Social memory in the public historical sphere: Henry Savery's 'The Hermit in Van Diemen's Land' and the Tasmanian Public Library
Gaunt, HM, Social memory in the public historical sphere: Henry Savery's 'The Hermit in Van Diemen's Land' and the Tasmanian Public Library, Library & Information History, 25, (2) pp. 79-96. ISSN 1758-3489 (2009) [Refereed Article]
Although public libraries have been generally characterized as ‘repositories
of public memory’ or ‘memory institutions’, along with museums and
archives, little specifi c work has been undertaken in Australia into how
the public library performs this role: how a public library responds to the
development of historical consciousness within its particular community,
to the vicissitudes of public remembering, and also public forgetting. This
article considers these questions through a case study of the Tasmanian
Public Library in Hobart, Tasmania, and its changing responses to a particular
text, convict author Henry Savery’s The Hermit in Van Diemen’s Land:
from the Colonial Times (1829), one of the fi rst books printed in the Colony.
This article will suggest that the book The Hermit in Van Diemen’s Land
played a role as a lieu de mémoire within the Tasmanian community, the
nature of that role changing as a consequence of a variety of factors over
more than a century. The circumstances surrounding the acquisition and
subsequent disposal of a copy of The Hermit by the Tasmanian Public
Library are examined, in the context of the contested and changing value
placed on the text by the institution and members of the community.
Such an analysis of the manifestation of social memory in the context of
the public library enriches our understanding of the ways in which a small
interpretative community negotiated its diffi cult history.
lieux de mémoire, social memory, historical consciousness,