Pondering the Past and the Present

Ancient History Photo

A chance meeting with Australian Living Treasure, previous Australian of the Year and entrepreneur, Dick Smith, was one of the many highlights of a city visit by St Andrews College Year 12 History Extension students.

Dick and Phillipa Smith's arrival at the Art Gallery of New South Wales coincided with the attendance of our students who, after an exchange of pleasantries, continued their study of the historical interpretation of history through Australian art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Earlier in the busy day, the students had visited the Museum of Sydney, an in situ archaeological exhibition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and had undertaken an extensive research methodology program at the State Library of New South Wales.

Each component of the day's program reinforced the idea that there could never by an 'agreed view of history'.

At the Museum of Sydney the director of Heritage and Culture, Fabienne Virago, drew heavily on the works of colonial and aboriginal artists to expose strongly differing interpretations of the arrival of the British in 1788. She explained how the museum, which presents social rather then political history, has itself been subjected to severe criticism and condemnation for displaying history 'from below' rather than conveying the 'grand gestures' of Sydney's British colonial origins.

Importantly, all History Extension students are now card-holding members of the State Library of New South Wales. This membership enables them to access tens of thousands of electronic and print resources which will be invaluable as they assemble historical information for their History Extension major projects.

Here's what the students said about their excursion:

"The State Library - it's not your typical library!"

"Fabienne's deep well of knowledge was full of wonder and fascination."

"Seeing the works of art face-to-face is a very powerful experience."

"They still keep special books in the historic Mitchell wing of the State Library. It's history within history."

"At the State Library we learned how to access academic materials from around the world."

"Through the art works we entered the minds of previous generations."

"An inspirational day."