When you know the history of the place you live, you feel more connected to that place. The more layers of history we discover, the more we understand our investment in that connection, and the more we strive to make our own layer of history count. How that understanding develops, manifests differently in each community over time. But if that community has a library, it plays a pivotal role in developing ways, those connections can be shared with everyone who is looking for them. Libraries have the power and position to invigorate the history our society can otherwise take for granted.
The Glass House Mountains have a rich history. 70kms north of Brisbane, they rise like sentinels out of the horizon of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The domes, cones and spires, these remnants of a 27 million year old volcanic purge, embody significant landmark qualities and evoke strong emotional responses. They range in height from the southernmost peak of Mt Elimbah at 109 metres, to the highest and most westerly Mt Beerwah, at 556 metres.
When I first moved to Queensland, my husband and I didn’t know anyone, and we used to go out to these mountains every weekend and they became our friends. They captivated us, and we looked forward to exploring the area every chance we could. Background Glass House National Park is in eight sections ranging in size from 11 hectares to 291 hectares and in total cover an area of approximately 883 hectares. The eleven sections of the parks are: Mt Tibrogargan, Mt Cooee, Mt Beerwah, Mt Ngungun, Mt Coonowrin, Mt Elimbah, Mt Miketeebumulgrai, Mt Coochin, Mt Tibberoowuccum, Mt Beerburrum and Mt Tunbubudla,The Twins.
Following Kierkegaard, we may understand the cultural heritage of the mountains, by looking backwards. In looking backwards, we hear their many voices.
This chain of mountains are known in traditional Gubbi Gubbi language as ‘daki comon’ meaning ‘stones standing up’, although this name is rarely used and even harder to reference. The first sighting of these peaks recorded by Europeans was in the journal of Captain James Cook. He first sighted and named the mountains when sailing the eastern coast of Australia. The same wind that blew across these mountains filled the Endeavour's sails, and in his journal of 17th May 1770, Cook wrote: "These hills lie but a little way inland, and not far from each other: they are very remarkable on account of their singular form of elevation, which very much resemble glass houses, which occasioned my giving them that name’.
State Library of Queensland holds many items that refer to this group of mountains, reflecting the heritage value our community places on both the individual peaks that form them, and the forest and farmland that link them. The exact number though is difficult to say, and I’d like to use this image to explain why. According to the catalogue information supplied with the photo, in 1912 three sisters—Jenny, Sara and Etty Clark – became the first women to successfully climb Mt Coonowrin or Crookneck, as it’s locally known. The sisters and their male counterparts, Jack Sairs, a local, Willie Fraser, an engineering student, and George Rowley, a photographer made their ascent at dawn and scaled what was known as the insurmountable peak in warm conditions, in what I imagine to be their heavy and cumbersome clothing. Not only that but 4 of the 6 cycled 7.5 hours there and back from Brisbane to do it. Quite a feat under the circumstances.
When I began researching I would look at this photo and it didn’t strike me as being the original. I’d think, they must have used a really modern camera with a timer to take the picture, because all 6 of them are in it. But more than that, there was an incongruence. The man on the far right isn’t facing the camera the same way as the others, the grass around him is a different colour… and he seems to have a distant presence.
This is the image as it appears in The Queenslander, June 8, 1912. Despite the lack of clarity, we can see George Rowley in the image and that he’s listed in the caption. The SLQ copy print image is no doubt digitised from this issue of The Queenslander.
On further investigation I found the original image in the Bankfoot House Collection held by Sunshine Coast Library. As you can see there are only 5 people in this photo, and Sunshine Coast Libraries confirmed the 6th person is George Rowley, the photographer, and an early example of photoshop. I think he added himself in, in the editing suite for the photo’s inclusion in The Queenslander, and who could blame him for not wanting to miss out?
Bankfoot House is a heritage-listed homestead drenched in local history. It has played a significant role in the Glass House Mountains community, in the past providing the major rest stop between Gympie and Brisbane, the Post Office, general store, butcher, accommodation, and a centre for district activities. It’s now a museum and heritage centre. The people at Bankfoot House didn’t know about the existence of the doctored photo, and so that was a really nice connection and outcome to be involved in.
It’s interesting to note with these two images … what you see isn’t potentially what happened This kind of scrutiny is applied liberally among astute historians, and our library heritage collections benefit from the same kind of observation.
