Tag Archives: preserve

Left to ruin: we must preserve our forgotten wartime defences

Fort Drummond at Mount Saint Thomas, NSW.
Alexander Lee, Author provided

Alexander Mitchell Lee, Australian National University

Australia built a number of coastal defences to help protect the country from any enemy attack during the second world war. Now, almost 80 years later, some of the physical remnants of those historic facilities lie forgotten and decaying.

These monuments to the nation’s home defence are in desperate need of preservation. While their condition varies greatly, too many have faded into obscurity.

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In defence of Wollongong

For example, if you take a drive through the city of Wollongong today you could be forgiven for thinking the city played no role in the war. There is little indication this city was once heavily defended against a much-feared Axis attack.

If you take a 15-minute drive south of the city centre you’ll find some remnants of the city’s home defences. The well-developed Port Kembla Heritage Park, with its cluster of tank traps and ruined gun instalments, alludes to the history of a city that was once extremely important to Australia’s war effort.

Small concrete pyramids designed to stop tanks.
The pyramid tank traps at Port Kembla.
Brian Yap/Flickr, CC BY-NC

This site, known as Breakwater Battery, was the first, smallest and weakest of three interconnected strongpoints designed to defend the industry of the Illawarra region of New South Wales from attack.

But this raises the question: where are the other two stronger points of Wollongong’s defensive network?

Our hidden defences

These sites still exist but are hidden. If you head to the leafy suburb of Mount Saint Thomas or Hill 60 Park in Port Kembla, you will find the more impressive remnants of the city’s defences.

Mount Saint Thomas and Hill 60 Park once hosted the military centres of Fort Drummond and the Illowra Battery respectively.

Dug into the hillside in both locations are impressive concrete casemates that once housed powerful naval guns. Hundreds of men and huge amounts of Australia’s limited wartime resources were dedicated to building and staffing these sites in the wartime period from 1941-1942.

The Illowra Battery, sitting right on the coast, was designed to replace Breakwater Battery as the pivot of local defences. It was strengthened over time with barbed wire, radar and tunnels deep in the hillside.

In the case of Fort Drummond, the 9.2-inch coastal guns were originally slated to be installed in Darwin in the Northern Territory, but were diverted south to strengthen the defences of Wollongong.

The prioritisation of the defence of Wollongong over Darwin, which was bombed, shows just how important protecting this southern region was.

The three strong points were designed to operate in concert to defend the region from an attack on Australia’s manufacturing core.

The industrial Illawarra was an economic behemoth for wartime Australia, producing everything from bullets to aircraft parts. It exported the materials of war across the British Empire, as far away as England and Singapore, and alongside Newcastle (in NSW) was the heart of Australian industry.

Yet, despite their important role in the war, these monuments are now overgrown, slowly being reclaimed by nature.

An overgrown site of one of the coast al defences.
The Illowra Battery exterior: the entrance is heavily overgrown and the path to the site is undeveloped.
Alexander Lee, Author provided

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Kept in the dark

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the dark tunnels of Fort Drummond were converted to mushroom farms, not military history attractions.

As for Hill 60, instead of being developed as a tourist attraction the place has appeared on lists of the most haunted places in the Illawarra.

Reports five years ago that Hill 60 would be redeveloped, opening the tunnels, adding signage and highlighting the area’s Aboriginal history, have come to nothing.

Such stories of neglect are repeated at other defence sites across Australia.

Significant sites in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Newcastle are dilapidated and eroding.

Even in areas of historical significance to Australia, where the country’s colonial history has been well preserved, such as the Sydney suburb of La Perouse, the nearby second world war artillery battery sites and lookout posts are neglected.

Considering these sites are often in idyllic locations and — by necessity at the time they were built — boast impressive ocean views, it is odd their value, even as tourist sites, remains unrealised.

There are other sites across Australia that have received investment in preservation, such as Fort Lytton in Brisbane and Fort Scratchley in Newcastle. These are now tourist destinations.

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With relatively small investments the neglected sites could be made more accessible. The public would then be able to learn and understand their history and significance.

Signposting, basic repairs and publicising these important relics of our wartime history would be easy first steps to revive public interest in these locations.

The educational and touristic values of Australia’s second world war defences are readily apparent. All they require is a little bit of attention after so many decades of neglect.The Conversation

Plenty of graffiti just inside the coastal defence site.
Inside the Illowra Battery graffiti covers the walls next to the tunnels, visible behind metal bars.
Alexander Lee, Author provided

Alexander Mitchell Lee, PhD Candidate, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Museums are losing millions every week but they are already working hard to preserve coronavirus artefacts

The Smithsonian Institute closed all of its museums due to the worldwide COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Flinders University

The COVID-19 pandemic has no borders and has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of citizens from countries across the globe. But this outbreak is not just having an effect on the societies of today, it is also impacting our past.

Cultural resources and heritage assets – from sites and monuments, historic gardens and parks, museums and galleries, to the intangible lifeways of traditional culture bearers – require ongoing safeguarding and maintenance in an overstretched world increasingly prone to major crises.

