The College on the Hill: 1929-2019

Published 18 June 2019

A higher education institution outside a capital city. Not likely, was the initial reaction over 90 years ago.

But change was coming.

Driven by a well-documented shortage of teachers prepared to work in rural New South Wales and the farsightedness of newly appointed NSW Minister for Education David Drummond, the push to establish a new teacher training facility in regional NSW gained momentum.

Drummond, the Member for Armidale, with able support from senior staff of the Department of Education, was able to pursue the acquisition of a building site in the form of the disused gaol located prominently on an Armidale Hill.

Work to demolish the gaol began in 1928 and the new Armidale Teachers’ College (ATC) was completed in 1929. By that time, 54 students had enrolled in the pioneer session and begun their education in late March 1928.

Over the years, curriculum demands on teacher training required the College to expand into a College of Advanced Education and then finally amalgamate with its sister institution, the University of New England – Australia’s first regional university and pioneers in off campus education.

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the construction of the Armidale Teachers’ College, as the first higher education institution outside a capital city, UNE, in partnership with the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM), will host an exhibit featuring a wealth of objects and images gathered as a record of this decentralised vision.

The objects and images, generously donated by staff and alumni and curated by UNE Archivist Bill Oates with the support of the Friends of the Old Teachers' College, will showcase the early years of the iconic building: its founding and construction, and immeasurable contribution to regional education.

“Work in relocating artifacts from the inner recesses of the old building has revealed items not seen by the general public in decades. These compliment the long standing historical research and publications by stalwarts such as the late Dr. Lionel Gilbert and Jock Elphick,” Mr Oates said.

On display will be woodwork by the ATC’s foundation Manual Arts teacher, H.W. Oxford , a library of old images depicting the ebb and flow of College life and as well as a bookplate for the Hinton Collection.

The Howard Hinton Collection, comprising of over 1000 original artworks, was donated to the College between 1929 and 1948 and now hangs in NERAM.

“The success of this institution in generating competent, resilient teachers who manned many of the remote and rural schools devoid of modern transportation or communication is a testament to all involved,” Mr Oates said.

The exhibition, The College on the Hill: Armidale Teachers’ College 1929-2019 will open on Friday, 21st June at NERAM and will run until 18 August 2019.

Professor Michael Wilmore, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education will be the guest speaker on opening night.

More information can be found on the NERAM events website.

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