Report on the PHAQ Exhibit at the Unlock the Past Expo

By Dr Neville Buch, PHAQ e-Bulletin Editor

In this very uncertain economic climate, the best thing that the Professional Historian Association can do is get out into the marketplace and explain to the general public who are professional historians and what we can do. If there is fewer dollars flowing from government and corporate coffers, because of downturn in the economy, and because the electorate voted for a government to reduce debt, than we must communicate our value to the community in the strongest terms.

The message we need to get across is that the market for professional historians is open to the general public. Another message we must get across is that the professional historian offers something that they are not going to get in other historical services, an accredited professional approach to historical research and writing, and expert knowledge and experience.

With this in mind, the PHAQ became an exhibitor at the Unlock the Past Expo in Brisbane during three days in June (25-27). The Expo was the biggest event for genealogical/history work in southern Queensland in recent years.  An invitation was made to members to submit examples of their work, and images received were placed in a movie clip, shown on a laptop at the PHAQ Exhibit table. The table area also made use of display posters, examples of members’ publications, and book sales. Many thanks to Janice Cooper, Hilary Joan Davies, Geoff Doherty, Jack Ford, Ruth Kerr, Marion Mackenzie, Patricia O’Shea, Jonathan Richards, and Bernadette Turner for assisting, on site, with the PHAQ Exhibit. Other PHAQ members were actively involved with other exhibits, including Robin Trotter at the Indooroopilly & District Historical Society exhibit, and Shauna Hicks was also a leading Expo presenter. Many thanks to all members who contributed material and support for the Exhibit.

A presentation called, “Insights from how professionals write history”, on the Tuesday afternoon at the Expo, was delivered by the e-bulletin editor.  With only 20 minutes, including time for questions and discussion, two small examples of professional historian’s writing were chosen, on the basis that they provided a contrast between the old and new, between the substantive narrative and the concise entry, between traditional history and heritage listing, between local and regional, and between sole authorship and team production.

Lorna McDonald, aged 95, is our oldest and long-standing member. Her book, Rockhampton: A History of City and District, is a very important major source for the Central Queensland, and well used by family historians across the state. The other example used was Kay Cohen and Margaret Cook’s leadership in the EPA-team produced, “Heritage Trails of the Tropical North”. As well as the great use of colour images, the book is a great example of careful summation of the work of many other PHAQ members, including Timothy Bottoms, Ruth Kerr, and Janice Wegner.

The PowerPoint SlideShow that accompanied the presentation is available at the PHAQ Facebook Group site.

The PHAQ Exhibit at Unlock the Past Expo was worthwhile.  At least one small contract came out of the event for a member (not a member of the Management Committee). Importantly, it gave the association of professional historians public exposure. The e-bulletin editor would be more than happy to discuss the outcome and share thoughts with members on building up the PHAQ profile and the work for professional historians.

Some of the feedback from members at the PHAQ Exhibit suggested that we should have for the next similar event: a biography of each member’s work-life, information about history postgraduate courses for those interested in becoming professional historians but are not qualified, and a better display of member’s books.