza Strip but finds himself in many unexpected circumstances in the town in Riversend.

The protagonist is not convinced of the claims that previous journalists have made about the shooter, a  young priest. While trying to identify perpetrators of fresh scandal that arrives at the town, he attempts to find out the truth about the shooting.

Hammer skilfully weaves many storylines together at a good pace. New truths are revealed at a rate that keeps the reader intrigued and anxious to learn the truth. The author’s previous journalism career gives great insight to the role the press plays when reporting and solving crime. Also explored the line between helpful press coverage and unhelpful sensationalist news that is written to a deadline and the consequences. The characters in this book are well written and complex. Delightfully human characters that have compelling backstories. Hammer also confronts some of the realities of a rural life such as a struggling economy, lack of employment, bushfires and domestic violence. This book is one the most engaging books I’ve had the fortune of reading in recent times. Excellent page turner that kept myself reading late into the night!



Cataloguing Under Covid 3

Cataloguing Under Covid 3

It’s the end of the working week for me, so I thought I’d do another update on how the PMI’s collection is being grown. That way you can all have a further idea of what will be waiting for you when we open again.

I began today by pulling together the Recent Additions for April, which is a full list of all the new material that has been added to the collection during April. This has been sent off to be designed by another PMI staff member, and you can expect to see it in you mailboxes in the coming weeks.

For the rest of the day I’ve been cataloguing and indexing. The indexing was largely back issues of the Friends of St Kilda Cemetery newsletters, so I thought I’d focus on profiling some of the books that I’ve been working on.

It was a really mixed collection today, with everything from church histories,  to art books, to indigenous histories, to urban planning.

I thought I’d talk about examples of three of these. I have intentionally left the indigenous books out of the discussion because they are old books that are indicative of the times in which they are written, and as such hold views about indigenous people that  are extremely culturally insensitive. We keep this type of material because sometimes, sadly, it is the only source of information, but also because to leave it out of the collection would be to hide the views expressed within and thus sanitise history.

As it says on our website:

Please be aware that items in our collection may contain words, descriptions, names, sounds, images, videos and audio recordings which may be culturally sensitive and which might not normally be used in certain public or community contexts. Terms and annotations which reflect the author’s attitude or that of the period in which the item was written may not be considered appropriate today.

But this doesn’t mean that I feel comfortable taking photos of them and putting them up on this blog. If you wish to view the material they will be available in the library.

The other three categories are interesting to examine though. I wanted to start with the report.


This one is a masterplan for Prahran and is one of many such documents that PMI holds. This particular work was created in 2014 and sets out what the Victorian Government hoped the future of Prahran would be. These sorts of works are invaluable additions to the collection because they not only show what was in the locality when the report was written, they also give a clear idea of the planned direction- even if it never came to fruition.


Now we have the church history. This work is an excellent example of the literally hundreds of the church histories that the PMI holds. We are working on a couple of projects to try to collect histories of other religious buildings, but it is a slow process as often they simply haven’t been written. This one is of the history of the Presbyterian Church in Surrey Hills and it’s typical of such church histories. It outlines how the church was founded and the main players involved over the years. These histories can be fantastic for family history, because if your ancestor was involved in a community then there’s a pretty good chance they would have been involved in a church.

Finally the art book:


We collect art books because we see art as an integral part of the history of Victoria and Australia and believe it should be a part of all historical research. If you want to know more about our art resources and why we collect them, Collection Corner in June’s newsletter last year covers it in much greater depth.

This particular book is about Mambo, which I’m sure many of you will be familiar with. Mambo is very much part of Australian and Victorian culture and we’ve kept this book to reflect that. As you can see it already has some library stamps on it. This one was a donation from Parade College Library. We quite often are lucky enough to receive donations from other libraries, who don’t have the space or who weed on circulation. We are proud that we are able to preserve these works and make them accessible.

Well, that’s just a brief rundown of the some of the material I’ve been working on today. I’ve got a little bit of cataloguing left for next week and some tracking down of books from the National Library. Then it will be back up to the PMI to collect more material.

Hope you found today’s cataloguing under COVID interesting.