The way our content is described depends on things like – When it was described Information supplied and available at the time - Facts are left in, out and so are details that don’t always paint the full story. Who described it and the knowledge of our staff And in-house resources – our systems and practices
State Library of Queensland has the image of the group on the summit in our copy print collection, however, nowhere in the record does it mention or link to, Coonowrin or The Glass House Mountains. Such was the usage of the name Crookneck, that’s what the inscription bears and the item singularly bears the subject headings: Mountaineering Crookneck , 1912 Crookneck ( Qld .) 5 records in the collections are returned when searching the keyword ‘Crookneck’ and 2 of those are of the mountain, found in the summary in single inverted commas, decades apart. A search for Coonowrin returns another five items, one sharing the both names in the record. Over to Sunshine Coast libraries online catalogue (searching 8 local libraries). Keeping in mind that the Glass House Mountains are part of the Sunshine Coast district, and the engagement in cultural heritage in this region is strong : Coonowrin returns 53 records 15 are related to Crookneck (usually in the title or content summary) The rest are related to Coonowrin Rd, orthophoto maps and the old Coonowrin train station Crookneck returns 21 records 6 refer to the mountain as Crookneck alone Trove newspapers comes out on top in this example –178 Crookneck mentions in Queensland newspapers, 83 of those in tags and comments – This is community driven, as nearly all of them relate to Coonowrin and the Glass House Mountains. And finally 236 results for keyword Coonowrin, 33 of those in tags and comments.
In both the Trove community and SCL, I see that as a good example of colloquial knowledge working as metadata to improve access to collections for everyone. The opportunity in this example is that the photo in question is a significant item when we look at the relationship potential it has - to early climbing history and women’s history, for example.
It’s not a case to critique cataloguers and despair at subject headings. But rather a case to evaluate our description approach to better contextualise our collections.
And where did the name Crookneck come from? It’s actually the anglicised version of the name attributed to the Maroochy dialect of the Gubbi Gubbi people, interpreted as kunna (neck) warang (crooked) – explained in the Aboriginal dreaming story. One of the earliest mentions is by William Landsborough in 1880, retelling a corrupted version of this dreaming story to the readers of The Brisbane Courier.
Today, the name Crookneck is recognised by people in the region as much as Coonowrin, if not more. In the Queensland Place Names guide from DNRM, there is no entry for Coonowrin; it is listed as an alternative name for Crookneck.
So at what point does colloquial knowledge become valid metadata? Library systems need to work with authorised headings and description practices to drive access to content so this local knowledge translates to wider access.
When I approach my library heritage collections I trust that they are a comprehensive compendium, of cultural heritage and lore; and my community’s collective memory. The user specific layer of that theory is that, past the first gate of access, finding that knowledge within the catalogue will be a coherent experience.
A multi faceted approach of staff, systems and community is what’s required to ensure comprehensive and responsive delivery of results. This is becoming crucial, because our collections are no longer valued by their exclusivity. Libraries have the role of providing access and, nested in this outcome, describing content in a way that embodies social complexity.
Acknowledging that we have big legacy collections described by staff in another time and place – and working within in the social and cultural context of the time – our challenge is to ensure that descriptive content continues to be accessible and relevant to today users, by communicating new interpretations.
With our systems we can use search prompts like ‘Did you mean?’ and ‘See also’ to create links to existing content and enable us to learn from those search patterns. We can experiment with Trove and WorldCat to link our content in meaningful, cohesive ways. We can make sure tags and comments are made available and easy to use, and initiate campaigns that encourage our users to add them. And we can develop new ways to connect, because that’s what libraries do.
We can reach out to our local communities and make a case to create visible connections. The concerted effort of crowdsourcing initiatives can uncover new data and enable us to activate vast resources of knowledge, to gather and process information faster than ever, despite the daunting volume of raw data and limitations of in-house resources.
We can activate our staff and systems to pursue the knowledge of the people we serve. Collaborating with our communities needs to be deliberate, and seen as a multi purpose tool to open up our collections to further interpretation. And as we seek to expand the ways people can encounter and interact with libraries, we can encourage them to express their own history.
The impact of this kind of approach can better anticipate, represent and serve our patrons and facilitate meaningful, reactive discoveries that bond our communities.
The voices of the Glass House mountains are many, and as we’ve seen with the Clark sisters image, at our fingertips. Catalogue records everywhere are waiting to be recognised for their historical significance.
