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Reliving the Camden Haven - from the Past to the Present

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

¨A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.¨ - Marcus Garvey

Imagine if you had to introduce yourself to people just as you are without any vestige of your history. You can only tell people who you are and what you are doing right this minute. Not half an hour ago, not yesterday, not a month ago, not ten years ago. That conversation about the this-minute-present you would not last very long. And perhaps, not too exciting.

History is not something we can cut off, pretend it does not exist, or stuff in a cupboard and let it be forgotten. It is where we came from and it lives in all aspects of our lifestyles - in the buildings around us, in the food we eat, in how we dress, in the industries that surround us, in our language, and our behaviours.

History is undeniable.

Connecting with Stories

HiSTORY. That is essentially what histories are. Stories. They are a series of stories in the past.

Storytelling is a vital part of human culture and it is a powerful device that helps to connect cultures and communities across time. Children often sit fascinated listening to stories and as adults, we love sharing stories of the past as well. How often have you heard your grandparents (and dare we say it…we ourselves as well, once age catches up), ¨Back in our times, we used to…¨.

Humans have a fondness for personal nostalgia, for our own unique Golden Age and we love dressing up the past to make it glow like the present can never glow. We need our history. We need it to know where we came from. It gives us our identity and helps to keep us grounded and rooted.

We tell our children about our past and we also have stories that have been passed down to us from our grandparents. They can be funny anecdotes or painful stories of grief. Either way, their value lies in being told over and over again through the generations. It allows us to connect through our families, and with our communities.

Collective Histories

Our personal histories are important and so are our collective histories.

This brings us to looking at historical museums.

Historical museums are misunderstood places. People tend to view historical museums as old-looking buildings that are essentially like storerooms to keep "old stuff from the past" and it is where schools take students on excursions.

Truth is, if you had the chance to really get to know historical museums, and allow yourself to be like a child and get curious, you will find that these ¨quiet¨ places are gems full of life and excitement and you may even find bits of yourself in these huge quiet rooms.

Anyone who has had the luck to have had interesting history teachers share a common experience - these teachers had a knack for bringing history to life. They can tell you about the past and make it feel like you are reliving the history right here, right now. Whether you are a gladiator in a bloody arena or a soldier freezing in the trenches, a historical story well-told is branded in your mind forever. And more than that, it is usually the spark that makes you want to learn more.

There is a good reason for schools to take students to historical museums on excursions. Historical museums are where we can experience our collective histories. In one single place, everyone can gather together to understand and appreciate what they share in common. It helps to forge and strengthen the social identities and connections of people from the area.

Why Historical Museums are Essential

They are an important part of each culture and community and here are three simple reasons why.

1. History helps us appreciate what we have today.

For those living in Camden Haven, the Camden Haven Historical Society is the place to visit to get to really know and understand the area and how it came to be the way it is today. Every single building and tree you see was not placed there randomly without reason. History is very much alive in our present-day and right where we are now.

JACKMAN'S BOARDING HOUSE, RAILWAY ST, KE, The Camden Haven Historical Museum, Feature story by Brilliant-Online

Kew Royal Hotel c1891, First known as “The Stables” because of Patrick Keough’s Stage Coach Station behind the hotel. Kew derived its name from Patrick Keough [pronounced ‘KEW”].

The picture shows William Convery’s mail coach outside the hotel in 1899.

The Camden Haven Historical Society is dedicated to telling stories of the villages all along the Camden Haven Valley. Camden Haven has been shaped by its shipbuilding, marine activities as well as its timber industry and farming. And not forgetting the day Bob Hope appeared in town. If the Camden Haven had had different industries, and if Bob Hope had chosen another route or perhaps, gotten lost and gone somewhere else, would the Camden Haven even exist?

Every element plays its part in history and leads to what we see in our present day. Take a tour in the Camden Haven Historical Society and you will step out of the building and look at your environment with very different eyes. You will be able to see and understand the area beyond your own personal history. A simple building is no longer just the place where you used to play when you were a child. You will be able to see it much further back in time and realise its significance in the community's history.

Have you ever noticed how parents love to share anecdotes and stories about how their grown-up children were when they were babies? Remembering and recounting those early years and the history of an adult's life is a way to appreciate how far they have come. Learning to manipulate a spoon into their mouths was as technically challenging as manoeuvring an orbital rendezvous in space. This same person four decades later is designing complex engineering projects, which could not have happened if they had not managed to learn to feed themselves. We can all appreciate our own personal histories and achievements, and the same goes for the history of a community and how it has grown through the centuries.

2. Building connections

As John Donne said, ¨no man is an island¨. We are all interconnected. Not just with our contemporaries in this time and space but also with the communities from the past. One day, we too will become a piece of the past for the future generations that are coming up now.

