Author Archives: michellefrancessadler

Chubby mangoes

 

The Coconut Children (2020) published by Vintage (Penguin Random House Australia) amalgamates an intense teen spirit that breaks through intergenerational trauma, lyrical prose, and an incredible human insight that belies the author’s age. Essentially a bildungsroman novel that you won’t find in the YA section of your favourite bookstore or library due to its sophistication. Pham is now just nineteen but was only a teeny sixteen when she penned the first draft. Set in Sydney’s Cabramatta in the late 1990’s the story follows sixteen year old Sonny and her childhood friend Vince as they navigate their journey back to each other after Vince’s two year stint in juvie. Pham’s voice is unique and quite unforgettable. Her mangoes are chubby and her handsome troubled boy drinks sugar cane juice.  It is set firmly in the present as we only get the odd rare glimpse of the past, such is the pain it represents. The story of Sonny and Vince unfolds and takes flight from under the heavy blanket of traumata their parents and their wider community, experienced as Vietnamese refugees. Balancing the trauma is the beauty of the writing and arc, the teenage crush we are introduced to at the beginning and the depth of the real connection that is realised, can only be revered and coveted. Well done Vivian Pham.

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness embodies the zeitgeist that was the horror of King Leopold’s imperialism.

The astounding gaps in knowledge in our educators are proof that falsehoods invade the historical record like a global pandemic that has been spreading via community transmission for hundreds of years without pause. The order of the day may well be a fictional novel embodying the zeitgeist that was the horror of imperialism in the heart of the Congo in Central Africa so look no further than Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899). I was planning on posting a review on Dark Emu (2014) by Bruce Pascoe (still to come), but I have just read a confessional social media post of a ‘British History teacher’ on a group page for Library Professionals, admitting that she did not know who King Leopold was until just a few days ago. I was shocked, and then I wasn’t. In 1988 in VCE (Year 12) Art History I was taught that the European painters who accompanied the colonialists on tall ships and painted the Australian landscape were not that great (even though they hang in our national galleries) as they overlaid what they saw with their European sensibilities of what a landscape should look like. (Oh how very liberal of our teachers to critique the colonist collaborators). Of course they were capable of painting what they saw! To admit that though is to admit that indigenous people cleared areas of vegetation, and that the landscape vistas that these white artists were privileged beyond words to witness were, wait for it, clearly managed and maintained and done so for reasons beyond their comprehension. (Thank you Bruce Pascoe). Not just an omission in education, but at some point in the past, lies! All lies!

Conrad’s writing is other worldly, intense and short, a mere eighty pages, a novella. Every turn of phrase is worth savouring so if you find it hard work consider doing what I did and retreat to the audio book. Once released from that work, (and the anxiety of several hundred pages of scholarly text that made up the volume and weight in my hands) I was able to properly comprehend Conrad’s phantasmagoric story and appreciate his depiction of the madness of Mr Kurtz, and his journey to get to him (metaphorically and physically), through the eyes of his protagonist, Charles Marlow. Many of you may be more familiar with the film adaption Apocalypse Now (1979) directed by Francis Ford Coppola, (which also garnered critical acclaim) in which the mise en scene is reimagined in Cambodia, and Marlon Brando’s utterance of ‘horror, oh the horror’. The content is horrendous albeit fascinating, and the writing incomparable. If you’re particularly self motivated to self educate this may be the book for you – if not google King Leopold.

