Donation of private collection lets students preserve an important piece of history.

Mt Gambier Freemasons in 1894 ~ Image Trove.

A collection of  fraternal society memorabilia – the largest of its kind in Australia – has been donated to the University of Newcastle.

Its study will shed a new light on history, dating back to 1829.

Dr Bob James, an alumnus of the University, donated the collection of photos, rare books, journals of the individual fraternal societies, and artefacts such as regalia, ceremonial apparel, honour boards, voting boxes, ritual objects, medals, and swords.

An historian and avid researcher of the story of fraternalism in Australia, Dr James has also made a philanthropic donation of $75,000 to provide four students with a paid, work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunity to archive and digitise the significant collection. Their roles will be key in preserving an important snapshot of history.

The collection not only serves as an important educational and research resource but also creates opportunity to connect the community with ancestors. Thousands of names are listed on honour boards and fraternal logs, including that of Sir Henry Parkes, coincidentally a distant relative of Alex Parkes – one of the students working on the project.

In a further act of philanthropy, Dr James includes a gift in his will to continue the digitisation of materials to support teaching, learning, WIL, and research needs of the University of Newcastle.

Coincidentally, September 7 starts Include a Charity Week – a national campaign to encourage more Australians to leave a gift to charity in their will.

To find out more about preserving history by leaving a gift in your will, more details can be found at:

Bob James comprehensive article on Freemasons can be found on his website at