A trove of memorabilia

A trove of memorabilia at ATC Heritage Centre


Life & Style
Margaret Helback and Hannah Hibbert with some of the magnificent paintings at the ATC Heritage Centre. Photo by Virginia Harvey

Margaret Helback and Hannah Hibbert with some of the magnificent paintings at the ATC Heritage Centre. Photo by Virginia Harvey

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Have you ever wondered where racing’s historic records are stored? Virginia Harvey caught up with ATC archivist Hannah Hibbert.

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HAVE you ever wondered where racing’s historic records, memorabilia and the like are stored?

These I discovered at the Australian Turf Club Heritage Centre, a multiple-room building within the horse precinct adjacent to the 300-metre mark on Randwick racecourse.

It was formerly the Australian Racing Forensics Laboratory before the state’s governing body moved its departments into Druitt Street, Sydney.

In the foyer, I was greeted by a male mannequin dressed in a green, military looking uniform which would bring memories of the official “green coats” to earlier generations of enthusiasts when attending Randwick racing.

The ATC Heritage Centre is now under the care of Margaret Helback and archivist Hannah Hibbert, the latter being employed following the Sydney Turf Club (STC) and Australian Jockey Club (AJC) merger in 2011 to become the Australian Turf Club ATC, to make some “sense” of the hundreds of boxes and “all-sorts” memorabilia, left hidden and forgotten in rooms around Sydney’s four racecourses.

We are keen to bring the collection to life and talk about all the people and horses involved. - ATC Heritage Centre archivist Hannah Hibbert

“My primarily role is to look after and keep records and management of it all, but also to put on exhibitions and displays, do some writings and community engagements,” said Hannah who has a Graduate Diploma in Records, Management, and Archives, and a Masters Museum Studies.

The ATC Heritage Centre held an official opening on August 1, to coincide with the horses’ birthday.

“We are planning for small tours of our displays in the ATC Heritage Centre, and as well to include other parts of the racecourse in the future,” Hannah said.

“These could be school groups, or just interested people, to talk about the history not only of racing but of the Sydney community also.

“We will keep evolving over time, and with time are hoping for more people to come and visit.”

Since moving into the building in July last year, people within the ATC have brought in boxes upon boxes of old records.

“In the old days before computers, everything was written down as there was no other way.

“Now these boxes, and other items that have been squirreled away for years in different rooms and buildings, are finding its way to us at the ATC Heritage Centre, with others being lost making some records incomplete.”

According to Margaret they received a National Library of Australia (NLA) grant in 2012 to do an assessment on the collection, and of which stated “the ATC have a collection of national significance to the social history of Australia”.

From acquiring a qualified document from the NLA, Hannah has been putting everything onto a database.

The first step was to photograph everything, label it, give it an identification number, and register it.

The next step is to re-photograph everything to get better photographs so they can have an online facility.

While everything to date has been identified, now a mammoth task awaits of actually opening up the boxes and going through page by page of information. 

This includes minutes of meetings dating back to the 1870s; correspondence from trainers, jockeys and bookmakers; licensing papers; stewards’ reports; racing calendars; racebooks and photographs. 

“We have a group of volunteers of all ages who do small projects for us, many of them with valuable racing backgrounds who help identify some of the thousands upon thousands of old black and white photographs – horses and/or people,” Hannah said.

According to Hannah, with much of the material identified they can now start to find the stories.

“We are keen to bring the collection to life and talk about all the people and horses involved, and their connections within the industry as well as the community.”

When the Australian Jockey Club moved to Randwick in 1860 every second person in the streets surrounding Randwick was a trainer, jockey, blacksmith or something to do with the racecourse.

The ATC Heritage Centre also has an international section for foreign books and items which is catalogued, from countries including England, India, New Zealand, South America, South Africa, France and America. 

Its vast library is used by appointment, not only by industry enthusiasts, but also researchers tracing early family history.

As well the ATC Heritage Centre has become a depositary with an array of items being donated including rare books, paintings, racing silks, trophies, old newspaper clippings, saddles, whips, binoculars, sashes and flags.

The ATC Heritage Centre is easily accessible to the public on course, however is closed on race-days. But with further development to Randwick’s horse precinct, future plans are underway for this to be amended.

Darren Jones Appeal

CHAMPION jockeys Hugh Bowman and Malcolm Johnston will be special guest speakers at the Tamworth Jockey Club’s Darren Jones Family Appeal evening scheduled for Thursday August 24.

Held at the Tamworth racecourse from 6.00pm, the event will be hosted by well-known media personality Greg Radley. Tickets are $50 for its auctions and entertainment evening.

Tragically the 50-year-old father of two last his life in a three-jockey fall at the Warialda Cup meeting last April.

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