The loudness of unsaid things

In the midst of ISO I was prompted to go online shopping for some new books (in spite of my substantial TBR stack-s) by @louisadeaseyauthor and her blog advice to list ‘comparative titles’ on your book proposal. Knowing that such a beast is a wonderful tool to realise the structure of one’s own manuscript and its place in the great scheme of things, aka the book market I read with interest and quickly translated my first move into ‘I must have new books’. In a few clicks I found The Loudness of Unsaid Things, the debut novel from Hilde Hinton, released in April by @hachetteaustralia. With a fantastic title, and a protagonist that visits her mother within the walls of a ‘mind-hospital’, a theme I know intimately, it was carted without a moments hesitation. Hinton doesn’t disappoint. Her writing is authentic, imaginative, and clever. Her literary device of a secondary narrative is quite brilliant in its ambiguity and its simplicity. There was a small section near the beginning where I fretted for a few pages that we would spend too much time in the protagonist’s juvenile perspective, in spite of the page turning story that was unfolding. I would like to admit to and apologise for my unfounded fears that this book would end up on my half-read pile-s. Hinton’s novel turned out to be a great read and an inspiration to my own writing to boot. I finished it in under twenty-four hours, with tears aplenty. Seriously, there isn’t a writing mode more attuned to getting the feels than a well written fictionalised memoir, and Hinton’s brilliance in this regard is a wonderful homage to empathy – at every opportunity without exception. I went looking and found a story on Hinton, by Jo Abi, published prior to the release. ‘It took her six months to write the first draft, the story of which was based on three pieces of writing she had done years ago that she deemed “the best things I’d ever written” which didn’t tie together well, but she was determined to use them all.’ Oh how the writer’s soul sings when she realises she is not alone!

That Deadman Dance

That Deadman Dance (2010) by Kim Scott, a scholar and a descendant of the Noongar people of Western Australia, published by picadoraustralia, won among many awards, the 2011 Miles Franklin award for Literature. I am embarrassed to admit though that had this book not been on the reading list for my Australian Literature unit during my undergraduate degree I might not have ever read it. That Deadman Dance is an exquisite reimagining of a first contact story told through both a white and an indigenous perspective and asks some big questions through the detailed creative showing (and not didactically) of what transpired. Scott depicts the gamut of human character in both races and leaves the reader with an overwhelming sense and a better understanding of the missed opportunities of our past. The heartbreaking glimpse of what could have been has stayed with me, years after the first reading. “We learned your words and songs and stories and never knew you didn’t want to hear ours.” As readers we can choose what we read with consideration, we can choose with a willingness to listen to perspectives that are different to our own lived experience. What we read is an integral path to learning from the past so we can do better tomorrow.

A message from a mother: a reformed skeptic of the newly installed highway barriers, written in the third person because it was only yesterday

It was the first day of winter and a Saturday. The weather had turned sharply a week before and there had been constant rain for a week. Her son fell asleep at the wheel at 5.30am on the way to work. He had put his hand up for overtime. He is a good boy; a nineteen-year-old Diesel Technician apprentice. Usually, when someone falls asleep at the wheel the pressure on the accelerator pedal reduces. Still, it doesn’t usually end well. There’s always a tree, or an embankment, or another car. Her son was on the Western Highway at the speed limit of 110km per hour. He woke up when all four tyres hit the dirt. His tyre tracks ran through the new grass and then his car slammed into the newly installed barriers. His car spun out across the highway enough times to give him time to articulate the thought he was going to die. His mother is at once dizzy at that thought and then her heart cracks wide open as she puts herself in his experience.  He slammed into the barrier again, taking out another six or more posts but the wire held firm. The wire saved his life. His own car was in the shop so he was driving a very old ute that his Pop had bought for a runaround. The roadworthy had stipulated new seat belts so they had been replaced. The car was towed straight to the wreckers but he walked away without a scratch. Police attending another accident where a car had hit a pole on an adjacent road watched the whole episode unravel and walked over to comfort him immediately. It still feels like the worst day of her life. If the wire wasn’t there he would have sped down the small, sludgy embankment and most certainly would have flipped his car and most certainly died.

