NSW SuburbLabs is a pilot project connecting historical content in government and public archives and institutions to the testbed locations of the National Broadband Network in NSW.

The project was funded by the NSW Government in 2010 as part of its Broadband Testbed Trials. Two of the test-bed locations feature here: Middleton Grange and Kiama.

The project differed from some other recent digital archives projects, in that it focused on what you could do with widely-accessible publishing platforms like WordPress and Flickr. It also benefited a great deal from Trove, launched by the National Library of Australia in 2010.

As I pieced together collection materials drawn from vastly dispersed collections relating to highly-localised sites, whose significance rested primarily on their having been chosen as broadband test-beds (rather than their particular historical significance), I was once again reminded of the the importance of storytelling, context and interpretation. The tools of the trade for curators and historians, whose work remains vital even as the data – in the form of digital archives – becomes accessible to many in ways not seen before.

And what stories!

Middleton Grange was only given its name in 2005, but explorations of the archives reveal many a fascinating tale about this perimeter suburb of Sydney. Hoxton Park, for example, has long been a place to which struggling inner-city types fled in search of easy money through property – a not unfamiliar tale to residents of the city today.

Living on the Fringe – Hard Times in Hoxton Park tells of what became of these small-time investors, with some wonderful maps of these subdivisions dating back to 1887.

It also happens that Australia’s first published poet, Barron Field, took up humble residence on the 2000 acres known as Hinchinbrook – publishing his much-maligned ‘Kangoroo’ while employed as a judge on the NSW Supreme Court.

Suburb Labs