The Camden Haven Historical Society is essentially a community museum. It is dedicated exclusively to the research, study and interpretation of the history and heritage of the Camden Haven. Its work goes far beyond ¨collecting¨ items. It interpretes and presents the unique stories of the area, and how these stories give the area and environment its distinct character.

This is what people do not know about the work of a historical museum. It is not about ¨collecting¨ items. It goes beyond placing items in their rightful place on the timeline. It is also about understanding the purpose and significance of an item or an event, respecting the impact they have on our present-day and presenting it in a way that makes sense to visitors and draws them into the stories.

And if you are curious about your family history and what your great-great-great-grandparents' lives were like, this is the place to go to. The Camden Haven Historical Society assists people in researching their family history as well as how they are connected to the area. They also work in partnership with cultural and community groups in Camden Haven for people to participate and reflect on their unique histories and their connections to the present.

water colour painting by W. Foster, The Camden Haven Historical Museum,  Feature story by Brilliant-Online

This water colour painting by W. Foster of the vessel commonly visited the Camden Haven Inlet to transport mainly timber and agricultural goods to Sydney.

You will also find a collection of material associated with historical activities that occurred in the Camden Haven Valley on the Mid North Coast and New South Wales. From the earliest possible date to now. There are a variety of themes you can learn more about, including the aboriginal people in Camden Haven, early settler families, shipwrecks and marine-related topics, as well as the history of buildings such as the School of Arts Building which is still standing now.

So, if you are curious about how you fit in in this grand puzzle of life in your community and family, the Camden Haven Historical Society is the place to go to help you locate your roots and find your connections. Who knows what you may uncover there? When you know your place in the grand scheme of things, it may even help you find your purpose and bring you pride in who you are and stand for.

When you tell people you are from Camden Haven and your parents and grandparents hail from this place, knowing your history means you say it with pride and with a different feel than just geographically locating yourself. The place you are from becomes a wealth of stories, hopes, dreams, achievements and discoveries, and not just a dot on the map.

3. Bringing the Past to Life

History is an important subject at school, but while it is kept between the pages of a book, it remains as a series of sentences, paragraphs, and information to be memorised so students can pass their exams and move on to the next level.

To make history come to life and get students interested, the quintessential excursion to the local historical museum is actually an important part of this. You need a charismatic history teacher and to help make their work even more exciting, being able to show children and young people real objects from their history books makes a big difference to spark their curiosity.

When youths visit a historical museum, history literally comes to life and becomes undeniably real when they can connect real objects, documents to what they have learnt about in class.

Because of this, the Camden Haven Historical Museum is perfectly located in the Laurieton School of Arts building. The building was constructed in 1911 and has State heritage significance. Even the building of this historical museum is a precious historical artefact in itself. You are literally walking through history once you step into this building. For those who have a bit more imagination, you can even envisage ghosts of historical people moving about through these very rooms.

The Camden Haven Historical Museum, the Laurieton School of Arts, Feature story by Brilliant-Online

The Camden Haven Historical Museum is in the Laurieton School of Arts.

The School of Arts building has been very well preserved and it is a classic example of the optimum development of its type in New South Wales. Notice the architecture itself and even that tells a story. Its all timber construction, weatherboard joinery and timber lining and characteristic of pre-World War I construction styles and material.

Sometimes learning about history is a bit like being a detective. With historical knowledge, you can notice clues around you that reveal the hidden story of a building, an object, or an event!

Surprise Story: Did you know the famous dance in America the Hokey Pokey was actually born in Laurieton, Australia? When Bob Hope unexpectedly landed in Australia due to a mechanical fault, he was taught the Hokey Pokey by the townspeople of Laurieton. Fun he certainly had, as he brought it back with him to America. Without a bit of history sleuthing, we would not have found out about the true origin of the Hokey Pokey!

By now if you are eager to visit the Camden Haven Historical Society with your children or students, have a look at their visiting information here.

Opening Hours:

The museum is run by volunteers and open from Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm.

Opening hours are subject to Government regulations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Closed on Public Holidays.


Located at the corner of Bold and Laurie Streets in Laurieton, the Camden Haven Historical Museum is located in the Laurieton School of Arts building.

58 Bold St, Laurieton, NSW 2443

Telephone: (61) 0408 113 313

A word from Brilliant's CEO

Seeing with New Eyes

I love history. Understanding history makes life more meaningful. Sometimes when I am doing something, I thought what was done before, what were the learnings, how can I adapt and improve.

Now, do you see Camden Haven in a different light? Experiment with your own experience - write your own description of how you see and understand Camden Haven, visit the Camden Haven Historical Society and after a few tours, write about it again and you may be surprised to see how much your perspective has changed. All with just one visit.

Now, we can start again from the beginning.

Hello, nice to meet you. Where are you from, and who are you?


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