27 April 2023

Step into schooling of the past with the Australian National Museum of Education

| Kelly White
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Minister for Heritage Rebecca Vassarotti, ANME Founder and Director, Dr Malcolm Beazley and ANME Collection Manager Coralie Amos at the Collective Voices launch event.

Minister for Heritage Rebecca Vassarotti, Australian National Museum of Education (ANME) founder and director Dr Malcolm Beazley, and ANME collection manager Coralie Amos at the Collective Voices launch event. Photo: Tyler Cherry.

You’re welcome to Collective Voices, an exhibition showcasing one-of-a kind items from the largest collection of school-based historical artefacts in Australia.

Launched by the Australian National Museum of Education (ANME) in association with the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival, and National Trust Australian Heritage Festival, the collection features more than 5000 texts (two-thirds relating to 19th century education in Australia), 7000 paper items and 500 other objects. The pieces range from colonial era schooling to the present day.

Each item holds a unique personal history, and when viewed as a collective, represents a snapshot in time of the schools and society of the past. You’ll see everything from the unique 1920s-era Roka calculating pencil case used in mathematics to an 1873 student exercise book with handwritten notes and worn corners.

The exhibition, which will run until 28 April, is proudly supported by the University of Canberra (UC). It’s hosted in the Mura Gadi Gallery of the UC Library.

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Collection manager at ANME and exhibition curator Coralie Amos, alongside assistant collection manager Lee Wilde and a number of other passionate volunteers have spent hours delving through the artefacts held by the museum to curate a viewing experience that stokes the nostalgia and curiosity of viewers.

“I think it will evoke a lot of memories for people who are perhaps a bit older,” Coralie said. “For the younger generation, it might surprise them as to how different the world was back then.

“They can see what life might have been like and appreciate what their grandparents and great grandparents did.”

Coralie’s passion for education has been a defining value in her life. Before taking on a role with the ANME, she was a schoolteacher for many years. Along with her husband, also a teacher, she worked for decades across the ACT and NSW school systems.

Coralie has witnessed how education has grown and evolved over the years.

Photo of boy playing with marbles

A photograph shows David Yarra in 1959 ‘Dibbing up’ with his marbles and marble bag at Lyneham Primary School. Photo: Kelly White.

Everyone will take away something different from the exhibition. Whether it’s a sense of familiarity with the old wooden desks that folded open or positive memories of crafting wicker baskets in arts class.

If Coralie had to pick, it’s the photo of student David Yarra in 1959 ‘Dibbing up’ with his marbles and marble bag at Lyneham Primary School.

“A lot of the things we did in the past were products of their time. We didn’t have the fancy toys, the technology or the wonderful colourful books of the present. What was really big at lunchtime back then was marbles,” she said.

“While it might seem old fashioned now, it was very popular. The children were learning to swap and barter and set up their own rules and organise one another. They learned a great many skills by getting out there and playing the game.”

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Collective Voices is designed around a typical school day timetable, to encompass the school syllabus of mathematics, English including grammar, history, geography, music, physical education, health/science, and craft/technology.

The ANME, founded by director Dr Malcolm Beazley AM in 1996 and staffed by a committed group of volunteers, has been a part of the University of Canberra museum collections for 20 years. The museum is largely comprised of donations of personal artefacts from the public.

For the university’s Faculty of Education and Faculty of Arts and Design, the ANME provides an onsite repository of research for pre-service and practising teachers, and training in heritage, conservation and museology for students enrolled in Bachelor of Arts (Culture and Heritage).

Collective Voices will run until 28 April at the University of Canberra’s Mura Gadi Gallery in the UC Library. For more information, visit the ACT Heritage Festival website


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