Launch of the Berry Green Plaques Project | June 2017

This post is the long form version of the item first published in the RAHS eNews of 3 August 2017.  Click on images for larger views.

Berry Museum, formerly the ES&A Bank, Queen Street, Berry with its new green plaque on the left of the door

Plaque attached to museum building, showing green stipled roundel on polychrome brickwork

I was fortunate to be invited by Berry & District Historical Society to the unveiling of their Berry Green Plaques Project on 29 June 2017, as the Society had been in touch with me several times during their planning of the project.  The day of the launch was cool and sunny, and a good crowd of Berryians and Society members gathered in the Museum grounds where they were welcomed by Vice President Nancy Bevan, who thanked all involved, especially enthusiastic secretary Annette Frohling.  The actual unveiling was made by the Mayor of Shoalhaven, Cr Amanda Findley, who spoke of her interest in local Aboriginal history and heritage, and I gave a short talk on the history of commemorative plaques.  The formal launch was followed by a bounteous morning tea during which I was plied with endless cups of tea.

Green plaque on rose-coloured painted brickwork, in a shaded location

Wilson’s Store green plaque, attached to wall in permanent shade of south-facing wall and sheltered by the verandah

The project consisted of researching and writing text for 12 plaques, all bronze roundels with a dark green stippled surface made by Phoenix Foundry of Uralla, and measuring 200 mm in diameter.  In a small country town, this size plaque is large enough to attract attention, but not so large as to deface or compete with the historic building to which it is attached.  In the early morning light when I wandered the village ‘plaque hunting’ they were subtle but like small jewels, a complement to the manicured streetscapes.

Green plaque on russet or reddish-brown brickwork, in dappled light

Grand old Agricultural Pavilion and Masonic Hall with splayed corner entrance, and green plaque on right-hand side of door

Some details of interest for would-be plaque projects.  The Berry green plaques are consistent with the principles that shape the London blue plaques, in that they are concisely worded on the ‘all who run’ principle, with between 20 and 35 words, there are no terms of praise or derision, just verifiable information, their wording provokes the viewer to want to find out more, the subject of each plaque has stood the ‘test of time’ and is not a passing fad, and the places to which they refer all still exist.  As the photographs show, the plaques are all placed at about eye-level except where not possible, such as at the Anglican Church.  The shade of green, the stippled surface and the bright lettering varies according to the colours and texture of the wall surfaces, and whether they are in full sun, dappled light or shade.

CWA Hall green plaque, attached to white-painted weatherboard, on shaded south side

Berry Railway Station green plaque, attached to yellow ochre-coloured painted timber boards, in full sun on north side

The plaques are very good commemorative plaques, and others Societies considering a plaque program could make a point of visiting Berry and seeking to emulate their lead.  These green plaques will, I am sure, endure and grace Berry long after we are all long gone and forgotten.  That is a legacy of which Berry & District Historical Society can be proud.

Not every place was ‘plaqued’, but the fantastic Bel-Air, on Queen Street, clearly has stories to tell …

A copy of my speech notes, containing more details and descriptions of the plaques in their setting, can be dowloaded here: Speech notes_29Jun17

Advertisements

Part 1: Introduction

Part 1, the Introduction to the Guide, is now available.

This Part covers the idea of an ‘open-air archive’ and provides a framework for thinking about commemorative plaques and plaque programs.

It then sets out a brief history of commemorative plaques in New South Wales since 1822, followed by a brief history of the London blue plaques and Sydney green plaques programs, and the historical links between the first Royal Australian Historical Society ceramic plaque series that was launched in 1919.  This series was consciously influenced by the London blue plaques, although it did not seek to imitate them.

The first ceramic plaque installed in Sydney in 1919.

The first RAHS commemorative plaque in the ‘porcelain tablet’ series, installed in Sydney in 1919.

Part 1 concludes with a  description of how to use the subsequent parts of the Guide.

