Researching Heritage

Researching the history of a heritage place is like unravelling a mystery - it can be exciting, fascinating and rewarding.

Researching these places helps us to better understand and appreciate our historic heritage. It also helps us to understand the role we play in a place's ongoing history.

Stepping through the process

Choose a heritage place and your theme
The place is your subject matter or topic, eg The Palace Picture Theatre. The next question to ask is "What story do I want to tell about this place?". This will give you your theme. A theme will turn all the facts you gather about the place into an interesting story. For example, your theme might be Ghosts and other secrets of The Palace Picture Theatre.

Write your list of questions
Who, what, why, when and how are the five questions that any great historian, communicator or journalist asks when they want to provide their audience with a complete picture. For example: Who built The Picture Palace Theatre? What films/plays were shown at theatre? What stories are there about The Palace? Why did theatre close down? When was it built? How significant is it to the local community?

Identify your sources
Now that you have a theme and a list of questions, it's time to find out the answers. Historians use two types of sources: A primary source is original material written or produced at the time an event occurred. Examples include letters, diaries, newspaper articles, photos, and objects.

A secondary source is a history or reference work written after an event occurred. Secondary sources are commonly available through books, journals, reports or other material written and interpreted by another person about a place's history.

Some good places to search include:

Collect and examine the information
By examining all the material you begin to unravel the mystery. Be careful as some sources can send you on wild goose chases, or provide different information. Wherever possible triple-check things like dates and names.

Write your story


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