Item 270 - The History of Wagga Wagga

Identity area

Reference code

LB001-270

Title

The History of Wagga Wagga

Date(s)

  • 1970 (Creation)

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Name of creator

(1916-1996)

Biographical history

Keith J. Swan's contribution to our regional history has been by far the most significant to date. An Honours graduate (1950) with a Master of Arts from Sydney University (1958), Swan was awarded an honorary doctorate from Charles Sturt University in April 1995. Before his death in September 1996, Swan charted the region's history in thirteen books and monographs as well as many articles.
Commissioned by the Wagga Wagga City Council, Swan published perhaps his best known work, A History of Wagga Wagga, in 1970. The book was reviewed as an original and pioneering piece of local history, since it was one of the first studies to address Aboriginal history prior to white settlement. He also edited and contributed to a book entitled Historians at Work in which he highlighted the methodology involved in writing and researching regional histories.
Swan began his teaching career in this region in 1950 at the newly established Wagga Wagga Teachers' College. Following the formation of the Riverina College of Advanced Education, Swan was appointed senior lecturer in history in 1972, and became Acting Dean of the School of Business and Liberal Studies one year later.
His contribution to the tertiary education sector was recognised in the 1974 New Year Honours (BEM) and a lecture theatre dedicated in his name on Charles Sturt University's Riverina campus. Whilst working as a professional historian and academic, Swan re-established the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society in 1962. He subsequently served as President and initiated the Society's archival collection.
Swan's collecting initiatives continued with the suggestion that the College form a Riverina Collection of archival material and printed sources to complement regional research and teaching. Following the suggestion by the College Principal Cliff Blake, Swan accepted a consultancy and oversaw the Collection's development. Accompanied by his wife, Vera Swan, who was also a librarian for the College and equally responsible for the Collection's germination, Swan visited a number of archive and library sites in the US, Canada and the UK during 1977 and 1978. Upon his return, he recommended to the College Council that the Collection be split and managed separately, with the printed material forming the basis of the Margaret Carnegie Collection of Australiana, and the archival material kept and housed in the College's new Riverina Archives.

Compiled by James Logan and Troy Whitford.

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