From the 1960s Australian homeowners were increasingly valuing nineteenth-century houses for their original features and their age. Since the early 1980s this phenomenon has spread to include early twentieth-century houses and some mid-twentieth-century houses. This thesis argues that caring for old houses as historically valuable emerged from the 1950s, developed in the 1960s, began to be regulated and professionalised in the 1970s, was an established cultural practice by the late twentieth century and manifested in new ways in the 2000s. Starting in inner-city suburbs in the south-eastern states, it spread quickly to rural areas, and became a national pursuit with geographic variation.
Within this overarching narrative I develop three lines of argument. First, I investigate how individuals’ historical consciousness has developed, influenced by family, education and cultural aspiration. The nature of historical consciousness has ranged from a general sense of pastness to specific, detailed historical awareness. Individuals have perceived historical value in provenance, aesthetics, materials and workmanship, the nation and how life was lived in the past. Second, the valuing of old houses – a specific form of domestic historical culture – has both influenced and been influenced by broader Australian public historical culture, including popular and scholarly forms of history. Third, successive revaluing of historical styles of architecture and material culture, from preserving Georgian facades to recreating the domestic interiors of Mid-Century Modernism, has revealed an ever-quickening process of revisiting the styles of the recent past. In its myriad manifestations, caring for old houses and domestic objects has played a significant role in shifting and deepening Australians’ historical consciousness.