There is the opportunity to experience real living history on your own doorstep.
Living history is all around you. You just need to take a deep breath, pause for a moment and listen to the history around speak to you.
Camden living history
In the town centre of Camden the buildings and the ambience of the historic precinct speak to you if you pause and listen.
They are all part of the Camden story.
The Camden living history reveals the intricacies of telling the Camden story.
The Camden town centre and its multi-layered history are evident in the many different building styles evident as you walk along the main street.
If walls could talk they would tell an interesting story that would immerse you in the past in the present. They would provide a gripping account of the characters that were central to the stories.
Living history is storytelling
Living history allows participants to be able to read the layers of history of an area.
Living history is like peeling off layers of paint from a wall when viewers peel back the layers of history of a site, building or place. Each layer has a special meaning – a special presence.
Lived experience leads to storytelling which is real and authentic.
Storytelling creates the meaning of the past and creates the characters of the past in the present. It allows the past to speak to the present. Storytelling and stories at the essence of place.
The living history movement
Living historian Scott Magelssen maintains that living history museums ‘engage strategies in their performance of the past’, claiming to be ‘real history by virtue of their attention to detail’. (pp. xii-xv)
One of the early influencers of the living history movement in North America was Henry Ford who established his indoor and outdoor living museum experience in the Detroit suburb of Dearbourn in Michigan USA. Henry Ford said of his museum
I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used…. When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition…
The Camden story
The Camden story is the tale of the local area.
Camden storytellers peel back the layers of the history of the town and district and reveal the tales of local identities, larrikans, characters, rascals, ruffians and ratbags.
There are a number of layers to the Camden story and they are
- Pre-European period of the Indigenous Dharawal people when they called the area Benkennie
- The Cowpastures were named by Governor Hunter in 1795 and the establishment of the Cowpastures Government Reserve. Under European control the Indigenous Dharawal people dispossession and displacement of their country. The Macarthur family’s Camden Park Estatestarted with the 1805 grant to John Macarthur.
- The Camden township was established as a private venture of the Macarthur family in 1840. The streets were named after its founders – Macarthur, Elizabeth, John, Edward.
- The English-style Camden town centrehas evolved and is represented by a number of historical architectural styles since 1840 – Victorian, Edwardian, Inter-war, Mid-20th century. The town was the hub of the Camden District between 1840 and 1970s
- The Macarthur region (1970s +), named after the famous local Macarthur family, grew as part of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe. It is made up of Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Local Government Areas.
Immerse your imagination in the past at the Camden Museum through living history.
The Camden museum tells the Camden story through displays of artefacts, objects, memoriabilia and other ephemera by using a living history approach.
The displays tell a story of an earlier period and allows visitors to immerse themselves in the past in the present.
Map of the Camden district in 1939 showing the extent of the area with Camden in the east. The silver mining centre of Yerranderie is in the west. (I Willis, 1996)
Walking the past through living history
Visitors to Camden can walk the streets of the town centre and imagine another time. A time past that can be recalled through living history.
A self-guided walking tour lets visitors explore the living history of the Camden town centre. There is a pdf brochure here.
Check out Camden’s main street with its Victorian, Edwardian and interwar ambience and charm. See where the local met on sale day at the Camden saleyards or the annual country festival at the Camden show.
The Heritage Tourism website boasts that Camden – The best preserved country town on the Cumberland Plain NSW.
The mysteries of the cute little locomotive that used to run between Camden and Campbelltown via Currans Hill, Narellan, Elderslie, Kirkham and Graham’s Hill are also explored in a post called The glory of steam, Pansy, the Camden tram.
Maybe you would like to revisit the farming glory days of the 1800s at one of Australia’s most important living history farms at Belgenny Farm.
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