Australian Faces

I (Emily) spent last week at the meeting of the Australian Historical Association in Ballarat, Victoria. AHA 2016: From Boom to Bust was convened by the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) at Federation University Australia, and although there were plenty of furrowed brows courtesy of the very chilly and wet Ballarat weather, the week ran smoothly and was full of interesting papers.

Some very exciting new research ideas and resources were brought to my attention, such as The Digital Panopticon and Convict Voyages datasets, which include some physical descriptions of transported people in their ample records and will be useful for tracing facial marks across the globe. Michelle Smith of Deakin University discussed relationships between girls’ health, exercise and beauty in late-Victorian women’s fashion magazines, highlighting areas where normative beauty and its opposites were tied to good behaviour and moralised notions of health (and reminding me of the dastardly ‘bicycle face‘ and ‘tennis grin’). Australia and New Zealand are also seeing a foregrounding of the World War One centenary in museums and public scholarship, and there was a particularly interesting panel featuring curators and consultant academics of Te Papa’s (Wellington) and Melbourne Museum’s major exhibitions (Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War and Love and Sorrow, respectively). The Melbourne exhibition in particular had taken seriously the ethical invocation not to show weapons without showing the wounds they cause, and prominently featured Australian soldiers with facial injuries. Many were treated at Sidcup Hospital before being shipped back to Australia; several cases have been traced by Kerry Neale (Australian War Memorial) in her PhD thesis (a public lecture is available here).

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