Last year I helped mum organise her printed photos. We did this over the course of a few months and not only was it fun to spend time with mum and listen to her stories, but it was also very satisfying to get the collection organised and digitised.
Along the way, we came across some very old photos from the early 1920s. They were in an album that my auntie had given us. Unfortunately, most of the photos within the album were not relevant, as we didn’t know the people who were in them, but there were a handful that we kept. These photos told the story of my grandfather’s time when he was a young boy living in country Victoria. There were photos of him with his dog and riding a bike along a country lane. Simple themes, but so very precious – moments captured of one’s early life about 100 years ago!
Of particular interest were photos of my grandfather pictured with his father – my great grandfather. For a few years, my great grandfather was the prison warden at Beechworth Jail. During his time at the jail, he and his family lived next door in cottages that were provided to prison workers. There were photos of the jail itself, and of my grandfather and his family pictured outside of the jail. There were also photos of the main street of Beechworth – all taken in the early 1920s or thereabouts – 100 years ago!
I had never been to Beechworth, but organising these photos, and then scanning and documenting them, piqued my interest. I knew that I wanted to explore that part of Victoria and see these places for myself. I wanted to go to the jail and photograph it from the same angle as the one taken 100 years earlier, and I wanted to take a photo of the main street of Beechworth with its beautiful old buildings. It wasn’t just those photos that made me want to visit the area – throughout the organising process, we came across other photos taken in the 1950s-1960s of mum and her family visiting Bright, and other towns around that area where their relatives had lived. Hearing her stories and seeing the photos made me want to visit these places.
So that’s exactly what we did! This Easter my family and I made the long drive to Victoria’s high country. We were based at Wangaratta and from there we did day trips to Beechworth, Bright and the alpine region, including a winding, but stunning drive to the summit of Mount Buffalo – another place that mum had often talked about visiting in her youth. We admired the grand old buildings on the main street of Beechworth, and on one of the nights, we sat around a fire at around a fire at Beechworth Jail listening to stories of some of the prisoners that had passed through its walls, including the infamous Ned Kelly. We saw the cottages next door to the jail where my grandfather had lived whilst his father worked at the prison.
It was all so interesting, not just because of the family connection, but also because of the history of the area. Not only that, but the surrounding countryside was beautiful, and the autumn colours were well and truly out in force.
I had never really thought much about visiting this part of Victoria. I knew that I would someday, but it was coming across those old photos last year that gave me the impetus to go, and it was great to see them come to life. I will definitely be going back to that part of the world at some point to further explore the area!
Organising, digitising and preserving old photos is such an important task to undertake. It connects us with the past whilst going through the process and ensures that a legacy is left behind for the next generation to enjoy. If you would like to organise your own photos, or that of your family, but don’t know where to start, I can help! I offer a Starter Pack to get you on your way and can help as little or as much as you would like throughout the process. Please contact me for further details.