I’m up to my habitual practice of catching an exhibition in its closing days again. This time it is the ‘Pioneers of Bushwalking’ exhibition at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. It was officially launched on the 24th of October by that intrepid bushwalker, Tim Holding M.P. and closes this coming Friday 9 December.
Between 2004 and 2010 the RHSV was donated archival material from the Melbourne Walking Club including photograph albums, maps and archival material. The club was founded in 1894 as a male-only enterprise: a status which it (rather surprisingly) still holds today, although women are welcome to attend ‘many’ of their events as ‘visitors’. Early on it encouraged race-walking, and the exhibition shows two Edwardian gentlemen strutting along in that curious gait. However, it seems that a major part of their activities involved bushwalking, particularly in the high country mountain areas.
The photograph albums in particular are fascinating. They are beautifully presented and labelled, and they document trips particularly in the 1930s around Healesville, Gippsland and the snowfields. It looks to be a damned uncomfortable hobby, sleeping on groundsheets under the stars, or under tents with do-it-yourself waterproofing. There’s a curious flavour to the exhibition though- lots of jolly-ho, rather private-boys’-school humour, and an unsettling hint of homophobia in one particular publication discreetly placed on a lower display shelf.
Looking at the names of the stalwart members, I was attracted by the name ‘Chris Bailey’, a now-deceased but well known Ivanhoe resident who was, among many other things, President of the Heidelberg Historical Society and heavily involved in conservation of the Yarra River. My husband noted R. H. Croll, prominent in athletic, literary and arts circles.
I thought of both these men whose names seem to pop up in varied contexts as I browsed the glossy magazine that came with The Age this morning. It lists Melbourne’s 100 most “influential, inspirational, provocative and creative” people for 2011. The 100 are arranged by theme: ‘provocateurs’ (the men and women shaking things up around this place); ‘power partnerships’ (when two heads are much better than one); ’cause and effect’ (the people encouraging us to give a little bit- or a lot; ‘social glue’ (Who brings everybody together to make things happen?); ‘bright ideas’ (Why didn’t we think of that?) ; ‘My first time’ (i.e. people’s debut events); ’20/20′ (twenty inspirational people all in their twenties); ‘global sensations’; ‘changing lives’ (making a difference to people’s lives; ‘music’ and ‘from these hands’ (creative people). Just flipping through, there is a strong entrepreneurial theme running through them, along with activism, sport, politics,and an emphasis on youth- although that may well just be me getting older!
I wonder what themes a similar list for the early 1900s would emphasize? I think that early 1900s examples could be found under each of these headings- for example, there would be examples of young men, clever inventions, and provocateurs- but I think that the language to talk about them would have been different. I’m sure that formal clubs and societies, organized with archives and meetings (just like the Melbourne Walking Club), would be far more prominent than the more ephemeral and individual-based networks that we see today.