Sharon Bryan, who works as JCU’s Blended Learning Librarian, says that making the book available for free was a conscious decision for Claire and the JCU Library team, who supported the book project in many ways.
“One of our ideas is that we get this book into as many hands as we can so that it will be distributed throughout our neighbours within the Pacific as well,” Sharon says. “We have a real passion for the Tropics at JCU, and one of the first books we published as a free ebook was Pacific French by Florence Boulard. We see this type of project as our way of fostering a relationship between JCU and the Pacific region.”
“We make it possible for people to get hold of these resources with ease. We aim to create a real bank of information that can be readily and easily used and shared across our region and the world,” Sharon says. “Someone in the middle of Alaska could read about this part of Pacific history if they wanted to, and that's lovely.”
Learning about Australian deep time
When it comes to the many topics that are covered in Beyond Cook, such as European explorers, Pasifika explorers, women explorers, animal explorers and also ‘wooden explorers’, to name some examples, Claire says she doesn’t have a favourite chapter, but rather a particular section that she especially likes.
“It is the final section where I'm writing about reconstructed voyaging in the Pacific and the acknowledgement of Australian deep time,” Claire says. “These chapters are about how people are using history to create the present; how recognising history and the creation of heritage is so important for people’s sense of themselves.”
Looking into the past through other peoples’ eyes
Claire says there is one main thing she would like her readers to take away from Beyond Cook. “This book is not simply a piece of information, but a method to learn to read things. It is important to understand not simply what people are writing, but also how they're writing and to get a sense of what they might not be seeing.”
This is especially important when it comes to reading some of the original journals that were written more than two hundred years ago, when people had a different way of seeing the world. “You can use the journals to see through the eyes of the European explorers and learn their thoughts on the people they encountered, the Pacific Islanders and the Indigenous people of Australia,” she says.
However, Claire says that the European perspective is not neutral. “It's a cloudy window, and while you can peer through it you can also use it as mirror because there's so much reflection of the explorers themselves in what they were seeing,” Claire says. “That's what I'd like people to take away from this: when you look at a text, it's not a simple window onto the past. It's also a reflection of the person who was writing it at the time.”