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Echuca Historical Society records its own history in new book

By Ivy Jensen

A BOOK about the Echuca Historical Society has been released to coincide with its 60-year birthday.

Conserving the Past for the Future 1960-2020 is a compilation of stories and photographs from the society’s minutes, from bringing back the paddlesteamers, saving buildings and streetscapes, to the stories of the hard work members did to bring the society through 60 years.

Royal Historical Society of Victoria president Richard Broome had planned to launch the 270-page book in Echuca, but he has not been allowed to travel because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The Emeritus Professor in History at La Trobe University said he had been looking forward to visiting the town and meeting Echuca Historical Society members.

“I would have been delighted to have launched this book and I am now equally delighted to add to this online event with a few words,” he said.

“I am enthusiastic to be involved, because not every historical society writes its own history. Indeed, it is rather ironic that we're often slow to do this, even though our interest is in history. We are often too interested in finding out about something else in the past, usually from our own locality, that we forget the entity of which we are a part, and which is the vehicle for our explorations of the past.”

Royal Historical Society of Victoria president Richard Broome was originally going to launch Conserving the Past for the Future, a book celebrating 60 years of the Echuca Historical Society.

The first moves for a historical society in Echuca arose out of the need to preserve Echuca’s maritime history, specifically its wharf.

“I was pleased to read that my organisation, the Historical Society of Victoria, in 1945 assisted in this endeavour,” Prof Broome said.

“It is not easy to create a new society, and this did not happen until 1960, and was again driven by the history of the river in the aim to purchase and preserve the PS Adelaide. When you think of it, this was a mighty undertaking and shows the courage of those first members of your society.

“Often, groups form and succeed when struggling for something, and your society again took on the challenge of finding a home in the old police station, which was achieved in 1970. I particularly liked the images of the children at the opening of the museum. The society then fought with others to identify sites needing protection across the port area, revealed in the subtitle ‘a finger in a lot of pies’.”

Prof Broome said it was quite astonishing the amount of submissions and the number of battles fought by the society over decades, which the book documented.

“Your own collection has expanded immeasurably over the decades too, revealed in text and images in the book, and by the fact of becoming a registered Place of Deposit in 2008, reconfirmed in 2019,” he said.

“The last third of the book is innovative in featuring the annual reports of presidents, which generally capture the life of the society in the previous year.

“This history is up to date with the COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival and, like elsewhere, messing with the society’s plans.

“But Echuca Historical Society will march on as it has done for 60 years, with tenacity and innovation, tinged with great enjoyment, which is evident in the many images contained in the book.”

The book costs $30 and is available at the EHS museum, 1 Dickson St, Echuca, Port of Echuca Discovery Centre, Collins Bookstore or by emailing [email protected] and the society will post it for $10 extra.

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