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Living history on your doorstep

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 st johns vista from mac pk 1910 postcard camden images
Vista of St Johns Church from Macarthur Park in 1910. Postcard. You can still view this vista from the town’s fringe near the showground. (Camden Images)

 

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.

Camden CHS 231 Macaria c. 1890
The Camden Grammar School which was located in Macaria in the 1890s.  Macaria is open to the public and is the home of the Alan Baker Art Gallery located at 37 John Street, Camden. (Camden Images)

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…

camden st_johns_church02
St Johns Anglican Church Camden 2018. You can visit the historic St John’s church and precinct in central Camden. The church was built in the 1840s and funded by the Macarthur family. (I Willis)

 

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, EdwardianInter-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.
Camden Show Bullock Team 2018 MWillis
The bullock team walking up John Street for the 2018 Camden Show. Bullock teams were once a common sight in the Camden area before the days of motorised transport. The teamster monument in John Street celebrates their role in the history of the district. Visit the Camden Show. (M Willis)

 

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 Camden District 1939[2]

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.

Camden Show 2018 promo
The Camden Show is an annual celebration of things rural in the township of Camden for over 100 years. The show is held each year in the Onslow Park precinct. (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.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018 sign
The signage at the entrance to the Belgenny Farm complex at Camden NSW. Visitors are welcome.  (I Willis, 2018)
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A taste of ink and type in a country printery

The CHN blogger enjoyed an informative and interesting visit to a small museum as part of History Week 2018 conducted by the History Council of New South Wales.

The museum in question was the Penrith Museum of Printing located in the Penrith Showground.

Penrith Museum of Printing signage (2)lowres

 

The museum has a collection of fully operational letterpress printing presses and equipment from the 1860s to the 1970s. It is part of the living history movement that is so popular with tourists in North America, Europe and increasingly Australia.

The printing equipment includes linotype machines, flat-bed printing presses of various types and platen presses. There is also a substantial collection of hand-set type.

During the History Week visit the operation of the different presses was explained by retired tradesmen who had been printers and compositors. They kick started the presses and linotype machines and demonstrated their capabilities.

Penrith Museum of Printing Linotype Machine 2018
Here a museum volunteer and former operator demonstrates  and explains the operation of a linotype machine at the Penrith Museum of Printing.  This is a hot metal typesetting system that casts blocks of metal type for individual uses. The machine creates lines of type for the compositor to set-up a page for printing a newspaper. Hot lead was used to create the letters and was heated to over 500 degrees C. These machines were used across the world to set print for  newspapers, magazines and posters  for large metropolitan dailies to small local country newspapers up to the 1980s.  This machine is belt driven and in the late 19th or early 20th century a printery would have had a steam engine and boiler to drive the equipment. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The museum is setup like a 1940s printing shop and the visitor  gets the experience of the noise of the press and linotype machines and the smell of the ink. It is the authentic real deal.

Linotype machines were introduced to replace hand-compositing of pages for printing. Hand setting was very slow. What would take a compositor hours to set in a page would take minutes with a linotype machine.

The printing museum is also a site for the demonstration  of the traditional trades of the printer and compositor.

The printing museum give a real demonstration of how the local newspapers of the Macarthur region were produced before the current era of off-set printing. The processes for printing the local paper were labour-intensive despite the introduction of these pieces of equipment.

Penrith Museum of Printing Albion Hand Press 2018
This is a demonstration of the hand-operated Albion Press by a volunteer and former printer at the Penrith Museum of Printing. The museum website states ‘This beautiful old Albion Press was manufactured in London in 1860 is a magnificent example of 19th Century printing press design and craftsmanship’.  The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences states that ‘Albion printing presses continued to be manufactured, in a range of sizes, right up until the 1930s. They were used for commercial book-printing until the middle of the nineteenth century and after that mainly for jobbing work and by private presses.  The arrival of small hand printing presses enabled the publication of newspapers in country regions.’  (I Willis)

 

This type of equipment had a profound influence on the production of local newspapers across the world.

It is interesting how much of the terminology used in computer word processing derives from the smell and noise of the print shop and the lives of the printers and compositors.

The Macarthur region newspaper printeries

The Sidmans in the early 20th century introduced the latest equipment at the principal printery located in the building that houses the Camden News office and printery at 145 Argyle Street Camden.

Camden News Linotype printing machine 1930 CN
This image shows the Camden News printery in the 1920s at the rear of the building and office occupied by the newspaper at 145 Argyle Street, Camden. From the left are N Bean, printer, Charles Sidman, linotype operator. The Penrith Museum of Printing states that this is likely to be a Payne’s Wharfedale Cylinder Printing Machine and sheets of newsprint were hand fed into the press by the operator. (Camden News, 22 October 1980)

 

The Richardsons had the latest equipment at their headquarters and printery at 315 Queen Street Campbelltown for the Macarthur Advertiser and other newspapers.

History of Penrith Museum of Printing

The Penrith Museum of Printing website outlines the short history of the museum. It states:

The story of the Museum  begins with Alan Connell, the founder of the museum who had a desire back in 1987 to develop a “working museum” of letterpress printing machinery and equipment.

As the story goes, many years had to pass before Alan’s dream was able to be fully realised via a Commonwealth Government Federation Fund Grant. The Penrith Museum of Printing was officially opened on the 2 June, 2001 by Ms Jackie Kelly, M.P. for Lindsay, the then Minister for Sport and Tourism.

A large proportion of the machinery and equipment on display  originally started its working life in the Nepean Times Newspaper in Penrith, NSW Australia, while many other items have been donated by present and or past printing establishments.

To experience the smell and noise of the local newspaper printery a visit is a must to the Penrith Museum of Printing.

Penrith Museum of Printing Tour group 2017
Tour group enjoy their visit to the Penrith Museum of Printing. Visitors are watching a demonstration and explanation of the equipment by museum volunteers who were former compositors and printers. (PMoP)

 

For contact details go to the website of the Penrith Museum of Printing.