When we use the word ‘history’ we can be referring to things that happened a few years, decades, centuries or thousands of years ago. I find it interesting, sometimes shocking, to hear of things that happened in the past. Shocking things happen these days too. The prevailing attitudes and how they have changed over time also interest me. When I was at school I loved ancient history. I was fascinated by ancient cultures, including those of Egypt, Greece and Rome.
A few of the well known quotes used today date back to ancient times. Latin poet, Propertius Sextus who was born around 50 – 45 BC came up with the saying, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ Gaius Petronius Arbiter, a Roman who lived between 27 and 66 AD is famous for the words, ‘One good turn deserves another.’ I imagine they never thought people would be quoting them two thousand years later.
When we make a judgement on how people acted in the past we also need to be aware of the general conditions people were living under. What did the majority believe at the time? What were the laws of the time? If we can find out about the social environment of the time we are more likely to have some understanding for why people behaved as they did.
Museums give us an idea of how people lived in the past. Those in the capital cities may have displays dating back hundreds of years, including exhibits from other countries. Some museums specialise in a topic such as migration, trains, trams or war.
There are towns with a museum which concentrates on local history. Last year I spent an interesting morning on a tour of my local museum. There were exhibits showing photos and relics of the town's past. One display was a collection of tools made at the James Martin and Co Phoenix Foundry which employed 700 men in its heyday.
Tools made in the James Martin Foundry. Author's photo
However, I made a disturbing observation. Some items displayed as of historical interest were used during my childhood.
I remember using scales like this. Author’s photo
Some towns and cities have statues as a tribute to explorers, kings, queens, leaders and people who were important in the history of the area. There may be further information in local museums or the library. It can be inspiring to look at displays about those who were influential in days gone by. Sometimes there are streets, suburbs, rivers or mountains named after these people.
Statue of Colonel William Light at North Adelaide. Author’s photo
Many towns and cities have memorials listing the names of those killed in war. The descendants of some of these people may still live locally.
Memorial at Norwood S.A. Author’s photo
There may also be artwork commemorating wars. This can be an effective way of imparting information about the history of war.
Part of the painting on the wall of the Salisbury (SA) RSL hall. Author’s photo
In other places street art shows some aspects of history of the area. Fashions, mode of transport and the style of buildings are a few of the things which can be depicted very effectively in art work.
Part of a mural at Kapunda. Author’s photo
Section of a mural on Currie Street Adelaide. Author’s photo
Having always lived in South Australia, I find its history particularly relevant to me. It is less than 200 years since this state was founded but so much has happened in that time. There have been great changes in terms of inventions, discoveries, structure of society, attitudes, housing, education, health and so on. The determination of some of the earlier generations and specific individuals is inspiring. It is fascinating to reflect on some of the changes that have occurred and to ponder what will happen here in the future.