The Mothers cracked heart is only holding together with strings of constant tears and a new appreciation of what it is to be anxious. A state too filled with too much of everything.  She is grateful for the wire but her experience needs to be filled quickly with new hellos and goodbyes and more hellos so her son telling her I thought I was going to die becomes a distant troublesome memory. Is that even possible? She woke this morning at 4am wanting to wake her son to check he hadn’t bled to death internally overnight. Irrational but compelling. It reminds her of when he was a baby and if she woke in the night she would check for his breath. The universe guides her but it’s Sunday and she wants him to rest so she resists for a few hours. Is resisting strength or a deviation to remaining true to who she was before? This is now the mother’s anxiety. At least in the quiet hours on the road, when sleep is the enemy, she can be comforted that the barriers will guide the way.

Explaining the Heaven

Occasionally, if we are lucky during our bibliographical exploratory journey the universe may drop into our laps an extraordinary gem. Books which blow us a little closer to the stars.  I am currently reading Jack Lynch’s You Could Look it Up (2016) published by Bloomsbury Press, which explores ‘The reference shelf from ancient Babylon to Wikipedia’. It sounds rather like a infinite uninhabited desert, full of dusty relics but it’s not. The structure of Lynch’s book is attention grabbing and bursting with humanity from the get go. He groups together two carefully selected reference ‘books’ in each of the twenty-four chapters, (in the process of discarding a good number of equally fascinating ones by his own admission) with a ‘half’ chapter between each. These half chapters explore themes such as ‘The Dictionary Gets its day in Court’, and ‘Ignorance, Pure Ignorance: Of Omissions, Ambiguities, and Plain Old Blunders.’ Some of the ‘books’ featured are in fact volumes of tablets depicting ancient laws (as brutal as you can imagine) and dictionaries or simply lists of words. Chapter twenty is ‘Modern Materia Medica’, where Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter’s Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical (1858), aka Gray’s Anatomy (no it is not just a television show) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1952) appear together. It is followed by chapter twenty and a half; ‘Incomplete and Abandoned Projects’, which begins with, ‘In the back alleys of intellectual history are scattered the abandoned wrecks of would-be dictionaries and encyclopedias.’ I find myself compelled to share that never before has a non-fiction book driven me to bed at such an early hour for the sole purpose of reading, or to spontaneously write an unsolicited review in the wee hours. I am usually decidedly more inclined to fall asleep reading fiction or memoir.

What Lynch also offers is some shooting stars, some extra special words pulled back from long ago to make us weep from the sheer beauty of them. In chapter two ‘In the beginning was the word; The first dictionaries’, Lynch gives us Erya an ancient Chinese dictionary that dates back (unconfirmed) to around third century B.C.E.

Poetry or dictionary? You decide:

Explaining the Heaven

‘Round hollow and very blue, this is Heaven. In springtime, Heaven is blue; in summertime, bright; in autumn, clear, in wintertime, Heaven is wide up. These are the four seasons. In springtime, there is a greening sun-warmth; in summer, a reddish enlightening; in autumn a blank storing; and in winter a dark blossom. If all these expressions are harmonious, (the year) is called “jade candle.” The spring gives birth; the autumn grows the adult; in autumn the harvest is completed; and in winter there is a peaceful tranquility. If the harmony of the four seasons is thorough and correct, (the year) is called “illustrious wind.” If the sweet rain comes down to the right time, the many things are at their best, it is called “sweet spring.” This means luck.’

Luck it would seem is not so random and neither are great books. Heaven surrounds us; in the tendered garden and in our changing seasons, and from one bibliophile to any other, and on the reference shelf.

Mud

Mud was nominated and long listed for the Judith Rodriguez Prize, which is run by Deakin University and is open to third year writing students.

The small girl looked away from her teacher and out through the wall of windows to her left. She maneuvered herself ever-so-slightly so her turned head escaped the notice of Mrs Duperouzel, hidden now by Toby who was bigger than most. She sat on the outskirts of prep class, in a building that hung at the edge of many.