If someone is looking at our collection, we should aim to provide as many facets of interpretation about that item that legitimately exist. Ideally this record would not only have Crookneck and Coonowrin, it would have linked content explaining that it was also an iteration of the original photo, and where to find it. What we can work towards is transparency and collaboration within existing library networks, adding data in intelligible ways to make connections that otherwise may lie dormant.
In the not so distant past, card catalogues like this was the primary way library users found content. We have come a long way in a short amount of time. Now, we have the potential to increase the social richness of the connections people can make when heritage collections are made cohesively available.
On 18th May, 1893 Mr. H. G. Stokes, geologist to the Queensland Museum, gave a presentation of his paper ‘The Glass House Mountains’: ‘Briefly to allude to what is already known concerning the Glasshouse Mountains, it may be remarked that the literature relating to the geology of this district is somewhat meagre and conflicting.’ In the 123 years that have passed, the people of Queensland have created layers of rich content to alleviate this issue. Not only of geology, but of literature, photographs, art, local history and much more. Information may still be conflicting, but it’s by no means meagre. It is now in the capable hands of our libraries to provide these works full judicious expression.
In closing I’d like to share this picture of 59 year old Mrs Lesley 'Ginny' Love (nee Clark) half way up Mt Coonowrin in 1949.
They went to watch a party of fourteen, mostly scouts reach the summit. Mrs Love, who was accompanied by 70 year old Clementina Burgess, was one of the Clark sisters who climbed the mountain in 1912.
The Glass House mountains: increasing access to our heritage collections Jacinta Sutton, Project Officer, State Library of Queensland
Glass House Mountains, a case study:
Increasing access to our heritage collections
#ALHF2016 Glass House Mountains viewed from Mary
Cairncross Reserve. Source: Bidgee via Wiki
The journal of James Cook, Thursday 17th May, 1770
On the summit of Crookneck on the Sunshine Coast,
Queensland. 25 May 1912.
Appears on p.27 of The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939) June 8, 1912.
Clark Party on the summit of Coonowrin, 1912.
Courtesy of Sunshine Coast Council Bankfoot House Collection
LHS: As the image appeared in The Queenslander, 8 June 1912.
Caption: On the summit of Coonowrin.
Back Row: Mr. J Sairs, Miss L.J Clark.
Front Row: Miss H.D. Clark, Miss S.E. Clark, Mr.W. Fraser, Mr. G.A. Rowley.
RHS: The original image kept by Sunshine Coast Council Bankfoot House Collection, 1912.
Source: Andy Hay, Flickr CC BY 2.0
SLQ: 5 records in the collections are returned when searching the
keyword ‘Crookneck’, 2 of those are of the mountain
Coonowrin returns another 5 records, 1 sharing the both names in
SCL: Crookneck returns 21 records
Coonowrin returns 53 records
15 are related to Crookneck somewhere in the
record (usually title or content summary)
6 refer to the mountain as Crookneck alone
Trove newspapers : 178 Crookneck mentions, 83 of those
in tags and comments, nearly all of them relating to
Coonowrin and the Glass House Mountains. 236 results
for Coonowrin, 33 of those in tags and comments
The Brisbane Courier, 16 Dec 1880
View of the Glasshouse Mountains, 1894, John Oxley Library,
State Library of Queensland. hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/127352
Driving through the Glasshouse Mountains District,1935. John Oxley Library,
State Library of Queensland, hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/13016.
Our staff Our systems
Left: Interior of Townsville library, ca. 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland., neg: 184898
Middle: Courtesy Pixabay CC0 Public Domain
Right: Reader consulting computer terminals, 1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, neg: 144002
On the summit of Crookneck on the Sunshine Coast,
Queensland. 25 May 1912.
Mr. H. G. Stokes, Queensland Museum geologist:
‘Briefly to allude to what is already known concerning the
Glasshouse Mountains, it may be remarked that the
literature relating to the geology of this district is
somewhat meagre and conflicting.’
18 May, 1893
Page 21 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 23
September, 1916. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
Courtesy of Sutherland Shire Council
Ginny Love (nee Clark), Clementina Burgess and Mrs Mickalsen climbing Mt Coonowrin
(Crookneck) ca. 1948. Bankfoot House, Sunshine Coast Library collection.