Revealing the activities of the Methodist Missionary Society through film

ALIA Library

Briggs, Ronald; Breslin, Annie

ALIA National 2022 Conference, 16 May - 19 May 2022 Canberra: Diversity
Session description: Over the past 10 years the State Library of NSW has undertaken a massive digital preservation project including a focus on the Library’s moving image collections. More than 250 film and video collections have been identified for digitisation, using uniqueness, significance, physical condition and playback equipment obsolescence as criteria for selection. The records of the Sydney-based Methodist Missionary Society (MMS) of Australasia were deposited with the Mitchell Library in the early 1950s with further additions over time. The organisation later became known as the Methodist Overseas Mission. Their extensive collection includes over 300 manuscript boxes, photographs, slides, negatives, and 159 film reels. The Methodist Missionary Society of Australasia set up a number of Missions in the North of Australia from 1916. Their mission at Milingimbi Island, among the Yolngu people of Eastern Arnhem Land, was begun in 1923 and continued operating up to 1974. In 1961, the work of the MMS at Milingimbi was featured in the Society's commissioned film Faces in the Sun. The documentary highlighted the experiences of four different communities in the Northern Territory. Directed by Cecil Holmes, Faces in the Sun, like many of the films produced by the MMS, is an insight into the Stolen Generations era. Other documentaries produced by the MMS include titles such as Man Dark No More (1953) and Man of Two Worlds (1965). They were of course proselytising Christianity but also reflected the Australian Government’s assimilationist policies. There are projection prints and second-generation copies of this film scattered in various libraries around the country. However, the first-generation original master material held, and now digitised, by the Library, is a unique and valuable record that captures the high-quality detail of the director’s original intent. As well as documenting an important time in the history of the Northern Territory and Australia.

Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association