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Coming soon, 'trail blazing', a new picture Australia feature.

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Trail blazing is the practice of marking paths with blazes which follow each other at certain, but not necessarily exactly defined, distances, and that mark directions. Picture Australia and The Le@rning Federation (TLF) have been working together to create picture trails that blaze a path through the vast tracts of Australia's visual heritage.

The TLF is a federal, Australian and New Zealand Government initiative. Its purpose is to develop online curriculum content for Australian and New Zealand schools and build resources for the upcoming national curriculum. The primary role of Picture Australia is to increase public access to Australian image collections and to build collaborative relationships with other Australian collecting institutions.

Together TLF and Picture Australia have created a suite of slideshows picture trails. These trails provide interpretation of some of the largest and most magnificent picture collections that are contributed to Picture Australia by collecting agencies across the county. These trails place this invaluable primary source material where it is most needed on the computer screens of 13 000 New Zealand and Australian schools. But it isn't just passive viewing, as students and teachers can draw all over the projected trail images using interactive white boards, working together to plot visual questions and highlight focal points.

The trails have been curated by TLF researcher, Charles Morgan, an education specialist with many years experience. Morgan is President, of the Network of Education Associations of Tasmania (NEAT) and the Tasmanian Association for the teaching of English (TATE)

Morgan marks out the collective meaning of his curatorial selection with accompanying education value statements. Like blazes, these statements do more than simply reassure the user he or she is on the right track, they signal the imminent twists and jolts that our visual culture provides.

For example the 'Advertising Australia' trail clearly reflects the changing nature of Australian society from 1870 until 1954 through our consuming passions. This trail lays bare the subtle and not so subtle messages that graphic artists and advertisers use in their trade to manipulate our buying behaviour. Some of the past techniques used now appear to be exceedingly comical.

In 'Cartoons and Caricatures' Morgan has selected the work of some of Australia's best known cartoonists, to highlight people and issues of interest at different times in Australian history from 1786 to 1950.

Most of the trails contain 30 images, but some like 'the Western Front' or 'Mawson' trail are expeditions of epic proportions with over 50 images.

Given the importance of conflict in forging our national psyche, Morgan has dedicated five trails to different aspects of Australian wartime experiences. In 'Scenes from the Second World War' all the icons of war photography: Damien Parer, George Silk and Frank Hurley can be found. Their images etch the shocking details of the consequences of war and the atrocious conditions in which Australian soldiers fought. In 'Scenes from the Western Front' the preparations for combat, action at the front, conditions in the trenches and the aftermath of different battles are organised in sequence.

Morgan observes a shift in the depiction of women In 'Enlist Now!' a collection of posters that present examples of the various types of appeals made to both sexes to get them to join up. The First World War posters rarely include women but refer to them as weak and clinging and needing men to fight for them. By the Second World War, these representations have changed to portray vibrant young women whose dynamism is recognised as vital to the war effort.

Picture Australia functions to bring Australian collections together in one cultural database. The 'Trail Blazing' project reveals the importance for researchers of seeing these collections in relationship with one another. Only the juxtapositions between these luminous collections provide the signposts for us to follow the decisive directions our national heritage has taken and to explore why.

These trails are addictive viewing for anyone looking for answers to these questions.

Fiona Hooton

Manager, Picture Australia
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Author:Hooton, Fiona
Publication:National Library of Australia Gateways
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:669
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