Disrupted – Festival of Ideas

Disrupted 2015Over two consecutive Sunday afternoons in September (6 September and 13 September), the State Library of Western Australia is proud to present the 2015 Disrupted – Festival of Ideas.

Ideas on landscape, a sense of place, regeneration, identity and distribution of wealth will be teased out by national and local thought leaders. Featuring Carmen Lawrence, Sabrina Hahn, Greg Sheridan and others, these presentations will be both inspiring and thought provoking.

Go to www.slwa.wa.gov.au/disrupted to view the full program, find out about the Festival and the presenters, and to book your place. It could be a great present for Father’s Day!
Some sessions are free, others (which include wine and olive-oil tastings, a performer and canapes to enjoy) cost $15.

Disrupted presenters

Maps, Plans and Family Stories

 Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre. b1775631

Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre. b1775631

Many maps are objects of beauty, works of art in their own right, or marvellous in their precision and attention to detail…

but have you ever thought how maps can assist you with your family history?

The State Library and the State Records Office have large collections of maps and plans. These can be used to locate and trace the history of a house or commercial property. For residences built in the Perth area during the first half of the twentieth century you may even discover house plans.

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Townsite plans may include numbered allotments, sometimes named.  You will be able to see how built up an area was at a particular time. Group Settlement plans show individual properties.  The Lands and Surveys chain series maps often give the names of land owners.

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Railway maps may tell you when the railway arrived at a particular town.  Some plans show lots, streets and buildings surrounding stations, and land resumption information.

Electoral maps show the boundaries down to which electoral district a street was in. Road maps show street name changes and indicate how built-up a suburb was during the period it was produced.

Group settlement map, Cowaramup to Cape Leeuwin b3086567

Group settlement map, Cowaramup to Cape Leeuwin b3086567

Exploration maps may include the first documented comment on the local countryside.

There are maps indicating mining leases, collections of real estate plans and much more.

You are invited to join us on Thursday 27th August for a day exploring our map collections. We will also be including a talk on how to get the most out of an oral history with a family member.

Launch of Mapping Memory online exhibition – speaker Wendy Lugg

Travels in the Archives – speaker David Whitehead

Where the hell are we? – speaker Steve Howell

Don’t put it off! Why you should record your family stories now – speaker Susanna Iuliano.

Talks are free. Please book at Eventbrite.

Five minutes with Sally Watts

Western Australian artist Sally Watts’ paper mache dog sculptures and 2D collages feature in our current exhibition Reigning Cats & Dogs.  

We spent five minutes with Sally and discovered the passion and process behind her work as as an artist and illustrator. Here’s what she had to say…


Puppies under construction produced as part of Sally Watts workshop held at State Library of Western Australia, 2015.

Pets, particularly dogs are the subject of your paper mache sculptures. What inspired you to create the Paper Puppies series?  

Dogs in particular have always been dear to me but because of a life of postings, first though my father and then my husband, it was quite impossible to have a pet. When we were finally able to stay in Australia we welcomed a tiny, energetic bundle of fur into our family of three: a long-legged Jack Russell named Myrmidon Jack Irish Beau.  Beau for short and that was the only thing small about him. He was larger than life and gave us all much affection and amusement with his antics as well as a few heart stopping moments when he climbed a tree and escaped over the garden fence as a young pup.  Jackies are notorious for wanting to know what is around the corner…and the next one too.  I spent a couple of frantic hours calling his name and waving a chicken wing about until he spotted it across the park and claimed his prize (in his eyes anyway).  He was quick to learn “party tricks” and loved to perform to an adoring audience.  As a youngster he would enjoy basking in the sun and keeping a sharp eye out on proceedings in his garden.  This was done sitting on the roof of his kennel-just like Snoopy the cartoon dog . Walks were high on his To-Do-List and socialising with the neighbourhood dogs in the park was a morning occurrence.  He was a patient model when I wanted to draw him and he even found his way into some of my book illustrations. We were fortunate to share such a long time-17 years-with our little doggie dynamo.  We love him still.