Click here to download Part 1. Introduction

All comments and thoughts on Part 1, especially suggestions for improving its content and scope, are most welcome.

Heritage Grant Awarded for GPLC Project

The State Member for Blue Mountains, Mrs Roza Sage MP, presented this year’s heritage small grants at the Royal Australian Historical Society’s annual conference held in Katoomba.

Presentation by Rosa Sage MP to Bruce Baskerville of heritage grant for Green Plaques Local Communities, Katoomba 3 November 2013.  Photo: Siobhán Lavelle

Presentation by Mrs Roza Sage MP to Bruce Baskerville of the heritage grant for Green Plaques Local Communities, Katoomba 3 November 2013. Photo: Siobhán Lavelle

Commemorative plaques, such as the green plaques, are important symbols and markers of what, who and when is valued by a local community in its own history.  They are a permanent record that is passed on from one generation to the next, a bequest that evolves and grows over time.

Project Manager Bruce Baskerville said “The small grant awarded to the Green Plaques Local Communities project will ensure that it is viable and achievable.  This investment of public funds, which is greatly appreciated, will be returned to the people of New South Wales in the form of the better management of publicly-owned commemorative plaques, in the sense of place and civic pride that is fostered by valued and cared-for symbols of local identity, and in the conservation of these records in the open-air archive.”

The project has budget of $14,000, of which the grant is for $7,000.  The other $7,000 is comprised of a donation of professional costs valued at the appropriate PHA(NSW) rates.

The small grants program is for local history and archives projects.  The program is funded by the NSW Government through its Office of Environment & Heritage, and administered by the Royal Australian Historical Society.  More information about the program is available here.

The Project

Green Plaques, Local Communities

A practical companion for managing an open-air archive of commemorative plaques, for local communities in the County of Cumberland and larger country towns in New South Wales

A Local History & Archives Project for 2014

Green Plaques, Local Communities will be an online guide with associated resources, developed as a companion document to Celebrating People and Place.

Celebrating People and Place, produced by English Heritage, is a significant resource for managing an open-air archive of historic commemorative plaques.

Green Plaques, Local Communities will help communities to plan and manage a commemorative plaque program to a high standard of historical authenticity, with long-term management of the plaques as a durable community heritage asset.

Green Plaques, Local Communities adapts the experiences of London’s blue plaques scheme since the 1860s and the RAHS’s near-century of plaque programs, such as the Sydney green plaques of the 1980s, to urban communities in the villages, towns and suburbs of early 21st century New South Wales.

Sustainability

Green Plaques, Local Communities will make a long term contribution to sustainable local heritage management through:

  • Supporting communities making a long-term commitment to managing their plaques,
  • Creating opportunities (community and commercial) to tell stories through tours and activities that use historic themes or storylines to connect various plaques, and
  • Advocating only sites or events that have passed ‘the test of time’ being honoured with a commemorative plaque.

Leadership

Green Plaques, Local Communities will encourage local leadership and innovation in presenting history by:

  • žž Empowering local communities to make their own informed decisions about initiating and managing a credible, long-term commemorative historic plaque program, and
  • ž Linking static plaques with dynamic electronic media to allow innovative new research and interpretations of sites to be developed without affecting the plaque inscription.

Opportunities

The project will increase opportunities for people to learn about, access and enjoy their history, and their local open-air archive of commemorative plaques by developing a simple website with:

  • ž A free, downloadable PDF version of Green Plaques, Local Communities,
  • ž A link to the original Celebrating People and Place,
  • ž Explanatory podcasts for critical points in Green Plaques, Local Communities,
  • ž This blog for discussion and sharing ideas among communities using Green Plaques, Local Communities, and
  • Links to the RAHS and other relevant websites.

Timeframe

The substantive work will be carried out over February and March, with a launch of the completed website and its associated resources planned for April 2014.

Map of Cumberland County in 1840, showing 13 h...

Map of Cumberland County in 1840, showing 13 hundreds and 53 parishes. The four smaller parishes in Sydney city are not displayed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)