Monash Primary School was built into the side of a hill. Its best feature was a natural amphitheatre central to the split-level buildings that surrounded it from all sides. Each building contained two or three open plan classrooms, and were constructed a little different from its neighbour, depending on where it sat on the hill. They were all the same dull grey though, constructed from large besser blocks, a little like Lego but stripped of colour. She knew she would like school but she had not settled in yet. She felt far from the centre of things. With her lesson now forgotten, her thoughts settled on the forbidden area. Her gaze travelled out through the glass, past the veranda where her classmates lined up in pairs each morning, and floated across the small courtyard. She tried to make out the writing on the small white sign. It stood atop a short post under a line of pine trees. The trees made up a tall dense hedge on stilts that hinted at the vast goings-on that beckoned from beyond. She knew the red block letters read KEEP OUT, but the rain, which had finally stopped, still dripped off the lower branches, smudging her view.

The men had not come back; their giant yellow machines lay dotted about, abandoned on the flat graded space that stretched out like an enormous lilypad at the side of the school. It had rained every day, for a whole week. That morning the drizzle had replaced the rain like a new phase on an old season, and her frustration shifted.

Spread out on the smooth clay surface, past the trees, were a hundred mounds of earth. Twice as tall as her, they beamed out from the centre in ever-widening discs. The scene spoke of an impermanence that demanded resolve, a disconnection that needed blending. Her young mind became fixated then on the worry that the work would be delayed still, for how were the men to know it was okay to return if they weren’t here checking? The rain had ceased. Surely it would be dry enough—if only she could get close enough to check—maybe she could tell the office ladies to let the men know they could come back to finish the oval.

“Trixie?” her teacher said.

“Trixie!” her teacher shouted.

“Yes, Mrs Duperouzel?”

“Please pay attention.”

Trixie was still nodding when the lunch bell rang. Toby’s mimed guffaw was interrupted too, and Trixie threw him a glare before he turned away looking for his friends.

For the first day in five there was no rainy lunch-time program, so her classmates ran squealing from the room, down back along the veranda and around the corner to the main part of the school. The collective ruckus drowned out the final gongs of the bell and then faded out before silence lowered its cloak. Rain and wind were absent. She was alone in the wet courtyard.

She was a good girl who had not yet shown she was good and clever and she was getting impatient. It was already April and school had started in February, two whole months ago. Although she hated how they pulled, she kept in the tight ponytails her mother insisted on each morning, and made sure her long socks were pulled up evenly all through the day.

Her brother Michael was in grade six on the other side of the large campus. She never saw him until the final bell each afternoon, but he was always there right on time. He would go to the high school in a few months and she knew she had to establish herself as a good and clever girl soon, so her teachers would be nice and the other clever kids would notice her.

She was beside the white sign, which looked old and forlorn up close, battered from continual use and exposure to the elements. Loaded and unloaded from a pile of signs off and on the back of a tray truck or ute, she imagined its adventures. It seemed small and silly and completely inadequate for such a big worksite. She decided to say, if questioned, that she didn’t see it at all—certainly not that she couldn’t read it.

Trixie stepped forward, intent on her excursion. She would be thanked for being a smart and clever girl very soon, and might even become a little famous.

Emerging on the other side of the dark, sodden green trees, she looked altogether dishevelled. There were pine needles in her hair protesting the tight symmetry of her ponytails. She had lost a ribbon, and the other was undone. Several pulled threads of her woollen jumper had jumped free when she had wrestled herself from the snags of the lower branches that tried to block her way. Her shoes were damp and grubby. She paused, unperturbed, in front of the alien landscape that panned out before her. It was darker on this side, the trees shading what little brightness the winter sky offered.

Laid out before her was a great expanse, much bigger than she had imagined. The buildings from which she had just emerged were long forgotten. The too-neat piles of earth and the great machines depicted a strange and powerful absence.

She stepped off the wet blanket of pine needles and started down the embankment. Her grubby shoes quickly became caked with thick orange clay. The top layer everywhere was smooth wet mud, an inch or two thick, or so she thought.

