16 January 2024

City Libraries on the hunt for stories from Wollongong's hidden history

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Wollongong's Harp Hotel in the early days.

A well known part of Wollongong’s history, the Harp Hotel, from 1870. From the collections of Wollongong City Libraries and the Illawarra Historical Society – P02/P02894.

If you fancy yourself to be a bit of a Wollongong history buff and have a story about the area that hasn’t previously been known, here’s a chance to share it and be in the running for a cash prize.

Entries are now open for Wollongong City Libraries’ biennial local history prize. The award encourages people to submit an original research paper that documents previously unexplored topics relating to the Wollongong Local Government Area.

The competition has been run since 2016, supported by the Friends of the Wollongong City Libraries. First prize this year is $3000 and $1500 for second.

The winner of the 2022 competition was Michael Samaras for his research paper which uncovered the Nazi past of Wollongong art benefactor Bob Sredersas. The man known as “Mr Bob” had donated his collection of Australian art to the city, which became the founding collection of the Wollongong Art Gallery.

As a result, Wollongong Council removed Sredersas’ name plaque from the gallery.

READ ALSO A pub crawl around Wollongong’s historic hotels and the few still trading today

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the local history prize was a great way for armchair sleuths and history buffs to explore the history of the area and to add to the knowledge of who and what shaped the story of Wollongong.

“Over the years, we’ve collected a number of great local history papers through this competition, which have been added to our local studies collection,” Cr Bradbery said.

“This is a great expansion of knowledge and it’s wonderful to see so many people take an interest in the history of their community.

“I look forward to seeing the thoughtful work submitted to the competition and wish all entrants the best of luck on their project.”

READ ALSO The former Wollongong hoteliers who became murderous Baby Farmers

The local history prize is open to people aged 18 years and over and papers should be between 5000 and 10,000 words on any topic related to the history of Wollongong. Entries close on Friday 28 June.

Winning entries from previous years – which can be loaned through the library – include Andre Brett in 2020 for a paper on railways of the Illawarra between the 1870s and 1915, and the veterans of Dapto Creek by J.G.D Howes and Lorraine Neale in 2018, which shared first prize with Janet Lee’s paper on former Helensburgh identity George Ricket.

Entrants are encouraged to make use of the Libraries’ physical and online Local Studies collection, as well as external resources.

For more information, including terms and conditions, visit the Wollongong City Libraries website.

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