Treasures from the MSS archives

Five women religious standing in a line

Work on the MSS archives in Hobart, Tasmania, continues. Both Bernadette Wallis MSS and MSS Assistant Archivist, Julia Walsh, have spent weeks at a time in The Wallis Centre, Hobart, over the past months, going through, sorting, cataloguing and preparing the MSS archives for eventual transport to Melbourne, where they’ll find a home as part of the bigger Australian Religious Archive project. More to come on this in due course. Volunteers, Corrie van den Bosch MSS and Mary Williams, too, have been working on projects within the archive to move things along.

Going through the archives gives Bernadette the chance to identify items to share. She has been sending correspondence to our community of women keeping us updated on progress, and to share any special ‘treasures’ that are unveiled. Bernadette shared that three albums of photos of all the correspondence school children in the early/mid 1950s were found in the archives. ‘This was such a special surprise,’ says Bernadette. ‘It is priceless and the local archive people were in awe of them!’

Bernadette writes:

It seems three or four postulants and novices who worked on the project were Peg Fitzgerald, Joan Shannon and possibly Gemma O’Callaghan. The fruit of their project was an album with photos of the religious Correspondence school students in the 1950s in Tasmania. Two other albums followed.


The first Album was a hand-made, brown paper-covered A3 size book with black pages under the photos. It was possibly made by or helped by Venard Casey MSS, who had previously made and bound hand-made books. Presumably, the parents sent in a photo of each child or children in the family for this purpose and to get to know the students. Beneath each photo on each page was the beautifully written calligraphy or hand printed name of each child or children of the family. Beside each photo was the name of the district, such as Kimberley, Trowutta, Stanley, Forest, Scottsdale, Branxholm, Waddamana, St Helens, Mathinna, Fingal, Campbelltown, Ellendale, Bothwell, Pyengana, Sheffield, Orford, Swansea, Bothwell, Hamilton, Bushy Park, Huonville, Poatina, Wayatinah, Ellendale, and of course, the islands, Flinders Island, Bruny Island and King Island. Names included were Corrie and the Van den Bosch children – 5 of them! Corrie said the photos were their passport photos.


This archive item is about 70 years old. It is a treasure for understanding the social history of rural Tasmania, the work, migrants, cultures, also Catholic history. We have been fortunate that local Tasmanian volunteers, Pat and Christine O’Halloran (Pat originally from Irishtown), have spent nearly 12 months listing the names and places and identifying many of the children as adults today and/or if they have died. We will scan every page of the three albums in the archives for safe keeping.


The photograph at the top of this page shows the foundation group of sisters in Toowoomba, Queensland. We celebrate the 60-year anniversary of foundation in 2024. Collected from the MSS archives, this photos shows from left: Sisters Fran O’Brien, Cecilia Bailey, Joan Shannon, Pat Quinn and Julianne Dunn MSS.