Collecting Under Covid

Collecting Under Covid


The National Library of Australia puts out a list of all the recent publications that have been added to their collection. We go through this list each month and determine which resources fit with the PMI Collection Policy.

That is the simple part of the process, the slightly more complicated part is finding a source to acquire the resources from. The PMI is not a legal deposit library, the way the NLA is, so we are not automatically sent all published resources. We have to track them down and that’s what I’ve been working on this afternoon.

Sometimes, it is incredibly straight forward. If the book is a mainstream publication such as Freedom Lost: A history of newspapers, journalism and press censorship in Australia by Robert Pullman, which was on my list, then it is uncomplicated. In this case we either source it from our local bookstore or from Bookworld, the online remains of Angus and Robertson, who have a really good range of Australian titles.

Others aren’t so easy, and can require some detective work. My favourite example of this is actually from a year or so ago. I found a family history called Before the Trumpet Sounds by John Oldmeadow by tracking him through an inquest on Google to the business he had owned in Hobart and finding that he was in his 90s, still owned the business and was delighted to be able to sell us his family history.

None of today’s books were that curly with such a satisfactory answer, but there were a couple of tricky ones. I spent twenty minutes trying to find somewhere to buy a 19 page history of Francis Knox Orme, who was a police magistrate in the late 1800s. Unusually for a book that was listed on Libraries Australia, it wasn’t on Trove and I only had the title and the author. It took a lot of digging, but I managed to find that it was published in Castlemaine- so once we are buying books again I will be contacting the Castlemaine Historical Society to see if they know where I might be able to obtain a copy from.

Another interesting one, is more a case of technology and contact. The Bunbartha Tennis club has a book on its 100 year history. Their only point of contact is their Facebook page and it doesn’t have a seperate email address, only the postal address. From experience, sending them a message on messenger will probably not be very effective so I will most likely end up writing to them. Yes we still send out hardcopy letters enquiring after books.

Another excellent source of book contact information is local newspapers. Today I found that a family history called 1838 Settlers: A history of the family of James McLaurin and his descendants was written up in the Deniliquin Pastoral Times. Sometimes I have to contact the paper directly to see if they have contact information in regards to the author of the book. Fortunately this time, there was a contact for purchasing listed at the end of the article.

So even with Covid meaning we can’t buy books at the moment, we can still track them down and make lists on where we can obtain them from. Going through the NLA list is always one of my favourite jobs, because it is a bit like being a detective and you jump through a fantastic array of books. Today I’ve gone through everything from Mornington Cemetery to an in-depth look at Australian radio history (this one I found in a free Ebook so we’ll be able to add it to the collection a little sooner). You never know what you are going to come across next.



Cataloguing under Covid 2

Cataloguing under Covid 2

On this cold and wet day, I thought I’d provide some further reflections on the books going into the collection, that will be waiting for you when the PMI reopens.

I have collected another box of books to work my way through from home so I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue to provide a few snippets as I go along

I’ve been helping finish off a grant application today, so the cataloguing pile is by necessity a little smaller, but there are still some very interesting books worthy of discussion, though I’m just going to highlight one today.

It’s another botanical book, this time by Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller. Von Mueller was the Government Botanist and the first Director of the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens. He was a fascinating figure and you can find more about him here

This particular book is Introduction to Botanic Teachings at the Schools of Victoria


It dates to 1877 and aims to introduce the story of plants into elementary schools. It has some lovely illustrations, like the one of the Eucalyptus Melliodora below.


The book introduces a variety of plants. What is really interesting about it, is that the government botanist is making sure that native Australian plants – not just European plants were being taught in schools as early as 1877. Von Mueller states his aim (not for this particular book but overall) as ‘any child of average mental capacity, even without the aid of a teacher, to name and classify a large number of local indigenous plants’.

It’s just a lovely little window into the beginnings of the education system, and identifying with our native plants.

