Milking the Internet

by Joelie Hancock Email

Two years ago I set myself the task of docu­menting all the insti­tutes we have had in South Australia. Institutes provided our communities, both suburban and rural, with a library, a reading-room and a meeting place — for enter­tain­ment, debate and instruc­tion. Originally from the UK in the 1820s, they were called Mechanics’ Institutes. We in South Australia had 440 of them — at least that’s how many I’ve located so far.

The internet has been invalu­able in locating them, finding out about them and their towns, and tracking down a photo of each. I’m confident it will even­tu­ally help me to make the inform­a­tion I’ve gathered available to others. 

Many of the sources I’ve used could well be useful for others in finding out about ancestors, people of interest, halls, schools, towns, organ­isa­tions such as Lodges, events, churches, War Memorials, and Libraries. Here are my sources:

Trove: ‘Newspapers Advanced Search’ in Trove gives me access to digitised versions of all Australian news­pa­pers up to 1959. I select South Australia, type in eg ‘Goolwa Institute’, if I want I select a decade, then look for items of interest, which I can then click to open.

From Trove

Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria Inc: This organ­isa­tion has been dili­gently collecting materials and inform­a­tion about Victoria’s insti­tutes for decades and has led me to books, news­let­ters, helpful people, SA inform­a­tion, and even a conference.

State Library of SA: The catalogue has books about towns that include inform­a­tion on Institutes, to photo­graphs of Institute buildings with inform­a­tion attached, and the South Australian Institutes Journal. I view the photos at home; and read the others in the library.

I am careful to check and record the inform­a­tion with each photo.

Local Library: Libraries SA Onecard catalogue online has turned up many histories of SA towns which I reserve online. Sometimes I can only read a selected book at a partic­ular library, but at least I know which to go for it.

State Records SA online has led me to records of all SA’s early Institutes as well as an index to the Institutes reported on in the Institute Association’s journal from 1900. To read the journals I need to reserve them online and read them at the Gepps Cross Research Centre.

Historical Societies and Councils: I Google the name of a town to locate a contact. My emailed questions have always received a reply – promptly and gener­ously. Of course I explain my interest and don’t ask for too much.

Monument Australia: Currently it has 34,124 monuments recorded, with photos and inform­a­tion about Memorial Halls, which were often Institutes.

Wikipedia: for the location and brief descrip­tions of partic­ular towns and suburbs.

flickr: a site with photo­grapher contri­bu­tions. I Google eg, ‘Glossop Institute photo’ and up comes a stream of flickr photos to search through. Some flickr photo­graphers specialise in old SA buildings, and I now receive by email new photos from selected photographers. 

Bridgewater Institute — Google Earth

Google Earth: Download the free app, type in an address, then manoeuvre the arrows to locate, then to get a good view of the building. You can then take a screen photo of a by holding (Mac) Command with Shift then tap 4 or (Windows) Windows key + Shift + S. You then shape the frame around the building by pulling the shape. Lift your right finger and the photo will appear on your screen. Take care to name and file it.

Sands and McDougall online for addresses of SA homes and busi­nesses, 1864–1899 and 1900–1973. Access through the State Library’s online resources: then select ‘Postal direct­ories and almanacs’. Searching the direct­ories takes time but can turn up some gems.

Local Government Association SA: SA Councils listed alpha­bet­ic­ally by Susan Marsden can sort out the many Council boundary changes up to 1936.

Flinders Ranges Research:

I came across this site by Googling ‘Georgetown History’. Similar requests will often bring up length histor­ical research of towns and buildings. Link

Exploring computer programs: Google your interest, eg, ‘Free websites’ and you’ll find many options. Explore these with your needs in mind eg, Includes footnotes, 440 entries. You need patience, so that’s a job for Ken, my husband.

John Travers: John is an invalu­able and patient resource for Adelaide U3A members and has a passion for commu­nic­a­tion technologies.

I am sure there’s much more for me to discover and to learn. Do remember to thor­oughly record your sources – finding them again can be such a time waster.