Founded in 1976, the Mount Lofty Districts Historical Society members were beginning the journey of chronicling the history of the local area just as the under-construction South Eastern Freeway was weaving its way through Crafers.
The Society has grown to be a vibrant History Centre with a regular program of events, a monthly display in the Coventry Library in Stirling and an ever-growing collection of stories about local organisations and people to explore.
President of the Society, Migration and Demographic Historian Dr Ann Herraman, says while the focus is the history of Mount Lofty, Crafers, Stirling, Aldgate, Bridgewater, and Mylor, the Society takes a broad approach and works collaboratively with neighbouring historical societies when topics and research interests overlap.
“The Historical Society was established because many people in the district feared large segments of local heritage were being lost so local historians, concerned residents and the then Stirling District Council came together to begin gathering important artifacts and stories,” Dr Herraman says.
“Decades later our mission is the same, but we are determined to be visible and connect with younger people and not be a bunch of funny old ladies sitting out the back sorting bus tickets.”
Dr Herraman says the Society is privileged to be able to occupy the current space in the Coventry Library where there are secure archives and a shared research space that is visible to the public through windows.
“The aims of the Society are to uncover, publish and preserve the history of the Mount Lofty Districts and so we work really hard to store and display all kinds of textual publications, images and objects so the community can continue to explore and enjoy special moments in time,” she says.
“In the 1970’s there was a major shift to ‘history from the bottom up’ which gave significant impetus to the growth of local historical societies and museums like ours.
“We were fortunate that the Government of South Australia took up the cause and established the History Trust of SA which, along with the ongoing insight and support of the Adelaide Hills Council, has provided our Society enormous support.”
Since its inception the Society has developed ongoing relationships with local organisations, engaging with local groups, enabling them to take advantage of the History Centre and be able to tell their stories.
“Increasingly we are engaging with local groups – in Stirling alone there are twenty or so groups with great stories to tell like the Stirling sub-branch of the RSL that has been going for 100 years,” Dr Herraman says.
“Every April we do an ANZAC display in the Coventry Library and this year our guest, Rotarian Steve Larkins OAM, spoke about the Virtual War Memorial and Flinders University PhD candidate, Sandra Kearney, shared her research about the Red Cross in South Australia.
“We also regularly partner with local schools to have their students research people who are on their honour roles and create displays for us.
“Another honour role on display had been salvaged from a rubbish tip and kept in a shed for a while before being quietly brought up and given to us – it’s one of our treasured items.”
The Mt Lofty Historical Society is working hard to stay relevant and meaningful by showing everyone who visits how they themselves are making history all the time every day of their lives.
The Society’s History Centre is open to the public for two hours a day, six days a week and there is always someone on hand to share a yarn or two.
“New members of the Society are welcome and there are a range of volunteering opportunities, or you can just use the facilities to follow your own research project,” Dr Herraman says.
“We also have Facebook to share our stories and engage with as many people as possible so residents in nursing homes or school groups who can’t always come into the History Centre can still be part of our dynamic community.
“To get involved just wander past and say hello or come to one of our monthly Friday evening events which cover such diverse topics there will surely be something for everyone to discover and enjoy.”
The Mount Lofty Districts Historical Society holds a significant collection of papers, documents, photographs and special collections which are available for largescale research projects and skilled volunteers are always available to assist family historians, new residents seeking local information and if special assistance is required Primary Researcher Chris Chardon can help.