The administration of the convict stations on the Tasman Peninsula generated mountains of paperwork, including accounts of the rationing, clothing, housing and labour of convicts, resulting in thousands of letters, reports, returns, maps and plans.
There have already been a number of significant efforts to collect and transcribe these materials, beginning with Margaret Glover’s 1977 archival searches in what is now the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office. Glover’s work was supplemented in 1983 by Ian Brand, who compiled twenty-five volumes of transcribed materials, which have long proved invaluable to researchers and scholars. More recently, in 2005–2006, a team led by Brian Rieusset added substantially to the collection.
One of the first outcomes of the current ARC-funded project is an extensive audit of the Glover, Brand and Rieusset materials, and the locating of documents overlooked by previous collectors. UNE Research Fellow Richard Tuffin has now identified at least another 133 archival items, which are now being copied and transcribed.
Dr Tuffin is being assisted by Kelsey Priestman who is completing a Masters of Public History from Western University, Ontario and is currently undertaking an internship with project partner, the University of Tasmania. Already experienced in nineteenth century records, Kelsey has been enlisted to assist the project for six weeks, working with the Port Arthur Resource Centre Manager, Susan Hood, who has for over a decade orchestrated a transcription project focused on the official conduct records of convicts who served at Port Arthur.
The data will now, for the first time, be correlated with data contained in the monumental Founders and Survivors database, orchestrated by one of the project’s chief investigators, Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. Susan Hood and Trudy Cowley, manager of the Founders & Survivors database, are overseeing the careful integration of these records, which is planned to be completed in mid-2018.
Image: Kelsey Priestman from Western University, Ontario (Canada) joins the Landscapes of Production and Punishment project team at the Port Arthur Resource Centre.