Interpretation plan implementation, Alice Springs

Interpretation plan implementation

Client: Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, NT Parks

Date: February 2020 – June 2021

Service: Develop themes, messages and narratives, identifying and writing the stories and scripts; design all interpretive signs, hard copy items and photographic galleries and provide concept designs for various framework sculptures; document an entry statement sign; write, design and produce materials for two interpretive hubs.

The project

After our Interpretation Plan (developed in 2019) was enthusiastically accepted we embarked on the implementation. It was February 2021, and COVID-19 provided an unexpected challenge. Virtual meeting platforms enabled us to respond with agility and were a crucial part of working with stakeholders especially in remote Indigenous communities.

Underpinning our interpretation of the Telegraph Station was our aim to reveal compelling stories that enrich the visitor experience, connecting them deeply and respectfully to the place and its people, both past and present.

Overview

As the birthplace of the Alice Springs township, the Telegraph Station is the site of the first European settlement in the area. It was established in 1871 as a repeater station on the Australian Overland Telegraph Line between Darwin and Adelaide. On completion the Telegraph Line connected Australia to the world via the British Empire’s undersea network. Messages to England, that previously took 3-4 months each way, could reach London in as little as 5 hours.

A triumph of engineering and plain old ‘hard yakka’, it had a dark and lingering effect on the Aboriginal population of the Northern Territory. The wire that connects and disconnects. Connecting European Australia to the world while tragically shattering an ancient and sustainable culture and setting in motion social ramifications that reverberate through Australian society today.

The Englishman and the Irishman

An Englishman and an Irishman meet in the centre of Australia. The Englishman says to the Irishman, “It’s all about the Empire.” The Irishman replies, “It’s all about the people.” Frank Gillen and Baldwin Spencer may have had different views on politics and society but they were a formidable team. Like their political views, their anthropological lives were a contrast of fame and infamy. Liberal minded, anti-clerical, and pro the development of the Australian continent and nation, they were modern men drawn to a culture with its roots in prehistory.

Gillen and Spencer compiled the most influential collection of Australian ethnographic material ever assembled. They developed their collection between 1875 and 1912 and had extraordinary access to Aboriginal life and ceremonies. Gillen was postmaster at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station and played a central role in the history of the station.

Information bay signs gallery, NPWS
Entry statements