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Dianna's "convict" past a brick in the wall of Port Arthur history

28/02/2008

A Canadian teacher who souvenired a convict brick from the Port Arthur Historic Site 37 years ago has returned to the scene of her crime for an unusual reunion.

Dianna Selman made a special trip to Port Arthur this week to “visit” her brick which was restored to the site’s collection in 2002 after spending years on her mantelpiece and in storage.

A bubbly Dianna made a whirlwind visit to Port Arthur on Wednesday to check that the brick had made it safely back to its rightful place.

Inspired by the spirit of the occasion, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority archaeology manager Greg Jackman retrieved the well-travelled brick from the collection and wrapped and boxed it for the presentation.

In a light-hearted ceremony the brick, with its identification label firmly attached, was momentarily reunited with its one-time custodian.

“This is my criminal past,” Dianna joked. “I confess to it, and no, I don’t have any bits of the Great Wall of China in my luggage!”

Dianna admitted that it was actually her Australian husband Bruce who initiated the return of the brick to Port Arthur.

“Some friends were visiting us in Canada back in 2002 and Bruce suggested they take our artefact back home. It got as far as Wollongong and then relations brought it back to Port Arthur,” she said.

“At first I thought it was unimportant that it be returned but now I am happy that it is back in its proper place.”

Dianna put down removing the brick to being young and impulsive. It was lying on the ground and it was commonplace for visitors to pocket historic souvenirs.

“Looking around here today I really can’t remember exactly where I found it,” she said.

“In those days visitors often took mementoes especially from sites that were undefined and undeveloped.

“I actually took it to school where I was teaching in North Parramatta and showed my students and then it went back to Canada with me.

“It was a conversation piece for many years on our mantelpiece and then it was relegated to the garage.”

Greg said the return of the “Canadian” brick and other items to the historic site in recent times was indicative of changing public attitudes towards historic places and artefacts.

“It is great to see increasing awareness in the community that artefacts belong in their rightful places,” he said.

“Port Arthur and its associated objects and collections tell different aspects of a common story.

“Only by keeping them together can we ensure that future generations will be able to visit and understand that story in its entirety.”

Dianna is now enjoying her cruise on the QE2 with a clear conscience. However, she did admit, that because it is the ship’s final voyage, she feels duty bound to take a few souvenirs.

“Not the fixtures, just the programs and things,” she laughed.

"But what a story I have to tell on board about the brick. We are dining at the officers' table tonight!"

Dianna

Greg Jackman reunites Dianna and Bruce Selman with the convict brick that adorned their mantelpiece for 30 years

Dianna

The well-travelled brick

Dianna

Dianna made the most of her brief visit to Port Arthur