Trixie contemplated climbing back up the embankment and realised there was nothing to hang on to. She reasoned with herself. She may as well check the flat part where the machines needed to navigate. She felt about her hair and pulled out a twig a few inches long with which to measure the thickness of the mud.

Trixie took a few slow steps towards the closest pile of earth, which reared up and blocked out the remaining weak sunlight, casting her in a dark shadow. She was stuck. She tried to lift each leg in turn but her feet were gripped in place like the scalped earth needed her to stay, wanted her right there, or worse, that someone unseen, beneath the mud, had gripped her ankles and wouldn’t let go. She tried to look behind her to see if anyone was close by knowing full well she was quite alone, and nearly lost her balance. She was sinking and struggling to stand upright.

Tears got ready to burst as she became terrified of the trouble she was going to be in with her teachers and her parents. The warnings from both reverberated in her head as if a chorus of supernatural beings had suddenly surrounded her. Her school shoes were ruined and she knew her parents would have trouble affording new ones. The mud was now at the top of her long white socks. Tears became sobs and then she started screaming.

She was lost in terror for what seemed like three lunchtimes when she heard Michael yelling from the trees to stay still and shut up. She was up to her armpits in mud. Her arms lifted but were getting dreadfully heavy. Her chin was pointed high but it meant then that she could feel the cold muck on the nape of her neck and the backs of her ears. In a quick sidelong glance, she could see that Michael had behind him what looked like his whole class. Some of the boys, and Erin who lived in their street, were forming a human chain so Michael could reach her.

Trixie saw through her wet and puffy eyes that all of them were ruining their shoes. They were all ankle-deep. Others waited about talking anxiously, burying their knuckles in their mouths and squealing with a mix of excitement and fright as each human link was added. With a collaborative adrenalin burst they dragged her from the mud.

The whole of the year six cohort had gathered and were cheering. Michael looked down at Trixie as he carried her through the trees and back to the courtyard, grinning in disbelief. Not only was she completely bonkers, she had made him a hero in front of everyone. His love beamed down at her from his whole face with relief and gratitude.

Amid the noise, a group of girls who had raised the alarm now drew around her and made to bustle her off to the school nurse to get cleaned up. Michael disappeared in a large celebratory huddle, accepting the whacks across his ready back with good humour. Friendly hands grappled and shook each other’s shoulders within the group and latecomers to the excitment joined in.

*

Trixie stirred from her strange nightmare with a happy ending, wondering just how many nights in a row it would last this time. For a breadth of a moment before she lost its grasp she sighed, wishing she could be spared. Why this dream, and why on repeat? She had begun high school and hadn’t even seen her brother Michael in more than a year.

It was 1983, and he was supposed to be in year twelve while she was in year seven. Brother and sister at the top and bottom of high school—just like it had been in primary school. She was annoyed at her ridiculous imagination, sat up, threw the covers off, and made her way to the bathroom.

Halfway through the year before, Michael, as soon as he turned seventeen, had enrolled in the Australian Army Infantry Corps. The descriptions of his days and his connection to home waned as he settled into his new life. As she picked up her toothbrush she thought about how she was losing the thread of how his days looked. His constant movement meant that the interstate telephone calls were not only expensive, but were initiated only by him and rare. She made her way back to her bedroom to get dressed and stopped by the hall table. She riffled through the mail there but there was no mail for her. When Michael did call, Mum or Dad would talk for a few minutes then hand her the phone. She picked up the receiver now and listened to the dial tone. She replaced it back in its cradle and remembered how she would walk up and down the wide hall, twisting the telephone cord around her wrist and tracing her toes like a ballet dancer around the linoleum tiles. She would sit, leaning her back up against a doorframe, and listen to his answers to her questions. He told her that in a couple of years’ time, when he lived off base and had a car, he’d fly her up to Townsville or wherever he was posted by then, for a holiday. He had to give lots of notice for leave, so she’d have plenty of time to talk their parents into letting her go.

