A keen Ballarat photographer and historian has made a significant contribution to our history, leaving his collection of titled photographs to the Ballarat Historical Society.
Steven Pickworth was a keen photographer whose interest lay in capturing images of buildings and industrial landscapes. Over 30 years he meticulously recorded changing streetscapes around Ballarat and kept his photos stored in annotated themed albums.
After his recent death, his sister presented the boxes of photo albums to the society, and president Marion Littlejohn says the images help fill a gap in the recent historical record of Ballarat. Images from the 1960s onwards are rarer than those of early Ballarat, Ms Littlejohn says, and Pickworth's fill a a gap from the early 1980s to very recent times.
One album is devoted solely to photos of mullock heaps in and around Ballarat. Sadly, says Ms Littlejohn, many of these visual reminders of our rich and unique mining heritage have, over the past 20 years, been destroyed by developers, making Steven's photographs irreplaceable.
"There are boxes and boxes, all full of his albums," Ms Littlejohn says.
"We didn't realise he was such a keen photographer. He had the presence of mind to write what the photos were of. For example, those buildings on Main Rd - the Main Bar - we now have some of those buildings over few years, from when they were decrepit and derelict to when they're looking very smart."
This gift has filled a gap in the society's collection as recent photos are all too often not being donated to museums. Although we are all taking more photographs than ever on our phones, sadly these photos are too often not being preserved for future generations to study, Ms Littlejohn says.
"Gifts like this are invaluable," she says, adding that it would be wonderful if members of the public think about donating photos from their own collections or when they are cleaning up deceased estates.
"It's a tragedy," she said, "when items of local historic interest end up in op shops or worse, the tip. If they are donated to a museum or local historical society they are preserved and available for everyone to enjoy."
The collection came to the society just before the COVID-19 lockdown, allowing society archivist Kevin Williams to spend his isolation time digitising the images. There are months of work ahead but the majority of the photos will be added to the Society's online reference library, Mr Williams says.
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