Podcast transcript

The Greek Archives

 Michális Michael and Eva Fisch

Audio

You can also listen to the interview [MP3 15.2MB].

iTunes

Visit this channel at La Trobe on iTunesU.

Transcript

Bradley Jorgensen

Hi, my name’s Bradley Jorgensen and I'm a researcher in the Human Dimensions of Water Resources Management and you’re listening to a La Trobe University podcast.

Eva Fisch

This building used to be part of the Dardalis Archive. They used it mainly for ...

Matt Smith

Hello everyone. Welcome to a La Trobe University podcast. I'm Matt Smith and that is Eva Fisch. She’s the Collection Development Manager at La Trobe University Library.

Eva Fisch

Shall we have a little tour of the physical premises, to talk about it?

Matt Smith

Sure. She’ll be giving me a tour around the Greek Archives which is pretty much a warehouse with 5,500 boxes full of Greek artefacts and documents going back for the past hundred years or so. Also with us is Dr Michális Michael and he’s the Deputy Director of La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue. All right, well thank you both for coming to this. This is a lot more bigger than I thought it would be.

Eva Fisch

Hold on, we haven’t even gone around the corner.

Matt Smith

There’s more. Okay. There is more. The best place to start while Michális has a fossick amongst the newspapers there is ... can you describe what we’re seeing in this room here, what we see around us, Eva?

Eva Fisch

What we have here is an old museum that’s been converted into pallet storage for the materials that came out of the Greek Archives. There are 73 pallets and on those pallets are 5,500 cartons or boxes of material. We also have 80 linear metres of newspapers, projectors, costumes, art objects, framed photographs, framed posters, you can see in there we have a newspaper press and some other materials as well. So it’s a very big collection that you would expect to see in most archives, but the difference here is that it’s all crammed into a small space, with boxes as tall as I am, and I'm five foot tall. So taller than me actually, so it’s kind of being in a forest of cartons.

Matt Smith

Broadly speaking, where does all this material come from? It all relates to Greek archives and Greek culture, but where does it broadly all come from?

Eva Fisch

All the materials here were donated by the Greek community in Australia, mainly in Victoria, and this was originally the home of the National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research. We call them the Greek Archives for short. And the material was collected over a period of about eight or ten years. When the Centre closed down the library was asked if they would take on the project of listing and assessing all the material and that’s what we are in the process of doing. It’s a three and a half year project and we’re about a half a year into that three and a half year project.

Matt Smith

How many boxes are there here altogether?

Eva Fisch

Well, I'm giving you round figures but there are 5,500 boxes.

Matt Smith

Yeah, okay. I think we’ve lost Michális to having a fossick, but that’s okay.

Michális Michael

This newspaper here which is a left wing daily, and you can follow, from its establishment to anyway, up to the mid seventies but there’s an interruption here which is interesting because it stops circulation in April ’67 when the coup d’état occurred, the Colonels on the 21st of April. And of course it was banned, and then it recommenced circulation in October ’74 when the Colonels collapsed. Democracy was restored, so it’s fascinating to see in this one column of newspapers, the history of modern Greece.

Matt Smith

This is why we invited you. Thank you very much.

Eva Fisch

And so now we’re walking past some of the 80 linear metres of banned newspapers. We’ve already been looking at some of the titles but you can see how extensive the holdings are. It’s actually visually amazing, as well as historically of great interest. I'm not really aware of any other place that has the kind of holdings that are here.

Michális Michael

Definitely it’s the only one in Australia, but I would say with certainty that it’s probably a unique holding of newspapers.

Matt Smith

Have you gone through these at all?

Eva Fisch

We’ve gone through every single one so they were scattered all around, not in title or date order and not all together. At the moment, what we’re trying to do by the way, is discover all the unbound newspapers and try and shelve them along with the bound newspapers. So the unbound newspapers are more recent and you can see scattered around, those plastic bags to keep the newspapers that aren’t bound, flat, protected from moisture, in the best environment possible, in the store area, and also to keep them with the rest of the same titles.