An aeroplane. She had never been on one.

She was back in her bedroom in front of her open wardrobe. The pickings were sparse. She always forgot to ask him if there was any underlying truth to the dream, and she was far from convinced there was any other logical reason. On each occurrence, past the first few wafers of thought, its memory simply wouldn’t belong to daylight. She had forgotten today too, already. Still, she dreaded an unknown terror as she lay down to sleep each night, and grew tired of its repetition come morning. On mornings where she was free from its taint there was no telling if its absence signalled a new dream schedule not adjacent to the alarm clock, or if it had decided to leave her for good.

Michael was really gone—and time was past for pretending that it wasn’t for good. His absence had caught her by surprise, caught up as she had been in the excitement of his new adventure. His letters and hers waited in politeness for the other, and were exchanged with steady regularity and length that spoke of genuine communication. Yet they read like flat colourless monologues of questions and answers that fell dreadfully short. They lacked warmth, moodiness, mannerisms, body language, team work, competition—all the palpable and essential elements of siblinghood. She looked at the pile on her dresser, kept with a bow but never reread. Travelling by the Australian Post with millions of others there was nothing special about them, no matter how thick the envelope. The written word was failing her, for the question that she couldn’t remember, that needed to be asked, was no longer a question at all.

Frederick Sinnett (1830-1866)

An extract from ‘Fiction Fields of Australia’ published in The Journal of Australasia 1857.

‘Man can no more do without works of fiction than he can do without clothing…On the shape of novels, then, civilised man, at the present day, receives the greater part of the fictitious clothing necessary to cover the nakedness of his mind; and our present inquiry is into the feasibility of obtaining the material for this sort of manufacture from Australian soil…Our inquiry is into the feasibility of writing Australian novels…the suitability of Australian life and scenery for the novel writer’s purpose; and, secondly, into the right manner of treatment…The great mass of mankind can only hope to catch glimpses of the glory of ‘every common sight,’ when genius holds it up for them in the right light…The first genius that performs similar service in Australia will dissipate our incredulity, as to this matter, for ever…If we were asked what was the first requisite of a novel, we should say human character. The second – human character. The third – human character. Even plot and   incident comes afterwards, and the mere question of costume and local colouring comes after plot and incident…Now in the kind of novel we want to see written, but we do not expect to read for some time, we want to see a picture of universal human life and passion, but represented as modified by Australian externals.’

Deakin Motion Lab – an internship

What a fantastic experience my internship at Deakin Motion Lab was this summer! My creative self took a definitive step forward while I sat in this dynamic hub, which is made up of a team of entrepreneurial free thinkers who are cloaked in a myriad of non-disclosure agreements. Motion Lab by its own definition is a ‘Melbourne-based creative consultancy that intersects research, art, and technology to deliver state-of-the-art innovative solutions.’ They provide virtual reality; augmented reality, performing arts, animation, and motion capture services.

My tasks included writing a social media plan for Motion Lab’s booth at Future Assembly, Australia’s emergent tech festival, and a character brief for a new animated demo character that I named Maya. I’m not sure if her name will stick but I got to know her like a worshipped sister. There was much conjecture surrounding her name, as Maya is also the name of one of the software programs they use – apparently. There was no decision whether this was a good thing or not. My son, had he been a girl, was going to be called Maya Rose. I once new a beautiful old Russian woman with sweet soul named Maya and I have always loved the name. I was provided with a ten-page character template to fill out that, as a writer I can only say was incredibly detailed and a lesson at just how much thought goes into today’s animated characters. I was sorry to leave her behind.

