'Turning Men Into Stone' wins 2017 Margaret Medcalf Award

A book on the history of Silicosis in WA’s mining industry has won the 2017 Margaret Medcalf Award.

Dr Criena Fitzgerald and Cathrin Cassarchis, State Archivist‘Turning Men into Stone: a social and medical history of Silicosis in Western Australia from 1890 to 1970’ was wriiten by medical historian Dr Criena Fitzgerald.

This year’s award, which includes a prize of $1000, was presented at a ceremony this morning by Culture and Arts Minister, Hon. David Templeman MLA. Criena Fitzgerald’s book traces the history of silicosis in WA mining and its effects, not only upon the miners but also their families. It is an important work revealing an overlooked story in the history of mining in this State and is sensitively and soberly told. The book displays substantial use of State Archives and is a deeply researched study.

Silicosis was a major epidemic in the mining industry in WA in the 20th century. Often obscured by tuberculosis, it was only after it was found that miners were twice as likely to suffer from respiratory illness, than the general public, that it was realised that they were suffering from a completely different disease. A terrible affliction, the title of the book refers to the way in which these men’s lungs would solidify with dust and eventually become like tombstones in their own bodies.

Dr Fitzgerald is an honorary research fellow at the University of Western Australia. She has researched and written books and articles about the history of people in WA’s mining areas, especially relating to their working conditions and occupational health. ‘Turning Men into Stone’ is published by Hesperian Press.

The annual Margaret Medcalf Award honours the second State Archivist, Ms Margaret Medcalf OAM, and has been presented since 2003. It rewards excellence in research and referencing using the State Archives. Documenting the history and development of the state since 1829, the State Archives Collection is Western Australia’s largest archival collection, and is preserved, managed and made accessible by the State Records Office.

The judging panel this year consists of State Records Commissioner, Ms Justine McDermott, Professor Jane Lydon, holder of the inaugural Wesfarmers Chair in Australian History at the University of Western Australia, and State Archivist and Executive Director State Records, Ms Cathrin Cassarchis.