The newspapers over here have been treated for mould. We didn’t want any mould spores in this building affecting the collections and adding to any deterioration, and you can see that there is still some stains from where the mould was. You can see that here but there is actually no mould left, there are no active mould spores.

Matt Smith

This is the printing press right here is it?

Eva Fisch

So there’s the printing press and you can see we have some projectors there. And plus you can see the film stock and the tracks. These aren’t actually working projectors any more. When we first came here there were asbestos found in some of the housings for these very old projectors, so we’ve had the asbestos removed and you can see, even though the film canisters look quite rusty, all these have been checked for vinegar syndromes. Some of them have some signs of them, but we’ve isolated those in a separate area and we’re going to try to do some remediation of those if possible.

The other thing that’s very obvious is here I guess. There are these very flat big boxes, three, four, five pallets worth.

Matt Smith

Yes, I'm assuming art works.

Eva Fisch

Posters, so anything flat, paintings – we haven’t even begun work on here, so we’re not even sure what’s in the boxes. We only know that we have box 5,040, but we don’t know ... and there are art objects in it, but we don’t actually know exactly what art objects. And some have posters, playbills and other things relating to the Greek community.

Michális Michael

Well, this is an interesting film, circa 1955. It’s a lost story, but it’s a lost story between a Turk and a Greek in Constantinople/Istanbul. Even in 1955 you had that sort of fascination with Greek-Turkish rapprochement.

Matt Smith

What’s this one called?

Michális Michael

It’s called The Beauty of Far Away.

Matt Smith

And how do you know the Turkish/Greek connection?

Michális Michael

Well, it started – I can see the backdrop has Istanbul, including Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus and the lead actor here is a Turkish name

Matt Smith

So is that unusual for Greek cinema at the time?

Michális Michael

Well, it would be. It would have been a novel approach to a love story, you know, sort of forbidden love, a Greek and a Turk falling in love.

Matt Smith

Romeo and Juliet.

Michális Michael

Yeah, Romeo and Juliet, that’s correct.

Eva Fisch

What about this one?

Michális Michael

It’s called In one week I Destroyed in One Night my Life. Pretty dramatic, again it looks like mid-1950s. A love story.

Matt Smith

So have you seen any of these, or would your parents have seen them?

Michális Michael

Most likely, yes. My parents definitely. I haven’t.

Eva Fisch

It is ... we could spend quite a lot of time here, but let’s just go down here. We’ll just come down here ...

Matt Smith

Oh, costumes.

Eva Fisch

All packed up and bundled up. I think this would make a great display and something that we’d like to get to one time. We’re thinking we might produce a display later on this year, and they would be the centrepiece.

Matt Smith

And these look like a printing press.

Michális Michael

That’s right. Old printing presses with Greek letters and Greek photos. These are definitely nice to display.

Matt Smith

They’re picture plates.

Michális Michael

Picture plates, yes.

Matt Smith

I am quite amazed that they have so many photos because you’d assume a photo picture plate would be, well, one newspaper use. Unless this is very early stock photography.

Michális Michael

Yes, yes. But also there are also some lithographs you see. These are lithographs, so they would have been used to reproduce the same image.

Eva Fisch

Well, look here. There’s Abraham Lincoln.

Michális Michael

Abraham Lincoln. You picked him up didn’t you? That’s right.

Eva Fisch

What is Abraham Lincoln doing here? We might need some research.

Michális Michael

I don’t know. A lot of them will be also for funeral announcements.

Matt Smith

There’s a ship sinking there.

Michális Michael

There’s a ship in trouble. Not sinking yet but definitely in trouble.

Matt Smith

Is there any specific items that have surfaced from the boxes that you’d like to talk about at all?

Eva Fisch

This is something that we’ve just finished listing. A group of newspapers, very old, they’re war years. You can see how brown this is, so there is something that we’d love to be able to digitise. I don’t speak Greek so I'm ...

Matt Smith

Michális, can you give us a bit of ...

Michális Michael

Well, there’s a few newspapers and they’re all bundled up here. This one is 1944, so that will be just at the tail end of World War II, a matter of fact the lead story is Long Live Freedom. And it’s announcing the incremental liberation of Greece until the end of World War II.

