Migration Memories

Showing history and place

One of the important strands of Migration Memories was to show the experience of individuals in its historical context. What social and political conditions of the time influenced their experience? As part of this it was seen as important to show the places that people left – as they were at the time of leaving. The local Australian context of migration history was a further important theme. What qualities of Lightning Ridge and Robinvale shaped their migration histories and the experiences of people who came to live in them? The exhibitions sought to show this by providing a strong visual and aural sense of each place and its character as a culturally diverse community.

Historical context

The exhibitions provided historical context alongside personal stories through the use of text by the curator and visual documentary material from national and state archives. Context for post-war migration stories was found in Commonwealth migration records held by the National Archives of Australia. Participants were provided with copies of their family records and through this often found out more about their migration history.

Panel 2

In the 1950s and ‘60s, the Commonwealth Government put a lot of effort into advertising Australia to potential migrants. Posters, pamphlets, photographs and films were all part of promotion campaigns that provided information in various European languages as well as in English. For Dusan Malinovic’s display a typical immigration poster was chosen to go with his memories of the 'land of milk and honey’ impression he had gained from this material.

Detail from Dusan Malinovic, panel two, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge. Design: Iona Walsh. Poster image courtesy the National Archives of Australia.    
Panel 1  

Official immigration documents played an important part in representing Gabor Nagy’s story as he had kept very little of his earlier life. In this case they gave a sense of his personal story as well as its context in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. The official photograph taken of Gabo at the Displaced Persons camp in Naples provided the Nagy family with the only photo they have of him as a young man.

Detail from Gabor and Sheila Nagy, panel one, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge. Design: Iona Walsh. Document images courtesy the National Archives of Australia.    

Records of pastoral settlement helped tell Joan Treweeke’s story of the cultural connections made during the nineteenth century in Lightning Ridge. Shipping records of the same period were used to show the context of John Grant’s migration to Robinvale.

Joan - Panel 1

  Kay - Panel 2
Records of Angledool Station are part of the Australian Land and Mercantile Finance Company collection held at the Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University, Joan Treweeke, panel one, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge, Design: Iona Walsh.   The surgeon’s report for the voyage of the Henry Porcher, 1840, is held in records at The State Library of Victoria. The painting is held by the National Library of Australia. Kay Grose, panel two, Migration Memories: Robinvale, Design: Paula McKindlay.

Localities of emigration

The places that people left exist as actual places in time and as places of memory. The exhibitions worked with both of these.

Joan - Panel 3

Mary’s research to give a visual sense of the world that the Chinese gardeners on Angledool station had left behind started with the website of the Chinese Museum in Melbourne. It included the Historical Chinese Postcard Project 1896-1920 and ended with Hong Kong University academic, Michael Williams, who offered his own collection of postcards for use in the exhibition. As there were no images of the Angledool gardens, one of a typical Chinese garden in Brisbane was used with a memory of Angledool, to show how knowledge and skills from China shaped the Australian colonial landscape.

Joan Treweeke, panel three, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge. Design: Iona Walsh.

John - Panel 3  

John Katis had a vivid visual memory of the village of Leonidion in Greece which he left at the age of eleven in 1955. A quick sketch he made brought his childhood memory and his love for his village into the present.

John Katis, panel three, Migration Memories: Robinvale. Design: Paula McKindlay.    
Sothea -panel 2  

In Cambodia today museum exhibitions of the skulls exhumed from mass graves provide a shocking sense of the killing fields which dramatically marked Sothea’s young life. But the skulls as they are shown in museums are not scenes that are part of Sothea’s memory of the Cambodia he left. Political historian Kelvin Rowley’s 1981 photograph of a mass grave and other images of the impact of long years of civil war taken by Australian photographers during the 1991-3 United Nations Transitional Authority were used to give a sense of Sothea’s landscape.

Sothea Thea, panel two, Migration Memories: Robinvale. Design: Paula McKindlay.    


Local context

The exhibition used panel graphics and fabrication to highlight the landscape of each locality. Historical and contemporary images were also used to create a visual sense of place.

Lightning Ridge
historical hut   Hoist
Jack Phillips’ hut, c. 1965. Courtesy: Lightning Ridge Historical Society   Opal mine, Lightning Ridge. Image used in the slide show presented at the National Museum exhibition of Migration Memories. Photographer: Jenni Brammall

Pipeline construction, Robinvale irrigation settlement, 1957, State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. Courtesy: State Library of Victoria   Olive grove near Robinvale. Image used in the slide show presented at the National Museum exhibition of Migration Memories. Photographer: Jo Sheldrick