The Swinden collection
What makes the Memorial collections so vital, is that they tell the stories of individual experiences. Acquiring donations like Commander Swinden’s, continues this collecting tradition.
His collection includes humorous emails, guidelines regarding local customs, information booklets, postcards and other ephemera. Here is a small selection.
We can draw parallels between this material and memorabilia collected during the First and Second World Wars. There are messages from home, instructions to troops, tourist souvenirs and novel items such as the mail tags. However, the Swinden collection dating from 2000 to 2002 is also significant because it reflects the digital work environment of the Australian Defence Forces.
Collecting from current conflicts is presenting new challenges to Memorial curators. What survives from a deployment in a digital age? Old letters home are now in the form of emails. Do people remember to keep them or keep the printouts? The continued practice of sending postcards home is one of the few that preserves a handwriting tradition. Will mobile phone images and texting one day replace even postcards? There is also the consideration that the high intensity of work and shorter lengths of current deployments, is not conducive to the accumulation of memorabilia. Once we had books produced by the military to fill in the long hours. Now there is no time to open one!
The Swinden collection is of important research interest and will certainly be utilised in years to come.