Meanwhile, the heritage sector is already working hard to preserve the COVID-19 moment, predicting that future generations will need documentary evidence, photographic archives and artefacts to help them understand this period of history.

Closed to visitors

The severity of the pandemic, and the infection control responses that followed, has caused great uncertainties and potential long-term knock-on effects within the sector, especially for smaller and medium-sized institutions and businesses.

A survey published by the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) and communications within organisations such as the International Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM) show that the majority of European museums are closed, incurring significant losses of income. By the beginning of April, 650 museums from 41 countries had responded to the NEMO survey, reporting 92% of them were closed.

Large museums such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam are losing €100,000-€600,000 (A$168,700-A$1,012,000) per week. Only about 70% of staff are currently being retained on average at most of the institutions.

Museums (both private and national) located in tourist areas have privately reported initial losses of 75-80% income based on the Heritage Sector Briefing to the UK government. Reports are also emerging of philanthropic income fall of 80-90% by heritage charities with many heading towards insolvency within weeks.

Cambodia’s Angkor Wat heritage site has lost 99.5% of its income in April compared to the same time last year.

Meanwhile, restorations to the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris came to an abrupt halt due to coronavirus just prior to the first anniversary of the fierce fire that damaged it. Builders have since returned to the site.

The situation is especially dire for culture bearers within remote and isolated indigenous communities still reeling from other catastrophes, such as the disastrous fires in Australia and the Amazon. Without means of social distancing these communities are at much higher risk of being infected and in turn their cultural custodianship affected.

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The right to culture

It is interesting to think about how this crisis will reshape visitor experience in the future.

The NEMO survey reports that more than 60% of the museums have increased their online presence since they were closed due to social distancing measures, but only 13.4% have increased their budget for online activities. We have yet to see more data about online traffic in virtual museums and tours, but as it stands it is certainly showing signs of significant increase.

As highlighted in the preamble of the 2003 UNESCO Declaration:

cultural heritage is an important component of cultural identity and of social cohesion, so that its intentional destruction may have adverse consequences on human dignity and human rights.

The human right of access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage is guaranteed by international law, emphasised in the Human Rights Council in its recent Resolution 33/20 (2016) that notes:

the destruction of or damage to cultural heritage may have a detrimental and irreversible impact on the enjoyment of cultural rights.

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

Read more:
Protecting heritage is a human right

In the future, generations will need the means to understand how the coronavirus pandemic affected our world, just as they can now reflect on the Spanish Flu or the Black Death.

Preserving a pandemic

Work is underway to preserve this legacy with organisations such as Historic England collecting “lockdown moments in living memories” through sourcing photographs from the public for their archive. Twitter account @Viral_Archive run by a number of academic archaeologists is following in a same vane with interesting theme of #ViralShadows.

In the United States, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has assembled a dedicated COVID-19 collection task force. They are already collecting objects including personal protection equipment such as N95 and homemade cloth masks, empty boxes (to show scarcity), and patients’ illustrations.

The National Museum of Australia has invited Australians to share their “experiences, stories, reflections and images of the COVID-19 pandemic” so curators can enhance the “national conversation about an event which is already a defining moment in our nation’s history”. The State Library of New South Wales is collecting images of life in isolation to “help tell this story to future generations”.

Citizen science is a great way to engage public and although such work is labour-intensive it can lead to more online traffic and potentially fill in financial deficits by enticing visitors back to the sites.

The closed Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands on March 22.

Priorities here

The timing of the COVID-19 pandemic – occurring in the immediate aftermath of severe draught, catastrophic fire season and then floods, with inadequate intervening time for maintenance and conservation efforts – presents new challenges.

The federal government reports that in the financial year 2018-19, Australia generated A$60.8 billion in direct tourism gross domestic product (GDP). This represents a growth of 3.5% over the previous year – faster than the national GDP growth. Tourism directly employed 666,000 Australians making up 5% of Australia’s workforce. Museums and heritage sites are a significant pillar to tourism income and employment.

Even though the government assures us “heritage is all the things that make up Australia’s identity – our spirit and ingenuity, our historic buildings, and our unique, living landscapes” its placement within the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s portfolio shows lack of prioritisation of the sector.

Given the struggles we are already seeing in the arts and culture sector, which has been recently moved to the portfolio of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications means that the future of our heritage (and our past) is far from certain.The Conversation

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Lecturer, Archaeology, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Article: Shipwreck Buried for Preservation in Victoria

Burying what is discovered in order to preserve it because it is too expensive to do otherwise – I can’t say I’m a fan of doing that. I understand the reasoning behind it, I do, but surely our history needs to be preserved in a manner that people who are outside the elite, rich, know, etc, can also have an opportunity to embrace and cherish it. Burying it again, it is pretty much gone forever and will not be able to be viewed again. I think it is a tragic loss.

Post your thoughts on the practice in the comments – would be interested to hear them.

The link below is to an article reporting on a shipwreck buried again for preservation in Australia.

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