An intriguing donation allowing students to preserve an important piece of history

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

A collection of intriguing fraternal society memorabilia – the largest of its kind in Australia – has been donated to the University of Newcastle, shedding a unique light on history dating back to 1829.

Artefacts from Fraternal Societies Collection

Dr Bob James, an alumnus of the University, kindly donated the collection which includes photos; rare books; journals of the individual fraternal societies; and fascinating artefacts such as regalia, ceremonial apparel, honour boards, voting boxes, ritual objects, medals and swords.

An historian and avid researcher of the story of fraternalism in Australia, Dr James has also made a generous philanthropic donation of $75,000 to provide four students with a paid work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunity to archive and digitise the significant collection. Their roles will be key in preserving an important snapshot of history.

The collection not only serves as an important educational and research resource but also creates opportunity to connect the community with ancestors. Thousands of names are listed on honour boards and fraternal logs, including that of Sir Henry Parkes, coincidentally a distant relative of Alex Parkes - one of the students working on the project.

In a further act of generosity, Dr James has included a gift in his will to continue the digitisation of materials to support teaching, learning, WIL and research needs of the University of Newcastle. Aptly timed, 7-13 September marks Include a Charity Week – a national campaign to encourage more Australians to leave a gift to charity in their will.

To find out more about preserving history by leaving a gift in your will, click here.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.