2016 NSW History Fellow: Dr Kate Gahan

Dr Kate Gahan

Dr Kate Gahan

Dr Kate Gahan is a professional historian based in the Northern Rivers and well-known locally for numerous community-based projects that have shared the powerful value of history.

In 2016, Kate Gahan was awarded the prestigious $30,000 NSW History Fellowship. The Fellowship has assisted her to develop curatorial skills, broaden networks and collaborate with historical societies, Aboriginal organisations and museums across the Northern Rivers.

We caught up with Kate recently to find out about what she has achieved as a result of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

How did the idea for your Fellowship activities come about?

I was born and raised in regional NSW; consequently, I feel I was naturally drawn to exploring regional history. Growing up I had a strong sense of who my family were, where they came from and their history. Knowing this, combined with my own innate sensibilities, drew me to the study of history at University as a school leaver.

Throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, it constantly occurred to me that local or regional history was seen as being of less importance compared with our national history or story. In part, this was because few working in this field took to local history a methodological rigour that made it truly engaging. Many approach local history by focusing on key people and dates, those interested in broadening this perspective were not widely acknowledged or taught.

This lack of attention or oversight deepened my interest in delving into the detail of local stories and the need to link local history to bigger narratives, and make more visible its value and significance to the community . My Fellowship project aims to tell deeply important local stories and share these with regional and broader audiences.

How will this Fellowship impact your professional development?

Being awarded the NSW History Fellowship gives me the time to shape and complete a regional history project about the themes I have been drawn to throughout my career to date. Most of the opportunities I have as a professional historian are project based and have short time frames, which mean I often have to work within the parameters set by others.

The Fellowship will enhance my professional development through being able to take the time to deeply develop the narrative of important regional stories with community members, and to promote and exhibit these. In turn, this opportunity has enabled me to forge new insights into regional history methodologies, which I endeavour to promote within the regions and beyond. This experience will heighten my profile as a professional historian / curator with regional history expertise; as well as the importance of regional history to the national story.

How has living and working in regional NSW informed and inspired your work?

Everything about my Fellowship project has been inspired by living and working in regional NSW! This project is the culmination of having a deep interest in the region in which I live; my extensive knowledge of the history of the northern rivers region; the regional history insights I have acquired by living in a regional area; and my passion for the power of the past to foster identity and meaning, which is something we are all drawn toward and strive to demystify.

What other funding opportunities have you received that have supported your development throughout your career?

Very few economic opportunities, aside from the academic scholarships I was awarded to undertake my PhD and the short-term projects I have completed funded by government grants – have been available to me.

Outside of universities the professional practice of history is not that well supported monetarily. I believe historians have even fewer opportunities to access funding support than do artists. Given the community and social benefits that stem from having a deep understanding of the past, the NSW History Fellowship is a much needed and highly valued opportunity.

In 2017, what are you most excited by?

Truly, my Fellowship project! My Fellowship project will not only develop new stories but enable the wide promotion of these to make them accessible to a regional and broader audience.  The new material it uncovers will in turn inspire future project ideas. What more is there to be excited about?

Applications for the NSW History Fellowship close on Monday 21 August 2017. For further details on how to apply, please click here

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Published: 7 August 2017