From my first day to my last, and beyond (I’ll get to that in a minute) I was given the task to research one of Motion Labs research members, Katya Johanson, Associate Professor, Arts Engagement. I was to delve into Johanson’s previous work and her current project – Asia TOPA, formulate interview questions regarding Asia TOPA, interview her in person on videotape, transcribe said interview and write an article – and that is where I am. Although my time at Motion Lab is officially over, a final draft of my article ‘The art of the art’s evaluation – Asia TOPA a case study of unprecedented scope,’ is currently being approved, before Jordan Vincent my supervisor and I, can pitch it to an appropriate publication/s.

Although time ran out, I also began to research another member, Kristine Moruzi – Faculty of Arts and Education, ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow. Due to logistical complications over the Christmas break we ended up talking on the phone – an  informative forty-five minute conversation about her work and research interests, one of which is very close to my heart – reimagining the gothic genre in a post-feminist context. I could describe our conversation as an informational interview – which I’d be more comfortable with if I’m successful in establishing a long-lasting academic relationship with her. I did share the challenges I am facing with Joy Street and in response to Moruzi’s challenges for her research – the scarcity of colonial children’s literature, I was able to impart a snippet of a previously unexplored reason.

Through my research pertaining to an exhibit I have had published on Deakin Fusion ‘William Clarson and The Kitchen Garden – a life of note and notoriety,’ – I came across the notion that the demand for children’s colonial literature far exceeded supply. And it was partly due to tariffs being placed on imported printing materials that thwarted settler publications and put pressure on the model school to import more readily available, cheaper, but non-relevant texts from England.

I felt a great connection with Moruzi and it buoyed my impending doom at finishing my undergraduate degree in June of this year. Moruzi doesn’t know it but she’s provided me with a notion that I’d have something to say if I was to continue my studies – and maybe through academic research I could come up with answers to the gothic/feminist challenges I want to resolve for Joy Street.

In conclusion, I’m grateful to Jordan Vincent for having me at the Lab for the summer, her subtle and seamless guidance and clever task setting. The structure and scope of this internship and its effects on my creative, academic, and professional self is a fine example of what all internships should seek to emulate.

When quietude becomes noisy

I was fortunate to be offered two Deakin internships this summer, and grateful that I was allowed to accept both. It was a summer of contrasts. One of the internships was at Deakin Motion Lab, an innovative technology-driven creative hub, to be detailed in a separate post. The other was at the Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library Special Collections, where I got to sit in a gallery space. Along one side of the large room it was floor to ceiling of old books. Archival items such as large botanical plates were dotted about in custom cases and shelving units. Opposite the books shelves was a wall of glass, watermarked with an image of Alfred Deakin and automatic glass sliding doors.

Quietude, one of my favorite words, a coveted place, comes to mind, but actually historical research is noisy – once you are sucked into the vortex of the task – being alone in a quiet space is not the experience at all. It’s fun, it’s lively, – people and places become animated demanding and competing for your attention.

The ADPML, according to Liz Horn a librarian at Deakin, ‘provides high quality research facilities for scholars attached to the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, other Deakin University staff, students and the wider community, including a publically accessible reference collection containing materials on Australian social and political history and family history.’ The ADPML is the access point for Deakin University Library’s collection of over 70,000 rare books and special materials. Deakin Fusion is an online space for ADPML to exhibit digitalised collections and that was where my internship was focused.

My role was to research, write, design, and publish exhibits. Omeka is a little like WordPress but designed specifically for libraries and museums to exhibit collections, and is more reliant on html code. This was my first foray into html code (luckily there were already eight exhibits online so I did a lot of copying and pasting) which I found quite fun (I am a bit weird). During my internship I published three exhibits; ‘William Clarson and The Kitchen Garden – a life of note and notoriety,’ and ‘The purveyors of floral sensations,’ and lastly A plant for every purpose, a champion for every plant.’

I got to choose what digitalised items I wrote an exhibit for and next week I will begin a regular one-day per week role at ADPML, so I’m looking forward to choosing another. The biggest challenge will be restricting word count – there’s just so much content waiting to be uncovered and collated. The first two were 1500 words but poor old William Clarson blew out to 4000. There really is a book there…