Historic stories now at your fingertips

A visit from the Queen, a map of Parramatta’s demolished heritage, a heritage talk by Tim Flannery and our ‘ugly highways’ - are some of the highlights of the National Trust archives online.

For the first time the National Trust’s significant collection of 5,137 books, manuscripts, magazines and submissions is now easily accessible online. Here are a few highlights.

1980 National Trust Magazine
Cover of the November 1980 National Trust Magazine showing the William Hardy Wilson Exhibition

National Trust Bulletins and quarterly magazines from 1961 to 1980

Launched in 1961, the National Trust Bulletin is a wonderful resource for members and the public, providing rich details of our campaigns and issues over the last six decades. The battles to save heritage that seem almost unbelievable now – Macquarie Street, Customs House, The Rocks to name only a few local examples.

What shines through in the Bulletin’s archives are the contemporary nature of National Trust issues. An editorial published by the National Trust over 50 years ago addresses the National Trust’s position and duty of responsibilities. At the time we were fighting to preserve the Queen Victoria Building, Parramatta River and the Hunter Region. Also petitioning to save Myall Lakes and Bungonia Gorge from mining.

Another story – ‘Our Ugly Highways’ was the attention grabbing headline from December 1965, fuming at the ‘abounding ugliness’ that affronts Sydney’s visitors.

Or the July 1970 issue with a headline about the Queen’s opening of Old Government House on page one, with the description “this charming house”. That is followed on page two by one of our more confronting campaigns. To save Kurnell peninsula – Just Do Nothing and Watch it Die… Who Cares? Then on page four, we have a call for an old wooden dresser, carpets, books and pots… to furnish Old Government House. This extraordinary mix of issues and events could perfectly sum up the National Trust.

The Bulletins do provide a thoughtful view of the past, with pieces on heritage, dates for events, tours and much that is of its’ time. Having said that, as an Archivist I see numerous examples of organisation’s journals that need a warning label because they are so outdated in their views. This is not the case here. Reading the ‘quarterly’ is highly entertaining and informative. There is not much that has dated. The language is formal, yet prose. The Bulletins show the National Trust’s overwhelming compassion for people and timeless care for heritage. I hope you enjoy them and that they provide a useful resource.

Parramatta’s Demolished Heritage
Map detail from Parramatta’s Demolished Heritage, Trust Alert 1994

National Trust publications

The National Trust’s own publications cover around 1,300 items and these are being digitised with the plan to make the content available. This includes campaigns, lectures and conference papers. Heritage lectures are available for free – including Tim Flannery, Peter Garrett, David Malouf and Michael Kirby. A map of Parramatta’s demolished heritage from 1994, following the work of Helen Proudfoot.

A digital publication that I’d like to highlight is a favourite of mine, Our Great Victorian Architect: Edmund Thomas Blacket by Joan Kerr (1983). Blacket was an extraordinarily influential architect of the gothic style whose churches and other buildings are right across NSW. Think tall needle-like spires laced with wrought iron. All at once they are, minimal, vast and intricate.

Blacket’s work is shared by everyone who has been to a wedding in one of his churches. Even if they don’t know his name, his work lives on in countless posts on Instagram and in thousands of likes. Some like St Andrew’s at Town Hall you may walk past every day. Where funerals and weddings are held for everyone who wants (or wanted) to be seen. From bikies and rockstars to state dignitaries. The work of Blacket is the fabric of Sydney and this book is a sad reminder how many of his buildings have been lost.

Blacket, with his haunted looks and six children is an interesting subject and this is a beautiful publication that demands your attention. The author Joan Kerr was a visionary photographer, author and architect and both Joan and her husband are hugely influential to heritage conservation and the National Trust. This publication ran with an exhibition on Blacket at the S. H. Ervin Gallery in 1983. The Gallery’s tradition of great exhibitions continues to this day.

This and the rest of the collection are currently available through eHive and Trove.

EHive is a digital space for collections and allows sharing archival and museum content. Trove is Australia’s free online research portal, giving you free access to the country’s newspapers, journals and list library holdings.

Lending a hand

Much credit for this project goes to the Library and Archives volunteers who have done such an amazing job to bring this about. The collection has largely been powered ‘in-house’ by volunteers and staff, however everyone is welcome to tag the content and encouraged to send in additional information or corrections through eHive and Trove.

James Bosanquet


James Bosanquet

James is the Archives & Library Manager at the National Trust (NSW). James has an interest in Australian history, heritage and local, endemic flora.


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