Australia Chair Turns 20
By Susan Peterson
When the United States celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976, the Australian government decided to give a lasting birthday gift: an endowed chair in Australian studies at Harvard.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of this Australian Chair, which rotates yearly among different departments, a symposium featuring former chair holders and other guest speakers was held May 9-10, at the Gutman Conference Center.
"It seemed to be the perfect time to have a retrospective of what we've done," said Harold Bolitho, professor of Japanese history and chair of the Committee on Australian Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
About 75 people attended the event, which focused on areas covered by the chair over the past 20 years, such as archaeology and anthropology, history, literature, fine arts, and government.
The symposium was a reunion for past chair holders who traveled from Australia to see their former colleagues. New acquaintances were made, too.
"It's more than a reunion," said Geoffrey Blainey, who held the post in1982-83. "Many people haven't met each other before, and I've found the panel discussions very interesting."
Rhys Jones, a professor from Australian National University who was the visiting scholar in 1995-96, opened Friday's session on archaeology and anthropology by discussing new luminescence techniques for dating archaeological finds, a method which has added another 20,000 years to the pre-historic period. Jones seemed especially pleased to be in Cambridge.
"It's great to be back," he said with characteristic enthusiasm.
The Australian Chair was not filled this year, but historian John Rickard of Monash University will be the visiting scholar in 1997-1998. He will become a regular member of the History Department for the academic year.
Other members of the Committee on Australian Studies include Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor Emeritus and the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History Emeritus; Helen Hardacre, Reischauer Institute Professor of Japanese Religions and Society; and Judith Ryan, Robert K. and Dale J. Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature.
Copyright 1998 President and Fellows of Harvard College