Celebrations at Strathalbyn Museum

Saturday December 3rd saw Strathalbyn’s Police Station & Old Courthouse Museum change its name to the Strathalbyn and District Heritage Centre. Museum volunteers gathered in the Centre’s beautiful old courtyard for an evening that combined a celebration of the new name with the branch’s annual Christmas party. National Trust of South Australia President David Beaumont, his wife Suzie and National Trust CEO Eric Heapy joined more than thirty others to enjoy the celebrations.

The Heritage Centre’s courtyard is picturesque enough at any time, but especially so at night. The walls of the old courtyard were hung with fairy lights, a Christmas tree stood outside an old police station cell and mock-ups of the Centre’s new signs were hung around the walls.  Also prominent were photographs of volunteers going about their work as were articles and photographs taken from the pages of the Southern Argus. A tribute to the branch’s former patron Nancy Gemmell completed the display.

President David Beaumont spoke briefly of the work of the National Trust in South Australia and of the enjoyment that he and Suzie had in looking through the Heritage Centre and in joining the evening’s celebrations.  CEO Eric Heapy spoke of the work that was underway in restructuring the organisation and the important part branches had to play in the process. He liked the direction the Heritage Centre was taking and appreciated the quality of its displays. 

Branch Chairman Trevor Riches expressed his appreciation for the work of all of the volunteers over a very productive twelve months and ended his talk by announcing that the Heritage Centre had just won a Community Museum’s Program grant of $5,178 towards the mounting of a high quality and professionally produced display centered on Strathalbyn’s world-beating Solar Flare.  Trevor told the Southern Argus that the Heritage Centre now houses the Solar Flare and that this solar-assisted recumbent bicycle “won its class in the World Solar Challenge race from Alice Springs to Adelaide in 2001 and then went on to win two further races in the United States in 2002”.  He said that the Heritage Centre was quick to take up the offer of housing the Solar Flare because it recognised the need to preserve the vehicle, to tell the story of its design and construction at the Eastern Fleurieu 7-12 School and to highlight its successes in beating the best the world had to offer.

Trevor went on to say  that an important part of winning the grant was to be able to demonstrate the role of the whole Strathalbyn community in getting behind the venture – in providing advice, encouragement, technical expertise and financial support. And “who can forget the whole town turning out in June 2002 to welcome the team home after their stunning successes in the USA?”  The generosity of a long term Heritage Centre volunteer and of the Strathalbyn Community Arts and Crafts Centre enabled the construction of the Solar Flare’s housing and the purchase of audio-visual equipment – work that was completed earlier this year. Now begins the task of presenting the remarkable story of this important part of Strathalbyn’s heritage.

Wool, frocks and history in the South-East

I went with Mandy Paul, History SA Senior Curator, on a speedy fieldtrip to the South-East this week.  We went to the Sheep’s Back Museum in Naracoorte, the Millicent National Trust Museum and Beachport National Trust Museum. Thank you to everyone who took the time to meet and catch-up with us, it is greatly appreciated.

At Beachport we mainly went to see the Buandik history display One Land, Two Cultures, which was launched in August this year on the same weekend as the State History Conference (otherwise we’d have been at the launch!).  The display is a new benchmark really for telling Aboriginal contact stories and the impacts of European settlement on the Buandik people of the South-East of South Australia.  Beautifully presented and arranged, it’s got a lot of words but also a lot of very useful images that show the differences in European settler and Aboriginal lives.  Great use of quotes throughout (historic and modern) and the canvas panels suit the exhibition well.

At the Sheep’s Back we commenced the site assessment for the museum’s re-accreditation in the Community Museums program and I have come back with all the written side of the assessment paperwork to go through.  Thanks Judy and Sheep’s Back workers for putting it all together in such a comprehensive and organised way.  It is going to make my job easier! But a real highlight for me and Mandy was the beautiful new collection store that the museum has constructed, complete with separate work area and fitted out with quality secondhand shelving appropriate to the collection items stored.  The museum was very pleased to report that environmental monitoring (they use data loggers in several areas of the museum) shows that over the last year the storeroom environment has stayed nicely within the recommended ranges for temperature and relative humidity.  Great job Sheep’s Back!

At Millicent we were most curious to see how the museum is managing the recent acquisition of a very large costume collection – very impressively is the answer!  Unfazed by the size of the collection and the general lack of documentation accompanying it, Lucy and the team of volunteers have already made significant headway into sorting out the collection and giving thought to the best ways to handle, store and use it.  It was great to have a chat with Lucy about how the collection might be used to highlight themes in the museum and to hear her thoughts on what the purpose and shape of future costume displays at the museum might be.

A few Community Museums program grants were awarded to South-East museums in the 2011-12 round, so there will be plenty more news from this region of the state in the coming year.

Minister Hill makes history matter

The Minister for the Arts, the Hon John Hill, has just announced the successful applicants of History SA’s two annual grant programs for 2011-12.

The $35,000 South Australian History Fund will assist 18 organisations and individuals from across the State. It is an opportunity for the State government to support the growing numbers of enthusiastic South Australian authors, historians, historical groups and museums to research, publish, conserve and display our local history. The projects receiving funding under the grant scheme signify the usual wide variety – from heritage trails and interpretive signage such as those planned by the Wend/Sorb Society of SA, Jamestown Flying Group and the Farina Restoration Group; publications about pioneering Adelaide conductor William Cade, the history of Riverside Rowing Club and Finniss Springs Aboriginal Mission; new research into the social welfare services of women in distress in early 20th century South Australia as well as a number of interesting digitisation, oral history and archiving projects.

The Community Museums Program annual funding of $150,000, which assists our registered and accredited local community museums, has been allocated to 26 individual projects. Minister Hill is pleased that this will provide “invaluable funding to local museums to better tell their own stories”.  The funding has been carefully distributed across the State so that all regions can benefit from having their history maintained, interpreted and displayed.  We look forward to seeing many of the innovative projects coming to fruition in the coming year such as the conservation work on the 1836 Proclamation of South Australia document held by the Holdfast Bay History Centre; a new display about the Domestic Home front during Wartime at Mallala Museum; an assessment of Millicent Museum’s fine collection of horse drawn carriages and some essential work on Penneshaw Museum’s maritime room on Kangaroo Island.

The Media Release from Minister Hill’ s office can be found here while the full list of approved SAHF and CMP grants are available on this website.  We will publish news of these projects as they progress and are launched over the coming year here or via our Flickr page. Both grants are administered by History SA. For further information or assistance with your project contact Community History Officers Amanda James or Pauline Cockrill.

Embroiderers Guild Museum (SA), Mile End

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