WHAT HAPPENS IF A LIFE TIME OF COLLECTING, IT IS RECOGNISED AS A SIGNIFICANT SOCIAL HISTORY RECORD. In late 2022 the Royal Historical Society of Victoria took delivery of the Jones Collection courtesy of the guardian of Gwen Jones and a historian.
RHSV volunteer Cheryl Griffin writes:
This is a wide-ranging, deeply rich collection that documents a century of one family’s life in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg from the 1920s. Yet it is more than that. The Jones Collection’s depth and breadth takes it out of the realm of domestic history to a collection of great public significance. While it is a personal collection, ‘curated’ originally by the donor Gwen Jones through her placement and grouping of material, the collection also covers Gwen’s life as a daughter, schoolgirl, teacher, teacher of teachers, traveller, lover of the arts, researcher and writer of history and so has great significance outside the domestic sphere.
Curation and rehousing
We are fortunate that the collection has been further ‘curated’ by historian Richard Aitken who has patiently, meticulously and very carefully rehoused the thousands of items he has located around the family home, ephemera often interleaved in the pages of Gwen’s books, or in drawers, or on shelves. Richard has also made a basic listing of the material and put aside a small number of objects such as books and records for use in future exhibitions. He and his sister-in-law, Kristen Binns-Smith (Gwen’s guardian), engaged a professional photographer to capture the context of the material in Gwen’s home before it was sold. Richard has also sketched (some are watercolours) the outside of the house. The Jones Collection also contains material from the lives of Gwen’s parents who also lived in the house in Coburg.
Gwen’s decision to bequeath her papers to the RHSV provides the organisation with a rare opportunity to develop our own collection to reflect a level of domestic history that is not well represented currently. It provides the opportunity to diversify our collection to more fully represent the lives of women and of single women in particular, women teachers, education, travellers in the mid-twentieth century and many other areas reflected in the ephemera, documents and objects that make up the Jones Collection.
Look forward to the exhibition and book!
The RHSV will continue to catalogue the collection and, probably in 2024, the collection will generate both an exhibition and a book. In 2024 we will also be launching the inaugural Jones Lecture in Social History.
This article was first published in the Ephemera Newsletter no.18, of April 2023. If you want to read about ephemera and support the Ephemera society, then join the Society here.