Monday, May 28, 2012

Overdue blog part 1: Albury

Apologies for the radio silence, but I’ve been busy working on the Pyjama Girl Project—as evidenced by the lack of procrastination-by-blogging.

Since my last update, I’ve been gathering research, ideas, and the story of the Pyjama Girl. This has included time trawling through Trove, library visits and a couple of trips down to Albury.
My first major milestone for my Jump project was to send excerpts of interview transcripts to my mentor, Colette. When I got Colette’s feedback, I realised I’d made a facepalm-worthy rookie mistake. You see, I’d already conducted so much research that I knew the story inside out. And when people were speaking to me, they assumed I had this level of knowledge. This meant I didn’t manage to capture anyone talking about the origins of the story—the dead girl found by the side of the road.

And at its heart, that’s what the story is all about.
So I resumed my hunt for talent. Without being sure what to expect, I tracked down Richard Evans, historian, criminologist and author of the Pyjama Girl Mystery–an exhaustively researched and definitive examination of the evidence, and beautifully written to boot. I think I ran around my office squealing when I heard back from Richard, who happily agreed to be interviewed, and even very generously offered to dig through his archives for some research I’d been chasing.

A week after interviewing Richard, who is the living expert on the case, I then had a go at pretending to be the second-foremost authority, when I gave a talk at the invitation of the Albury LibraryMuseum as part of Law Week 2012. The topic was Law and Justice: Our Murky Past. A local solicitor, Kym, spoke about the legal perspective of the case.
Afterwards, we had a photo shoot in front of the Pyjama Girl’s death mask, which is on display in the LibraryMuseum.

The death mask--and unfortunate reflective glare.
Believe it or not, this was my third time looking down the barrel of a camera next to that mask—but this time was very different—the glass case was unlocked and one side removed, and Kym and I were asked to move closer to the mask by the photographer. Obediently, we moved our heads into the case, occupying the same space as the mask (no copy, but the actual plaster cast that was once pressed against the dead girl’s battered face). It smelled sterile, like a hospital. That was the strangest thing. The cast looked sadder and smaller without the pane of glass separating us and bouncing my own reflection back at me. The photographer asked us to smile. It was hard to manage.   

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