What’s On



A new seminar series set up by The Professional Historians Association NSW in conjunction with Oral History NSW and the State Library of NSW in 2019.

This is a seminar intended for professionals, students and those with a long standing interest in many aspects of the theory and practice of public history to meet on a regular basis for discussion of issues that stimulate and bedevil our work and how we communicate it to the world. In our first year we plan to cover how we collaborate with communities; what can be done to improve heritage interpretation; raise questions about historical authority and the role of journalists; find out about oral history collections; and explore histories that are regularly ignored.

The aim is to encourage a more reflective approach to our work, increase historical literacy and generally help us to see that history is not static and nor are the skills we have to investigate it, but that it can be both seriously rewarding and fun.

Sessions will take place on the first Wednesday of every month from March. The papers will be short and the discussion lively.


5 for 5.30pm – 6.30pm

Uniapon Room, Macquarie St wing, State Library of NSW


Session 4 Historical Authority and Alternative Voices – Wed 5 June 2019
$10 public, $5 PHA(NSW), OHA(NSW), Library Friends
Professional historians are certainly not the only people who research and communicate the past to broad audiences. ‘History is the work of many hands’, as one writer said. This session addresses alternative voices and ways that journalists and novelists write about and use history in their work.
Paul Daley is a Guardian journalist who has won many awards for his outstanding articles. He also  writes about Australian history and culture and is particularly interested in Indigenous histories.
Christine Piper is a novelist of Japanese Australian Heritage and draws on extensive historical research from both countries. Her first novel After Darkness won the Australian Vogel’s Literary Award in 2014 and she is now working on her second novel.
Chair: Minna Muhlen-Schulte, historian and Senior Heritage Consultant, GML Heritage.
Bookings can be made through the State Library website.



Session 1 Why/Why Not? Life in the Past Lane – Wed March 6th

Chair: Paula Hamilton, UTS – Speakers: Paul Irish, Historian and Archeologist and Director of Coast History & Birgit Heilmann, Curator Hurstville Museums and Gallery, Georges River Council

The first session is designed to introduce the audience to questions about why history is important to all our lives. We explore how ideas about the past are changing  through the voices of two practitioners who work with history in very different settings. They will reflect on their own experience about the issues that have emerged in communicating history to different groups.


Session 2 Commissioned Histories – Wed April 3rd

Chair: Tanya Evans, Macquarie University – Speakers: Greg Young, urban planner and editor of Paddington: a history (2019) & Pauline Curby, public historian and writer of Randwick (2010)

This session questions the ethical issues involved in working on commissioned histories for different groups or communities. Is some level of compromise always inevitable? How do we work with indigenous clients and keep a professional distance? Is it particularly hard to do commissioned work using oral histories as part of the historian’s skills? Should we only work with sympathetic employers?


Session 3  Beyond Signage? Heritage Interpretation – Wed May 1st

Chair: Mark Dunn – Speakers: Sue Hodges, Heritage Professional and CEO of SHP (Victoria) & Sharon Veale, CEO GML Heritage (Sydney)

Session 3 asks: ‘In the professional field of heritage interpretation, are historians out in the cold?’ Heritage interpretation is dominated by specialists other than historians. And more often that not, interpretative schemes are concerned largely with aesthetics and texture. History is often accused of throwing heritage interpretation into a ‘grey area’ or a ‘hot mess’. Are complexity and contested viewpoints incompatible with heritage interpretation? What are the opportunities for interpretation in the public domain beyond the traditional plaque or signage? What can historians do for heritage interpretation? What can heritage interpretation do for historians?