Placing the post in the landscape of colonial memories: revisiting the memory of a colonial frontier. [abstract].

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Haggis, Jane
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Paul Fox closes his exploration of the institutionalisation of memory within museums with the question 'do Australians inhabit a postcolonial world or a landscape of colonial memories?' [Fox, 1992, 317] The question forms for him out of an analysis of the ways in which the orderings of aboriginality and space of the colonial museum continued to haunt Australian cultural imaginaries in the early 1990s. Fox traces how colonial museums ordered their knowledge always in reference to the imperial centre, accomplishing a kind of double colonialism – reinforcing 'the European acquisition of space' while ensuring that, for the 'former peripheral city of empire ... memory exists in and belongs to a system of knowledge created elsewhere' [ibid, pp. 308-9]. It seems to me Fox posed his question to invite a response affirming the colonial quality of Australian memory. However, considering his question in 2005, ‘post’ the debates over race, reconciliation, and history that dominated the turn of century, elicits a more uncertain response in me. This paper explores these questions through a study of the social memory of a colonial frontier in the southeast of South Australia. Drawing on Healy’s conception of social memory as a 'network of performances' in which 'relationships between past and present are performed' (1995, p. 5) the paper focuses on the ways in which one colonial ‘memory’ of the frontier, Mrs Christina Smith’s book "The Booandik Tribe of South Australian Aborigines: a Sketch of their Habits, Customs, Legends, and Language", first published in 1880, is performed in two contemporary renderings of the social memory of colonialism: the Lady Nelson Discovery Centre, in Mount Gambier, South Australia, and the writings of Mrs Heather Carthew, great granddaughter of Mrs Smith.