Sally Watts, puppy preliminary drawing, pen on paper,2015

Many of us have attempted some form of paper mache sculpture, often with mixed results.Your Paper Puppies are smooth sculptures, they almost look like they are made out of clay. How do you achieve this affect?  

The construction of the paper and plaster dogs is unusual in that an internal wire armature is not used. at all. The strength comes from binding tape and the many layers of paper and gesso (containing a high percentage of plaster).  The whole process of producing a dog can take  up to two weeks depending on drying time and the number of layers of paper and plaster.

Recycling and sustainability are key themes in your works.  Why do you feel this is important?

My dog series has grown from a strong desire to contribute to sustainability but in a quirky way.  A way that others may adopt and utilize in their art practice. Using re-purposed materials (newspaper, cardboard, envelopes, scrap paper and junk mail) to form a lively characterisation of man’s best friend, shares the important message of the versatility and re-usability of materials which are normally discarded.  My eco-friendly sculptures start as disregarded rubbish-household paper waste and then take on a new life.

I like to think by encouraging others to make their own “Man’s Best Friend” I am, in a small way, helping to spotlight the great need to reuse and recycle one of our world’s precious commodities.

Your life of travel has influenced your ‘Letter From Home’ series.  How do you determine which items are included in the collages?  What meaning do these works hold for you?

For my collages I have been collecting text, tickets, maps, illustrations and more from my many homes over many years in many countries. I have always been fascinated and inspired by the mundane printed materials of everyday life in our throw-away society.  Each collage in the series Letters from Home begins with long accumulated found items from “home”, wherever that was, and become a part of a personal jig-saw and a journey down Memory Lane.  I take these pieces of memory and layer them.  This layering and patching of words, letters and colours create their own tensions and harmonies within abstract compositions.  From this manipulation emerges a pattern of recalled personal memory. Some text can be read easily, some is intentionally obscured.  Just as a memory is sometimes sharp and intense and at other times only a fragment will surface to tease.  The items themselves are commonplace and trigger a particular thought for me but the same piece, because of it familiarity, will most certainly evoke a completely different, yet no less powerful, memory for others. I use this imagery to evoke memory, both for myself, of a time and place left behind, and for the viewer.  At the same time these words, pictures and patterns are also an integral part of the overall visual design.  My collages are made with original source material.

Reigning Cats and Dogs is on in The Place at the State Library until 20 July.
Explore artwork of pets from the Peter Williams Collection of Illustrations, including artworks by Julie Vivas, Leigh Hobbs, Shaun Tan, Jane Tanner, Ron Brooks and more. 
For more information visit: State Library Website

GovHack 2015


2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in the early period of World War 1.  Archives, libraries and memorials from across Australia and New Zealand (Including SLWA)  have collaborated to release WWI data for GovHack 2015 http://www.govhack.org.

SLWA has prepared 3 new datasets for use by those practising their data hacking skills.

These datasets along with some previously published sets are all available from the data.gov.au website https://data.gov.au/organization/statelibraryofwesternaustralia.
In addition to this, SLWA has added a dataset information page to our website http://slwa.wa.gov.au/find/datasets.

We’d love to see what can be made from these sets – leave a comment here to share with us or email dataandiscovery@slwa.wa.gov.au.

Nadj Nidj Maaya – What’s that sound?: Old songs and Noongar language

Using the archives of the JS Battye Library of West Australian history, 2014 Battye Fellow Clint Bracknell has identified over 50 songs in Noongar language.

Public Talk: Monday 6 July 2015: 12:00 – 1:00 
State Library of Western Australia Theatre
Book now to secure your seat

Listen to Clint discuss how old Noongar songs may be plugged back into a resilient network of intersecting knowledge, geography, story and relationships, and sung back at the archive in a way that challenges its authority, its truths and its silences.

Presented as part of NAIDOC 2015 We All Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect & Celebrate.

All venues at the State Library are wheelchair accessible 
For more information visit: www.slwa.wa.gov.au 

Thank you WAGS!

