28 June 2023

Wagga Library hosts display of convict creations from the heart

| Jarryd Rowley
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two women in library

Wagga Library outreach services team leader Wendy Harper and library services manager Christine Bolton are excited for the Wagga community to check out the precious convict token collection. Photo: Wagga Wagga City Council.

The Wagga Wagga City Library has been chosen to showcase a small collection of convict tokens from the National Museum of Australia as the first leg of a national tour.

The library will display 40 of the museum’s 315 tokens, which were created by convicts who made their way to Australia in the late 1700s to early 1800s.

Convicts created them by rubbing coins until they were smooth and then engraving names, messages or illustrations.

The tokens were then given to the convict’s loved ones before the day of their sentencing as a memento.

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Library services manager Christine Bolton said convicts often made these tokens shortly after receiving their sentence, as a farewell memento to leave with a significant person in their life.

“They really are incredibly unique objects, each one of them,” Ms Bolton said. “It’s a great opportunity for Wagga Wagga to host an exhibition like this.

“They are very small and precious, but each token carries an individual story about someone who was transported here against their will. For a small coin to have all that is amazing, and for that reason I think they’re very beautiful.”

The love tokens will tour several locations across Australia but will remain at the Wagga City Library until 26 July.

Library outreach services team leader Wendy Harper said the library had been working on hosting the exhibition for some time, and she was excited the Wagga community now had the chance to view the tokens.

“The National Museum called for an expression of interest to host the exhibition last year, and we put in an application to be considered,” Ms Harper said.

“Several libraries applied; we are lucky enough to be the first venue to receive the exhibition. The fact that this exhibition is touring regional Australia is amazing.”

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Ms Harper said it was common for most Australians to be unaware of the tokens.

“I’ve spoken to a few people that come into the library regularly and are interested in history but had never heard of them before,” she said.

“Despite these tokens being an important piece of Australian colonial history, they have flown under the radar for most of their time.”

The exhibition will feature an interactive screen and will enable visitors to understand the stories of each of the tokens in a high-definition resolution.

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