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On 17 July 2019, the Library was contacted by a member of the public, who had found a large photograph discarded on the streets of Newtown in Sydney’s inner-west.
The item was discovered by Lolina, who thoughtfully donated it to the State Library. From there, the photo fell into the investigative hands of Craig Beavis our Collection Acquisition Officer.
What unfolded was a wholesome journey shining a light on Library research, working with international libraries and reuniting collections with community.
We caught up with Craig to tell us what happened.
What was found and where was it discovered?
Lolina had discovered a large photograph in a council clean up pile while she was in Newtown. She wasn’t sure what the photograph was of, but knew it was important and should be saved.
The black and white image features a large group of men, women and children in a grassy parkland. The cardboard frame reads ‘The Great War National Committee for Relief in Belgium, Hyde Branch, Inaugurated by the Mayor. Councillor S. Welch. J.P.’
What happened once the photograph was in your hands at the Library?
We did some research, of course! We initially thought the image was related to Hyde Park in Sydney, but we were wrong. The photograph was actually taken in Hyde, in the County of Cheshire, in the United Kingdom.
Turns out Stanley Welch J.P, the man who inaugurated the committee, was an alderman and the Mayor of Hyde. There were branches of this Committee throughout the world, including in Sydney – so this may suggest a link.
Wow! What came next?
Since the photograph fell outside the Library's collecting scope, we contacted the Local Studies and Archives unit of the Tameside Library (which covers the Hyde local area). Jill Morris, of the archives section of the library, replied with the following:
It’s amazing that you have found something on the other side of the world relating to our area. We would love to add this to our collection as we do get asked a lot about the Belgium refugees, this will be something else we can add to the resources.
I thought it would be nice of the State Library to cover the transportation costs required to send the photograph to the UK.
When I told Lolina of our plans, she agreed and sent me the following message:
That is wonderful news! I am so happy that this photographic record, although discarded by the roadside in Newtown will find its place back where it belongs, and it will be treasured by the descendants of those depicted. This is great news indeed. If you require a donation for the transportation to the UK, please let me know and I would be happy to contribute.
The photograph was securely packaged and left Macquarie Street on 19 July 2019 for the UK. Both the Tameside Archives and Lolina are thrilled it has made its way back onto home shores!