WAGS volunteer Brian Stent assists a client

WAGS volunteer Brian Stent assists a client

In 1985 the State Library entered a partnership with the Western Australian Genealogical Society (Inc.) – affectionately known as WAGS – to provide ongoing assistance to family history researchers within the Library.

30 years later, the partnership is still going strong, with WAGS volunteers providing research assistance in the Genealogy Centre three days a week.

These dedicated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers have worked quietly, efficiently, and patiently through all of the many changes the organisation has undergone over the years. They have put up with noise, disruption, changes in location of materials, staff restructures, all manner of clients and, sometimes, grumpy Subject Specialists. They have handled all with efficiency, humour and grace.

Each year The State Library and WAGS have also partnered in presenting talks tours and workshops for National Family History Month.

We have joined in hosting several successful family history fairs with support from other government agencies such as the National Archives and State Records Office, Local Studies Centres, and historical and family history societies.

Western Australian Genealogical Society volunteers have made a considerable contribution to the public of Western Australia through their commitment to providing information and research assistance to family historians.

WAGS volunteer Elizabeth Rummins in action

WAGS volunteer Elizabeth Rummins in action

On behalf of staff and patrons of the State Library of Western Australia we would like to congratulate and express our thanks to the volunteers of the Western Australian Genealogical Society (Inc.) for 30 years of volunteering in the Genealogy Centre.

Genealogy Centre

Genealogy Centre

WAGS volunteers continue to be available to assist you in the Genealogy Centre on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30am – 1:00pm.

Captions from Weird and Wonderful WA

There were some amusing captions created for the Weird and Wonderful WA photos.

Lawnmower race

Lawnmower race in the carpark of Boans, Morley, 1968

Mow down, hoe down!
Mow down the opposition.

Father Christmas and the three bears

Father Christmas and the three bears

Baby bear asks Santa for a new chair…
Papa bear asks Santa for some new door locks…
and Muma bear explains to Santa why Goldilocks should be on the “naughty” list.

Weird and Wonderful WA

To celebrate WA Day on Monday 1 June, we selected a set of photographs of Western Australia to remind people of stories to share with their families, provoke some amusement and interest, and highlight a place, event or activity that people might be unaware of. It was also a way to remind people that our photographic collection is vast and much of it is available to view through our catalogue. You can type a keyword into the search box, and limit the search to State Library Pictures, and click on each of the records to view our digitised photographs.

We had a visit from the family of the man who is on the right hand side of the giant karri tree photo – they were thrilled to see the photograph and told us that they still had the saw that is shown. Some of the other popular photos were the skull from Adventure World, and the Perth Airport swans brought back many memories. You can see a slide-show of the photographs here: http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/whats_on/events/weird

A logging team in the karri forest., 1915

A logging team in the karri forest., 1915

Missing Lives lunchtime talk: 27 May 12.30

In conjunction with the current Missing Lives exhibition, Claire Lawson from the Australian Red Cross will present a lunchtime talk.

Under what circumstances do people go missing?
What is the impact left on those waiting for answers?

The Red Cross International Tracing/Restoring Family Links is a unique free service that helps families by war, migration or disaster re-establish contact. Red Cross and Red Crescent societies work alongside the International Committee Red Cross in 189 countries around the globe to trace lost loved ones, exchange family news and clarify the fate of the missing.

 Wednesday 27 May 12.30pm  (30 mins)
Where: The Nook , State Library of Western Australia
(The Nook is located on the ground floor at the Cultural Centre entrance to the library)

Missing Lives documents the plight of fifteen, of the thousands of families still waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones, classified as missing. Almost 20 years after the wars in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, and 13 years after the end of conflict in Kosovo, thousands remain unaccounted for.

Based on a book of the same name, this exhibition highlights the tragic consequences of what happens when the rules of war are not followed, but also illustrates the strength and resilience of survivors still searching for their missing friends and relatives.

For more information visit the State Library website