Forbes and District Historical Society has been awarded a $5,500 Heritage Grant from the National Library of Australia to assess and showcase its internationally significant Paul and Hettie Wenz Collection.
Located at the Forbes Museum, the Wenz Collection includes over 600 books as well as artifacts, maps and photographs formerly owned by the late Paul and Hettie Wenz of Nanima Station. Both Paul and Hettie are buried in the Forbes cemetery.
President of the Forbes Museum, Bruce Adams, said "the Collection itself is considered a valuable and culturally significant asset for our community. Paul and Hettie Wenz were friends and acquaintances with writers like Miles Franklin, Dorothea Mackellar, André Gide, and Jack London and Joseph Conrad, and with Joe Krug II (from the French champagne family), who was one of Paul's old mates from his youth in Reims."
"The couple was also well regarded for their contributions to the pastoral, agricultural and dairy industries, as well as to communities along the Lachlan River. We hope this funding will enable the museum to share this insightful collection with the whole community."
"I would love to think that residents and visitors to Forbes can find out about Paul and Hettie Wenz and proudly recognise them as part of Forbes rich cultural heritage," Mr Adams added.
Born in Reims, France in 1869, Paul Wenz is considered one of Australia's first multicultural writers. His books and articles won him international renown. In Australia, he is best known for his first novel, Diary of a New Chum, which was published in English in 1908. Locals can borrow a copy from Forbes Library.
All his other books were first published in French, however. Indeed, he has been referred to as the French Henry Lawson due to his concise, vivid writing style with more than a little dry irony.
Paul married Hettie (Harriet Annette Dunne) in Melbourne in 1898. Both were from very privileged wool families. The Wenzes were wool buyers and manufacturers based in northern France, while the Dunnes produced wool on Netley Station, on the Barka-Darling River near Menindee.
Hettie spent most of her childhood and youth in the family mansion in Melbourne, however. She moved to Nanima Station after her marriage to Paul.
The couple travelled widely, however, visiting more than 60 countries together. The Paul and Hettie Wenz Collection gives valuable and delicious insights into their rich personal lives, and into the life and times of colonial Australia.
"This year, we have awarded funding of $459,987 to 59 community projects to help staff and volunteers assess their collections or to assist with preservation activities," Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, the National Library's Director-General, said.
"We are delighted that the program continues to provide practical support and build professional skills within organisations."
Forbes Historical Society will use the funding to hire heritage consultant Suzanne Bravery, of Make Museums Matter, to conduct a heritage assessment of the full Collection and make recommendations for its future conservation.