Last question first… The Mapping Brisbane History website is a very unusual website, one that is very unique for Queensland, and even Australia. There are many online mapping sites for history, but very few pay much attention to the research techniques and perspectives of scholarly history and geography. Even history websites with good mapping components, which can be very informative, often lack the attention to detail and comprehension –marketing at the expense of knowledge production. There are excellent academic history websites, such as Queensland Historical Atlas, but these sites are designed as static outcomes rather than as a mapping tool. Furthermore, the strength of Mapping Brisbane History website is that has been created from wide community interaction, with local history organisations contributing their knowledge to the project (please consult the Acknowledgement Section).
That is why we have started with a series of questions. The Mapping Brisbane History is more than just a publicly informative site. It is also a research tool. And as such, it is not a polished product. It is an evolving record, and there will be amendments and additions. The purpose of the site is that everyone can have an opportunity to learn about the history of Brisbane in the spatial dimension. History as time-space. And thinking about history in that modern and social science way, the importance of networks appears in the work of historical geography. You discover that various sites across Brisbane were interconnected, and those exchanges change over time. You can see how small scaled units are connected to bigger ones.
In local studies the choice should not be the boundaries of the parish, as in parochialism (“a local shop for local people”), or to be abandoned to ‘Big History’. There has been for too long the losing out to either of the great fallacies: losing all particularities to overgeneralisation, or losing the ‘big picture’ to a forest of fragmented details. Structure is not the villain that is has been made out to be, and not all structures are the same. Examining networks inside the local area can be emancipative. We can discover bigger worlds within smaller units, and we realise that this is the freedom to travail the boundaries. “Think global, act local” is now an old adage, attributed to the town planner and social activist Patrick Geddes, from his 1915 publication, Cities in Evolution. The Mapping Brisbane History is a step to act locally, but to think of historical sites in terms of global themes, particularly as social organisation on the local scale and the question of how we – as Brisbane residents – lived together.
As to the first question, what a reader will find on the website are a thousand historical sites right across the Brisbane area. And this number will increase and, when needed, information recorded in a site’s panel will be corrected. The sites have been organised in a particular way – to aid the study of geographic areas within Brisbane, so as to understand the history in a comprehensive and interconnected manner.
As historical geography, the key to understanding the website is the structure. There are three levels of geographical structure, and you can find out more here. The other important dimension for organising sites is epochs. Epochs are historical periods constructed by historians, well after the events. The timeframes should not be seen as hard-and-fast cut-off points in time. They are simply convenient ways that historians generalise for an observation on a group of particulars. There is no one code-book on doing periodisation, but relative conventions (to the local context) are usually adhered to. In the case of the Mapping Brisbane History website, the convention is the four ways to understand Queensland History. Although we are not thinking in terms of rigid cut-off years, it is still useful to have key years that will define four epochs, and it underscores the point that we are not dealing with equal half-centuries of time. So, the time periods (Epochs) are divided thus:
The process is not about fitting in cut-off years, but the general location of a site’s organisational life. When we have technically the same site at the same location, but having organisational lifeforms across epochs, or are transmuted into different organisational forms, the solution is to have additional entries for the site as different organisational site. The solution, though, is time-consuming, and additional entries will only come in time.
The Mapping Brisbane History Project is both the funded mapping project from the Brisbane City Council Community History Grants, in the periods of 2012-2013, and 2015-2016, and 2017-2018, and an ongoing program of local studies across Brisbane, using the MBH online mapping program as a significant historic and geographic tool.
Originally the Mapping Brisbane Southside History (MBSH) Project was an initiative of the Coopers Plains Local History Group Inc., as part of the Brisbane Southside History Network (BSHN), funded by the Brisbane City Council 2012-2013 Community History Grant Program. The MBSH Sub-Project is now subsumed into the Mapping Brisbane History (MBH) Project, as is also the Mapping Brisbane Northside History (MBNH) Sub-Project.
Follow the link to the Acknowledgements page for further information on the MBSH team, local history enthusiasts, and other professional historians and spatial scientists who have greatly assisted in the project.
The information contained on this website was researched using the information that was available in 2017. It is, therefore, subject to future amendments should new sources become accessible during the next few months to end of December 2018.
The Coopers Plains Local History Group Inc., as a sponsoring member of the Brisbane Southside History Network, had been granted $22,000 in one of the 2016-2017 Brisbane Community History Grants, from the Brisbane City Council’s Brisbane History Grants Program.
The funding and the work of three MBH team members over the next twelve months has produced in one year, 1,000+ heritage and lost Brisbane sites marked and described within 200 words each, thus an asset of possibly 200,000 words professionally researched of Brisbane localities in the form of online historical geography.