One of the Anglo-Chinese families from NSW that I have written about has been featured in the latest refresh of the Memory of a Nation exhibition at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra.
During World War I, young Percy Sam of West Wyalong applied for both a CEDT and an Emigration Certificate before travelling with his father to China – at the same time as his older brothers were away fighting in the AIF. It’s a story that illustrates the contradictory ways that Australians of part-Chinese descent were treated by government authorities in the early twentieth century. For more on that see my earlier blog post and my Inside History article. Alastair Kennedy’s Chinese Anzacs book also discusses the Sam brothers.
Five documents about the Sam family are featured the National Archives exhibition:
- a police report about father William Flood Sam that accompanied his CEDT application (NAA: SP42/1, C1915/4058)
- photographs of father William and son Percy Sam that accompanied their CEDT applications (NAA: SP42/1, C1915/4058; SP42/1, C1915/4032 )
- a letter from mother Jane Sam giving permission for son Percy to travel overseas with his father (NAA: C1915/4032)
- an attestation paper for elistment in the AIF for son James Sam (NAA: B2455: Sam James Francis).
The display is behind glass in a drawer, so it’s a bit hard to photograph. The main text reads:
At the outbreak of World War I the Sam brothers, like many young Australian men, were eager to represent their country. Two of the brothers – James and Norman – enlisted in November 1914 and went on to serve at Gallipoli in 1915. Over the remainder of that year, three more brothers – Henry, George and Tom – also enlisted.
Also in 1915 their father William and younger brother Percy wanted to travel to China, William’s birth country. While some family members were considered ‘sufficiently European’ to serve overseas in the Australian Imperial Force, William and Percy had to apply for a Certificate of Exemption from the dictation test before they could travel due to their part-Chinese heritage.
Alas, there are a couple of problems with this short account.
First, only four Sam brothers enlisted (a fifth, Tom, was said to have gone off to war, but there is no record of him actually having served – a check of B2455 would have shown that); two Sam grandsons, with the surname Loolong, did also enlist though.
Second, a Certificate of Exemption (from the dictation test) was different from a Certificate Exempting from the Dictation Test, which is what William and Percy applied for and were granted.
Third, William Sam did not have ‘part-Chinese’ heritage as the caption implies – he was ‘full’ Chinese.
One of my projects over the summer has been to create a small online exhibition using Trove lists and a nifty online exhibition framework built by Tim Sherratt.
The list feature in Trove allows registered users to create their own collections of items. They’re a handy thing if you’re researching a particular topic and want to organise the material that you’ve found in Trove, or even if you just want to go back to random stuff that you like. You can keep your Trove lists private, or make them public and share what you’ve found with others.
Tim, who until recently was part of the Trove management team, thought that it would be good to take that sharing to another level — so he’s created a framework that lets you use your Trove lists to create an online exhibition. You can read more about Tim’s thoughts on this process on his blog.
I was keen to give it a try, and decided to make a pictorial exhibition about the Chinese in New South Wales to 1940. I started by making nine lists in Trove, which would serve as topics in my exhibition. Gradually I added a selection of pictures, objects and illustrated newspapers articles to each of my lists. I gave each of my lists a short description and arranged the items in chronological order. Because I’ve included newspaper articles, it would be best if I took the time to correct the OCR text for each one, but I’m impatient and wanted to get onto building the exhibition itself.
Tim’s DIY Trove Exhibition is pretty straightforward to use, particularly if you have some experience (even very basic experience) with web publishing or coding. He’s written clear, step-by-step instructions. The process first involves getting yourself a GitHub account and a Trove API key, and then customising his code to make your exhibition. Customising the code might look scary, but if you follow the instructions carefully you should be okay! There are further ways that you can customise the exhibition — for example, I changed the fonts — but you don’t need to do anything more if you don’t want to.
Once you’ve made the exhibition, you can easily add or take away items, or change your list descriptions, or change the order items appear in a list. Simply make the change to your list in Trove and it will appear in your exhibition after refreshing your browser.
Here’s my exhibition:
The Chinese in New South Wales: A history in pictures to 1940
Hope you like it!
A new exhibition, ‘An Oriental journey through Queensland’, is on at Queensland Parliament House and Brisbane’s Chinatown until 8 February, 2010.
The exhibition celebrates the role of Chinese migrants in Queensland’s 150 year history, and was developed by Chiu-Hing Chan, Young Queenslander of the Year and the Australian Chinese General Chamber of Business vice-chairman.
The exhibition represents northern, central and western Queensland and is divided into six periods: the Gold Rush, Federation, World War II, post-war, 1970s and today. A host of contributors have created over 30 history panels, featuring more than 100 photographs, and two DVD displays on the subject of Queensland Chinese heritage.
The exhibition describes how the Chinese first came to Queensland for the gold rushes at Gympie, Palmer River and Cooktown in north Queensland, and also sites in central Queensland such as Mount Morgan. The exhibition highlights the major influence the Chinese had on Queensland’s rural history, particularly as pioneer farmers but also within all other sectors of society, such as their employment in the state’s police force and Australia’s armed forces.
Queensland Parliament House, until 1 December 2009
Brisbane’s Chinatown, 21 January – 8 February 2010
Dr Maria Friend, Marilyn Dooley, Mark Wang and Helen Pithie
(07) 3852 2360 or www.acgcb.org.au