This is a shorter post than usual, but I still thought an introduction to one of the newly added books would be nice


Indexing and grant writing under COVID

Indexing and grant writing under COVID


Another instalment- today has been a day of indexing a whole variety of stories from our periodical collection. Today in indexing I’ve travelled through: Bendigo, Brighton, Brunswick, Bungaree, Carlton, Coburg, Footscray, St Kilda, Kinglake, Knox, Lilydale, Malvern, Mildura, Sorrento, Diamond Creek, Orbost, Plenty, Port Melbourne, Warragul, Warrandyte, Warrnambool, Williamstown, Smythesdale and Wonthaggi. As well as learning more new things about Adam Lindsay Gordon.

Some of these were older journals, so from before Covid forced the closure of any of the historical societies that had a museum, or rooms, or public access. It was nice to see the gatherings being planned and the outings being discussed, it gives us hope for a future where physical rather than virtual historical exploration is back on the cards.

I wanted to talk briefly about one journal in particular, while most of the journals today were about a place or a district one stood out, and always stands out whenever it comes across my desk. The Wayfarer: the official newsletter of the Adam Lindsay Gordon Commemorative Committee. I love that there is a committee that is dedicated to continuing to tell the story of Adam Lindsay Gordon who in his 37 years did make his mark on Australian poetry, but has also been dead since 1870. But each newsletter they find something new to write about, another story to tell- in this case the Dingley Dell Cottage memorial gates (Dingley Dell was Lindsay Gordon’s home) and a discussion about the Green Room Club where the Adam Lindsay Gordon public organisation began. I appreciate their dedication to a poet who most people will know very little about- as well as poetry his other claim to fame was as a horseman including a very dangerous jump in Mount Gambier (which there is a monument to)

You may recognise Lindsay Gordon from his statue near Parliament in Melbourne (you can see it in the photo above)

The other task I’ve been undertaking today is drafting a grant application for a significance assessment. This has been quite odd to do from home, as I am not surrounded by the collections whose virtues I am extolling. It has been worthwhile though as we believe the PMI’s collection is of national significance and hopefully (if we’re successful with the grant) it will be assessed as being so. It is the only for loan collection of its type anywhere in Australia and seeks to ensure that all the voices of multifaceted Victorian history are accessible, discoverable and preserved. The PMI is about protecting the small pieces of history that get lost in the broader narrative, and we hope that its significance can be recognised.





Indexing Under Covid

Indexing Under Covid

thumbnail_IMG_7591I’m still working from home, and today’s work has been a mixture of indexing and cataloguing. But I thought today I’d talk a little more about indexing.

We collect the periodicals of historical societies from across Victoria and we index them. These are then keyword searchable on our catalogue. The point of this is that the small local stories suddenly become accessible to our members. One of my favourite examples was last year when a lady came into the library trying to find information about a mansion in Mt Eliza that was demolished sometime in the 70s. We looked it up on the catalogue and discovered that we had a National Trust newsletter from the 1960s, which had an article about the CWA visiting the mansion. The member was delighted, and it was because of the indexing work that we do, that this tiny piece of information was discoverable.

So today I have indexed journals from: Apollo Bay, Colac, Daylesford, East Melbourne, Frankston, Gisborne and Mount Macedon, Korumburra, Middle Park, Moe, Narre Warren, Port Melbourne, Sebastopol and the Maltese Historical Society

All sorts of smaller stories have now made their way onto our catalogue. We now have information on the Heathfield Reformatory in Apollo Bay, Warrion House in Colac, Robert Bodkin’s bluestone bridge in Gisborne, Dame Annie Jean Macnamara and her connections to Middle Park, the Waterfront Place Foodstore development in Port Melbourne, the Douglas Family in Sebastopol and Moe Camembert Industries- to just list a few.

These journals are currently sitting on a shelf in my study, so technically they aren’t available in the PMI at the moment. They will, however, soon be joining the rest of the extensive periodical collection, and you just never know when we’ll have someone making an enquiry into exactly what I’ve just indexed. It might be just after we reopen after Covid, or it might be in twenty years, but the information will be there. That is the purpose of the PMI, to tell the small stories that get lost in the broader narrative and to make sure they are discoverable.

So that’s the end of my thoughts on indexing, it’s slower working from home, but the process is still important and there is a real satisfaction in knowing that my work today will be a part of the collection.