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Teaching Heritage

Board of Studies NSW

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Mark Anderson and Paul Ashton present an approach to undertaking a site study

Anderson, M. & Ashton, P. ‘Focus on Australian History’, Macmillan, Melbourne, 1993

Studying your own local area allows you to put your historical skills into action. It will also help you to understand your environment and to become aware of the heritage around you.

Knowing about local areas is becoming more important as growing numbers of people become interested in preserving their past. A local area study involves inquiring into economic, political, social and cultural history. How would you inquire into your local area? Look at the steps below.

Step 1: Decide on the exact area that you are going to cover. It may be your school, the main street or an area bounded by certain streets.

Step 2: Decide on the things that you want to concentrate on in your study. These might be buildings and houses (styles, purpose); industries; transport (roads and railway); people (either famous or everyday people); settlement; parks; social and cultural features (churches, schools, entertainment, health); streets (how they were named, features in them); and anything else that you feel is of significance.

Step 3: Decide who will do what. If you have selected five inquiry topics, the class might split into five groups. Each group could look at one topic.

Step 4: Make a list of questions for your topic. For schools you might ask the following questions:

  • When was the first school in the area built?
  • Where was it located?
  • What were the original buildings made from?
  • Have there been any additions to the buildings?
  • How many students first attended the school?

Step 5: Think about places to look for information and people to talk to in doing your inquiry study. What about:

  • approaching local history societies
  • interviewing residents, ex-students or other people connected with your topic
  • writing to government departments (such as the Department of Education or State Rail Authority)
  • visiting museums and libraries (local studies collections are very useful)
  • making inquiries from local organisations (such as schools, RSL clubs, churches, the National Trust or local heritage group)
  • making your own observations (looking at memorials, cemeteries, foundation stones and the like).

Step 6: Conduct a field trip to your site. You may wish to use the Inventory Item Sheet at the end of this chapter. Before you go remember to:

  • make appointments and arrange any permissions that you need
  • pack equipment that you will need (camera, tape recorder, pens and pencils, sketch paper, note paper, list of questions, map).

Step 7: Gather all your information together and decide how best to present your findings (a written report, photographs with notes, a video).

Step 8: Prepare your report. If there are any conflicts of opinion over parts of the report, you will have to examine your evidence and draw your own conclusions.


Name of compiler:

Date of entry:

Description of item:

Brief history of item (if known):

Location of item:

Sketch of location:

Age of item (or approximate date):

Current use of item:

Current condition of item (good repair, fair, in ruins etc):

Themes which item can be related to

  • Aboriginal culture and interaction
  • exploration
  • agriculture
  • transport
  • leisure and recreation
  • cultural and social life
  • industrialisation
  • growth of country towns
  • housing/housing styles
  • maritime industries
  • building styles (other than housing)
  • environmental awareness
  • booms and busts
  • water resources
  • gold
  • mining (other than gold)
  • the life cycle (birth, death etc)
  • urbanisation
  • tourism
  • land speculation and subdivision
  • isolation
  • gentrification of areas
  • alternative lifestyles
  • resident action
  • migration
  • religion
  • other (specify)

Why do you think the item is significant?:

Photograph or sketch of item:

Additional information:


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