I will start this week's column with a few blunt statements. History is worth money. I suspect too few people recognize this.
I also suspect that most people are not aware of the range of historical resources available across the broader New England that can enrich lives and also bring cash!
I suspect, too, that those who do recognize this tend to think of it in terms just of their attraction, accommodation or local area. This minimizes opportunities.
It would take a detailed economic study to start to quantify the value of history to the north. However, we can get something of a feel for it if we ask the question who is interested in the history of the north?
We can start here with the growing field of family history.
The disruption of Aboriginal life following European occupation led to many deaths.
Then came forced relocations that merged different groups. Records of all this including births and deaths are scanty.
Not surprisingly, Aboriginal people now are seeking to trace their ancestry as best they can, to find out about the history not just of their families but the clans and language groups from which their ancestors came.
With 591 members, Armidale historian Caroline Chapman's Facebook group, Discussion Group for Aboriginal History of New England, has become a major source of information and discussion for those seeking to find out about their ancestry in this area.
Callum Clayton Dixon's Anaiwan Language Revival Program seeks to both revive the language and to document the story of the Anaiwan people. The Friends of Anaiwan Language Revival FB group has 130 members.
The settlers who came after British occupation, mainly British but including other groups such as Germans and Chinese, are just as interested in family history. This interest extends into local history, the stories of the areas in which their ancestors lived.
To give you an indication of scale, the Armidale Families past and present FB group has 3,116 members, the Uralla Memories FB group 2,245 members, Glen Innes and Surrounds Family History Memories 539 members and the Armidale Family History Group 340 members.
I have given you local FB examples because FB has become the main communication mechanism. I have only done a partial audit, the task is too big for a single individual, by my best guestimate is that across the north there are probably a thousand history related FB pages or groups, as well as blogs and web sites connected with localities, families, societies and museums.
It is hard to estimate the total number of people involved but it must run into many tens of thousands.
These are not small numbers, but this is only part of the story of history in the north.
Jim Belshaw's email is firstname.lastname@example.org . His New England life blog is
http://newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com/ : his New England history blog