Adelaide (AKA 'Radelaide') has more to offer than transport museums, of course. On my last day there I had a look at the South Australian Museum, as well as some of the nearby sights. This copy of a Venus by Antonio Canova was apparently somewhat controversial when presented to the city in 1892, though she seems fairly demure today. Depending on the angle.
After the AHA, I stayed in Adelaide for a few days to see the sights. I have a bit of a thing for maritime museums, so the South Australian Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide was an obvious choice. It became even more obvious when I discovered that the National Railway Museum and the South Australian Aviation Museum were both within easy walking distance of the Maritime Museum!
Last week, the Australian Historical Association held its 31st annual conference, hosted by the University of Adelaide. The last time I was at an AHA was in 2008 (I didn't have to go far, since it was in Melbourne); it seems to have got bigger since then. Around four hundred delegates, if memory serves; up to nine concurrent sessions as well as three smaller, parallel conferences — that's as big as history conferences get in Australia. If anything it was too big. There was an embarrassment of riches and it wasn't possible to see everything of interest; but that's to be expected (though it would have helped if the sessions were properly streamed by subject). The real problem with big conferences, I find, is that it makes the whole thing a bit fragmented. When you chat to someone in the coffee break, you probably haven't gone to many of the same sessions, let alone each other's. It's harder to get an overall sense of what's going on (though Twitter does help now). So I think I prefer the smaller, more specialist conferences and workshops. That said, it was still an absorbing week of history and well worth attending. Here are some of the highlights (for another attendee's perspective, see here, here, here and here).
There wasn't much aviation history going on, except for Erin Ihde's (New England) paper on Biggles in Australia — which sadly I couldn't attend! But there was quite a lot of military history. Ashleigh Gilbertson (Adelaide) looked at the dedication the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier in Canberra in 1993, and asked why then and not, say, in the early 1920s when the idea was first proposed. The usual answer, and one which I probably would have given myself, is that it had to do with Paul Keating's republican push, but Gilbertson argued that he played no part in the process. Instead it was a confluence of factors which made it possible by the early 1990s (for example, the principle in the world wars, that Australian soldiers would be buried near where they fell, was abandoned from Vietnam on). Christina Twomey (Monash) rather provocatively suggested that feminism 'saved' Anzac Day, which by the early 1980s appeared to be dying along with the diggers. But, she argued, feminist antiwar protests at Anzac Day ceremonies gave great copy to the press, which portrayed the women as extremists and fuelled the determination of veterans and their families to carry on. Caroline Adams (South Australia) looked at Australian nursing in the Boer War. It took some time for them to even be allowed into the rear area hospitals, and they also had a hard time enforcing modern aseptic discipline on the orderlies; but eventually they helped to increase survival rates in the wards. As these selections might suggest, the military history sessions were dominated by women (Yvonne Perkins noted that more than two thirds of the audience in one were female). Why this might be is an interesting question. Maybe it's the result of the turn towards war and society, but then the only paper on operational military history was given by a woman: Meleah Hampton (Adelaide) spoke about Australian infantry-artillery cooperation at Pozieres in 1916. She took as her title J. F. C. Fuller's dictum, 'artillery conquers and infantry occupies', but she showed what a difference discipline made to the infantry's success in following up the artillery's.