And then we’ve got another newspaper here underneath it. I'll let Eva, who’s more delicately inclined to flip these pages, which is the morning. March 1935, I'm trying to see what the story here is, but obviously there’s something of a military mobilisation. This would be just before the Metaxas dictatorship of 1936 took place, so there was a lot of instability, and political discourse.

Eva Fisch

And we can keep on going over – is this a little bit ... I mean, this is very old, so it looks like it’s a bit deformed.

Michális Michael

Ah yes, here we’re seeing, there is an uprising in the north of Greece, so there’s a civil discourse and it says that the heroic army of Greece has destroyed the last resistance of the rebels in Macedonia, Thrace.

Eva Fisch

Now I'm just turning a few more pages. This is another newspaper which is highly illustrated. Another thing that we really want to preserve is the illustrations are amazing.

Michális Michael

This is 1941, so this is the beginning of World War II, and here it says, Victory, and the sub-title is The Newspaper of Alive Greeks or living Greeks and it’s all pictorial and as you can see, it’s all military. I would assume that this is a Resistance newspaper so it would have been underground.

Eva Fisch

It has that look, doesn’t it?

Michális Michael

It is. And this would have been an illegal newspaper. And here she is smiling and celebrating being liberated from the Italians, because the Italians took over Greece or tried to anyway. Certain parts, and then the Germans moved in.

Eva Fisch

And it does look like that’s a photo of some armed resistance with some explosions in the background.

Michális Michael

That’s right.

Matt Smith

So why was this paper unofficial? Why was it an underground newspaper? What was the point of it?

Michális Michael

Well, the point of this newspaper would be to circulate and to counter the propaganda of the German and the Italian-supported regime in Greece, put an alternative to show to the people that the fight goes on. Part of the Resistance, part of keeping morale. Photos of course would have been a great novelty for them. This is a great way of communicating. What’s fascinating of course is these sketches of Mussolini, as you can see, sort of caricatures of Mussolini, poking fun on him.

This is fascinating. This is a map of the Mediterranean, that shows you the progress of the war including in North Africa. They would have lifted this up from some other paper, because it has an English title here. The New Centre of World Alarm, a panoramic map of the Mediterranean showing the principal bases, and then it cuts off. 25th of January 1941.

Eva Fisch

Should we have a look inside the box? So this is just one of them ... Oh wow. Now, so this is a jampacked one. You can see if all of our boxes were this jampacked it would take quite a long time to unpack and list everything.

Michális Michael

This one here I think ... this is the wanderings of Odysseus, yes. It was a big project that included high school kids and the researchers here and there’s some photos here I notice. If we go in here ... from somebody collecting apricots, it looks to me. Messages of appreciation from the honourable I J Hefron, MLA, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Minister for Education. And this is from New South Wales and it’s circa World War II by the looks of things, yes. Presentation at the Department of Education, Sydney 1941, of cheque for £3,000 for the relief of the children of Greece by pupils of Willoughby Home Science School. And from war to another form of combat, soccer. And here we have a photo, 1996, between Sydney Olympic against Alexandra Heidelberg, for the A-League. All teams were ethnically related, so you had the Greek teams, Croatian teams, etc, Italian teams.

Matt Smith

What is going on in that photo?

Michális Michael

These are Greek sugar cane workers in the early settlement era. Okay. That’s my wife by the way. I'll tell you what – Maria Vamvakinou, Federal MP of the Labor Party Australia. This is a candidate photo, circa 2000.

Eva Fisch

We never know what we’re going to find.

Michális Michael

Correct.

Matt Smith

La Trobe University Librarian Eva Fisch, and Dr Michális S Michael, from La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue. That’s it for the La Trobe University podcast today and for even more of your regular podcast intake, don’t forget you can check out our blog, where you’ll find this podcast and more, as well as photos of Eva and Michalis at the Greek Archives. That’s at podcast.blogs.latrobe.edu.au, or search for La Trobe University in the iTunes store. I'm Matt Smith, you’ve been fantastic, and thanks for listening.

La Trobe Media Release RSS