With my interest in pursuing family history research, I wandered into our local photographers, Pardey Studios, and asked if there was any chance of obtaining a copy of a particular photo. Don Collins, the new proprietor, consulted an old index book which was in poor condition, to find a negative of the photo I was looking for. As we had been told by the Heraldry and Genealogical Society of Canberra to watch out for old records and ask permission to copy them, with much enthusiasm, Peg Kurtz, Madeline Forgie, Lorna Spackman and I, set about making copies of the indexes by hand. I asked Don if it would be possible to make 2 copies of the indexes, one set for him to use in the shop to replace the old indexes so they could be put away, the second set to be housed in the Family History Group Library.
On completion, member Peg Kurtz noticed a large number of photographs consisted of Military men, and events at the Military Camp. Closer inspection revealed name, rank, enlistment number, company, and addresses - all important information for family history research. Peg extracted the names and made a separate list of approximately 4,000 photographs of soldiers who had passed through Cowra Military Training Camp.
In many conversations with Don Collins, he expressed how he would love to one day develop every negative, but due to time and expense found difficulty in doing so. I suggested that he should apply for a grant. He then suggested that perhaps the Cowra Family History Group would like to apply. If successful, we could develop the negatives under his guidance and he would give us the custodianship, housing the photos in the Cowra Family History Group Library.
I was taken to a room behind the shop and shown shelves with boxes, within which each negative had been placed in a separate white paper bag. A large number of the negatives were on glass slides, which make a detailed picture in black and white, but due to age the impressions were beginning to deteriorate. The Cowra Family History Group Inc. applied for a grant, but this was unsuccessful.
Don received a phone call from a journalist in Sydney who told him that due to a large collection of photos found and rescued from Kempsey Tip, our bid was unsuccessful but to apply next year. This we did and received a grant from the NSW Heritage Assistance Program, to develop over 27,000 negatives.
Val Carpenter spent her holidays sorting the boxes into order, and then Helen Stendell and I set about developing the negatives in the original dark room of Pardey Studios, taking us over 3 years to complete. We spent 5½ days a week developing, and a group of members gathered each Tuesday night at Val Carpenter's to identify, list, and assemble the photos into boxes. Joan Ford entered the photos into a computer database, we had to be very careful because George Pardey numbered the photos, but when he got to no. 10,000 he went back to no.1 again. This number change occurred in the early 1950's, so it was very important to confine the order of the photos to year group, then numerical order within each group.
The photographs are now housed with the Cowra Family History Group, who are custodians of the collection.