An evening of mystery at the Victorian Archives Centre

An evening of mystery at the Victorian Archives Centre

North Melbourne’s Victorian Archives Centre is set to host an enlightening history talk that will explore the once widely accepted practice of human head reading and spiritualism.

The event, titled, An Evening of Mystery in the Eastern Arcade: Phrenologists and Spiritualists of Early Twentieth-Century Melbourne, is open to everyone to attend in-person or online on October 31 from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

Speaking at the event will be Dr Alexandra Roginski and Professor Andrew Singleton who will take audiences on a journey through time, using the centre’s old records and photos to set the scene as they shed light on today’s now discredited science of phrenology, which gained popularity during the 1800s and early 20th century.

Between the pair, who work on collaborative projects, they will unravel the theories and techniques behind this intriguing practice and how phrenologists used the shape of human heads to determine personality, intelligence, and even criminal tendencies.

“We’re telling the stories of these histories, but also explaining to people what it means,” Dr Roginski, an award-winning historian, writer, and heritage consultant, said.

“These are practices are not very familiar to us anymore, but it meant something to people in their own time, so we’ll be talking about why these things were so popular and what they offered people as a line of work.”

“We’ll definitely be bringing those things to life and it’s also an event that’s going to be really fun.”

Dr Roginski said Professor Singleton, a social researcher whose research interests include youth religion, spirituality, personal belief, and alternative religions, would be bringing along a Ouija board, also known as a “spirit board”, to give a demonstration about how this shaped public perception.

Dr Roginski said she could not emphasise enough the importance of the Public Record Office Victoria served “in terms of the stories that they hold”.

“It’s just such a crucial resource and the people there are fantastic. It’s one of the most helpful and smart bunch of people you’ll ever encounter, helping historians and family members, and so many people do research that’s meaningful for them, so it’s an absolute thrill to be part of their program and to do an event.”

The talk, which will be open to questions, coincides with History Month 2023 (celebrated every October) and Halloween. •

To make a booking or for more information, click here.

Caption: Emery Gordon Medor and Zinga Lee (Annie Cartwright), protagonists in the Eastern Market tragedy of 1899, Weekly Times, 22 April 1899, p. 12.

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