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.
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: monumentaustralia.org.au 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.
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: guides.slsa.sa.gov.au then select ‘Postal directories and almanacs’. Searching the directories takes time but can turn up some gems.
Local Government Association SA: lga.sa.gov.au 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.