Stories of place

Some stories of place

All places have interesting stories to tell. You just need to find a good storyteller. A local sage.

Stories are a snapshot from the community album of memories. A glimpse of  the big picture. A small piece of the jigsaw.

Stories make a place interesting. They give it character and what makes it special.

Stories are the basis of community identity and a sense of place. It is who they are.

Lots of interesting stories stay hidden and are never told to the world. Understanding a place means understanding its stories.

Stories contribute to the  landscape of a place. The landscape is constructed from the stories of place.

Noel Castree has argued that for geographers the word ‘place’ has three main senses: 

  1.  Place as location  – a specific point on the earth’s surface.
  2.  A sense of place  – the subjective feelings people have about places, including the role of place in their individual and group identity.
  3. Place as locale  – a setting and scale for people’s daily actions and interactions. (Noel Castree, “Place: Connections and Boundaries in an Interdependent World” in Sarah Holloway(ed.), Key Concepts in Geography , SAGE: London, 2003, pp. 165-83, 167.

Jason Finch argues  in English fictional literature that

literary place is both a record of and  a production or invention of the human experience of place, with all three of Castree’s senses included in this.  

Your community has these stories. They are about the district’s  people,  its history, its heritage, its traditions, its rituals, its celebrations, its conventions by sharing memories,  and special events from the past.

Community stories are drawn from the memories and experiences of local families, local identities, community organisations, local institutions, local rituals and traditions, and a host of other matters.

Your community’s story has links to other parts of the world (transnational factors) and  is part of the movement of peoples, ideas, technologies and institutions across national boundaries, from across continents.

Your community story is the area’s natural and cultural heritage, as well as tangible and intangible factors.

The Camden History Notes blog will share these stories. It will mainly tell stories of the Macarthur region. Occasionally interesting stories from other community will be posted.

Ian Willis@University of Wollongong


Canadian environmental historian JE Brunton has a lovely story about the importance of place and what drew her to it in her writing.What brought you to the field of environmental history?

I think I might have taken the scenic route to get here. When it comes to the environmental part of ‘environmental history’ I found myself drawn to the field the more certain I became that I wanted to study place, land, and labour as central categories of meaning in people’s lives.  I became interested in history through the process of researching my current project and discovering how much imagining about the past and historical legacies were appearing in my ethnographic experiences. In studying religion, I am working to understand what stories, practices, and other tools play a role in how communities and individuals situate themselves meaningfully in the world. Environmental history is key to this effort, both in revealing how place and land shape people’s spiritual worlds, but also in connecting contemporary relationships to place with that place’s past.

Stephanie Meeks’ The Past and Future City, How Historic Preservation is Reviving America’s Communities (Island Press, Washington, 2016)

Cover Meeks Past and Future City Cover

Meeks has some interesting comments about interpretation of place.

  • Places define us and out community. Places bring people together and relate our history.
  • Places define a community so that future generations can know their pastd, feel a connection wot those who came before, and build a foundation for the future. We want these places to stand as beacons for us and for those who come after us.
  • We all have place that matter to us. Place attachment and the development of emotional bonds with places is prerequisite of psychological balance and good adjustment. It helps us overcome identity crises and give people the sense of stability they need in the the everchanging world.
  • Places define and structure our sense of self.
  • Places help shape us. They help us understand ourselves, and they connect us to other human beings, even across centuries or millennia.
  • Places give us the chance to feel a connection to others
  • Losing places can be extraordinarily traumatic. The US preservation movement has its origins in such trauma.

Interview between Richard Glover (ABC Radio Sydney) and author Larissa Behrendt on the Drive programme 7 July 2021 about storytelling:
  • Storytelling is a vehicle for lots of other messages; it speaks of lots of others stuff
  • Storytelling is layered about people, sites, events; it is a way of describing these and providing a depth of knowledge of a cultural story
  • Storytelling is not of this world; it is not of this time so does not directly confront the present;
  • Stories of Bronte, Dickins, Jane Austin speak to the present through the lens of the past; they are just as relevant today as they were then; stories using themes of class, power, patriarchy, other;
  • Stories provide an order of things; stories are part of the human existence; one of these themes is coming back in another form, eg, the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis; stories of death should be joyous; life should be celebrated
  • Stories can come from oral cultures; stories are intergenerational; cultures should value the storytellers; society does not value the knowledge of the storytellers while we have it; we should value it rather than losing it; there is a place for elders;
  • Storytelling keeping cohesive community by keeping stories;
  • Storytelling is a tradition of deep wisdom and celebrates the human existence;