The Centre was pleased to host Tanya Evans of Macquarie University who gave a public lecture last week. While this was Tanya’s first trip to New Zealand, we also welcomed back a more regular visitor from Australia, Kristyn Harman (University of Tasmania) accompanied by her partner, Nick Brodie.
Academics are encouraged to make their research more “impactful”, which for Humanities scholars is often to get their research out beyond the narrow academic enclaves we work in. Presentations from all of three of the visitors above were relevant to this theme. Tanya, Director of Macquarie’s Research Centre for Applied History, discussed ‘The Emotions of Family History’, looking at why family historians and genealogists undertake their research, and how such research informs wider community understanding of, and individuals’ emotional connection to the past. In her investigations, Tanya interacts with family historians, with her research having far more impact than that of more siloed academic history.
Kristyn was in Dunedin to launch her new book, Cleansing the Colony: Transporting Convicts from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land (published by Otago University Press) which examines the more than 100 people sent from New Zealand into the Australian penal institutions. Kristyn also gave a lecture on these convicts to the Tuesday Club at Toitū: Otago Settlers Museum last week. Although most of the Club are retired and from many walks of life, they were keen, attentive, and intellectually engaged, with Kristyn’s talk attracting their largest crowd of the year.
Nick Brodie is an established Australian popular historian, author of Kin, 1787, and The Vandemonian War. Although he has his own academic background in history and archaeology, he now reaches a much larger market through well-researched but accessible books. Nick shared his own publishing experiences in a seminar to both staff and postgraduates at the university, with tips on how to make history relevant and engaging for non-academic audiences.
This week the Centre is hosting several visiting scholars: Kristyn Harman and Nick Brodie from the University of Tasmania, as well as Tanya Evans from Macquarie University, a noted historian of women, motherhood and the family in Britain and Australia. While in Dunedin, Tanya will give a public lecture on ‘The Emotions of Family History’.
In this lecture Tanya will explore the emotions of family history in Australia, England and Canada – why family historians are motivated to undertake their research and the emotional impact of their discoveries. Using survey data and oral history interviews it will reveal some of the ways in which historical research and communication about the past provides ‘ordinary’ people with social, emotional and cultural capital – how it has transformed them, their lives and the lives of those around them. Family history researchers are sometimes dismissed by the academy for their amateurism and they are also criticised for seeking emotional connections with the past lives of their forebears. I want to suggest that these criticisms are linked. The derision still sometimes shown towards genealogists needs to be challenged and the practice of family history better understood because it has an enormous impact on historical consciousness and individual subjectivities.
All are welcome to attend the talk, which is scheduled for Tuesday 14 November, 5.30pm in Moot Court, 10th floor of the Richardson Building at the University of Otago.