Words in Place: A Digital Cartography of Australian Writers and Writing in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra

Project: Research

Project Details


This project interactively maps sixty (60) public spaces which permanently commemorate Australian writing or writers in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra utilising archival, visual, textual, oral and geocoding methods to produce a digital map (http://wordsinplace.net). The map at www.wordsinplace.net uses mobile-friendly Google Maps GPS technology to pinpoint 35 public literary sites from Sydney, 15 from Melbourne and 10 from Canberra. A menu allows refined searches by type of site (eg. statue) or writer (eg. poet). Each site has at least three on-site photographs and ten contain de-identified interviews with locals who physically engage with the site (eg. Rosemary Dobson Park or Manning Clark House in Canberra).

Layman's description

A new website mapping trends in the public commemoration of Australian writers in three cities using Google Maps, funded by a Macquarie University Research Development Grant (MQRDG).

Key findings

- Key ‘surge’ dates: 1988, 2000/01, post-2005
- Female representation better than expected (roughly 40%)
Division between ‘old’ static sites (eg. 1931 Lawson statue in Domain with bio details) and ‘new’ interactive, text-based, oft. living ones (eg. 1999 Veil of Trees 100m away)
- Melbourne, UNESCO City of Literature, poorer at public commemoration of writers than (post-Stanhope) Canberra: scattershot, less innovative, less visible in built environment.

- No Indigenous authors represented prior to 1991
Four sites (6.6%), always as part of a series
1991 Circular Quay Writers’ Walk (Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Faith Bandler)
1992 Street names in ACT suburb of Ngunnawal (David Unaipon)
2007 Franklin (Oodgeroo, Lisa Bellear)
2010 Walsh Bay Theatre Walk (Bob Maza)

- Multicultural writers also fare poorly, with three sites (5%), and less in stand-alone single-author dedication than larger collectives in the Circular Quay Writers’ Walk (David Malouf), The Veil of Trees (Malouf again) and Canberra’s suburb of Franklin (Alex Buzo).

- If one (somewhat dubiously) includes Australia’s most commemorated writer, born Henry Larsen to a Norwegian father he hardly knew, the multicultural representation jumps to twelve (20%) and fifteen (37.5%) for Kenneth Adolf Schloesser – aka Kenneth Slessor. Irish, Scotch, Welsh…? Malouf most prominent author of non-European background (Lebanese, Sephardic Jewish)

- Current and Emerging Trends

More intersections of public sculpture and written text (sometimes the one person, eg. sculptor-poet Michael Snape); both factual, imaginary localities
Living authors included = increases likelihood of Indigenous and non-European representation
Interactive cities, literary precincts: Wheeler Centre/Walsh Bay etc
Interactive use of physical environment: sun, wind, tides, rock, shadow, eco/geo-text, solar-powered
Digital: GPS literary tourism, scannable sites (eg. Garema Pl Canberra), international scholarship of literary mapping – Anglophone and beyond

(See http://wordsinplace.net for more detail and commentary)

Effective start/end date1/01/1431/12/15