Community Connections

Historian Dr Peter Hobbins speaking to the Northern Beaches U3A

Historian Dr Peter Hobbins speaking to the Northern Beaches U3A - Michael Mannington Volunteer Photography

14 September 2015

One of the pleasures and privileges of the Quarantine Project has been the opportunity to talk – both formally and informally – with a wide range of people from across the community. Importantly, it’s been a two-way conversation, in which our archaeologists and historians have been learning from visitors, descendants and audiences. This process of sharing information continues through a series of upcoming talks and the Q Station’s twice-yearly Community Days.

Engagement with individual visitors commenced almost from our first day of fieldwork at the Quarantine Station. Sometimes it’s guests or day visitors, who stop to chat to our archaeologists about what we’re doing, how the inscriptions are being recorded or – sometimes – to share stories about their own family connections to the site. Other personal links have been established when stories about the Quarantine Project were published in the Sydney Alumni Magazine and the Manly Daily, or aired on the ABC’s 730 program and SBS radio. Several of these conversations provided leads for finding long-lost historic inscriptions, establishing changes in the North Head landscape, and understanding the enduring impact of seemingly short-term quarantine events on the generations that followed.

It’s also been our pleasure to take the Quarantine Project out to a variety of community groups in Sydney and Canberra. Some of those we’ve spoken to include the Northern Beaches Region of the University of the Third Age (U3A), the Society of Australian Genealogists, Skål International and the Probus Club of Pittwater. On the ‘technical’ side, we have also discussed the medical aspects of quarantine history with Pathology North in the Hunter region, the Australian Society for Microbiology and a lively Physiotherapy Emeritus Group at the Australian Catholic University.

Third-year students took history beyond the classroom at the Q Station

Third-year students took history beyond the classroom at the Q Station

We have also been pleased to work with individuals and groups on site, ranging from visiting scholars through to undergraduate and masters-level classes from the University of Sydney. Earlier in 2015 we arranged a detailed visit for students from the Master of Museum and Heritage studies unit, ‘Objects and Places’, while on 7 September we were delighted to attract nearly a full class of third-year history students who are investigating ‘History Beyond the Classroom’. Students undertaking this field trip have already blogged about the experience. Throughout these tours, our colleagues in the curatorial, education and tours departments of the Q Station have been enthusiastic and informative collaborators.

Finally, project member Dr Peter Hobbins has been offering up snippets from the Quarantine Project via his Twitter account, @history2wheeler. Ranging from the biohazards of archival research to the danger of ravens stealing your lunch, these tweets also reveal historical facts and some in-field observations at North Head, including discovering what might be the location of the Quarantine Station’s first burial ground.