Launch at Scholz Park Museum

New interpretive displays at Scholz Park Museum in Riverton were officially opened on Sunday 24 February by the museum’s president and secretary, John Glistak before a group of enthusiastic locals.  Also attending were the creative team who carried out the work, designer Peter Templeton and consultant historian Geoff Speirs; as well as History SA’s Community History Officer Pauline Cockrill.

Scholz Park Museum is a registered museum in History SA’s Community Museums Program (CMP) and received a 2008-9 CMP grant to partly fund the first stage of the new development intended to tell the story of the pioneering Scholz family within the cottage.  Funding from other sources was received for some of the display and to restore aspects of the heritage-listed buildings.

The museum is a complex of 3 buildings within a small park consisting of a cottage and a wheelwright and blacksmith’s workshop, all representing the home and livelihood of the Scholz family over 2 generations for a little over a hundred years.

A Silesian migrant and wheelwright, August settled at Riverton with his wife Wilhelmine in 1865. They built the four roomed stone cottage in 1872 and lived there with their eight children. Later August bought the adjacent blacksmith’s shop and with his 3 sons carried on the business as wheelwright, blacksmith, machinist and coachbuilder, meeting the needs of the people in the area. August’s two grandsons eventually sold the property to the Riverton council in 1970 on the understanding that it would be preserved as an example of a bygone era. After restoration the buildings eventually opened to the public as a museum in 1981.

The new interpretive panels in the cottage do not interfere with its ambiance but subtly highlight some of the stories relating to the objects on display.  Particularly poignant is the story of August’s elderly spinster daughters Polly and Huldie who died of heat exposure during the particularly hot summer of 1939.

Guests at the launch were not only able to visit the adjacent wheelwright’s shop but also watch two members of the Artists Blacksmiths Association of South Australia (ABASA) demonstrating their skills in the blacksmith’s shop which has three hand blown forges and a full range of functional equipment.  Members of ABASA operate the forges on the last Sunday of the month where possible.

More photographs of the museum and launch event can be seen here

Frisque opens at Ayers House Museum

In conjunction with this year’s Adelaide Fringe, a new display opened last night in the state dining room of historic Ayers House, the former 19th century family home of Sir Henry Ayers, distinguished politician, financier and Premier of South Australia.

Frisque is a unique exhibition featuring beautiful items of corsetry, underwear and nightwear from the National Trust of South Australia’s extensive costume collection.  Dating from c1885-c1935, many of the garments have not been shown to the public before. As the poster declares it is ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity to step inside Madam’s Boudoir’.   Set against the chandelier-lit Lyon and Cottier designed formal dining room ceiling which is regarded as the most significant hand painted ceiling in Australia, the various garments of lace, silk, broderie anglaise and satin displayed amongst appropriate accessories, look stunning.   

This exhibition has been curated by Ayers House Museum volunteer Madeleine Seys who has been involved with the museum since 2004.  When she is not working on the costume collection, she is wearing a mop cap and playing the part of the ‘tweeny’, (between maid so called because she works between the housekeeper, butler and cook) in Ayers House’s popular After Dark series.  This is Madeleine’s first foray into exhibition curation and it is hoped there will be more opportunities in the future.  She says she really enjoyed the experience as it was not only a chance to show off many of the beautiful items she has discovered in the collection but also use research undertaken for her PhD “Fashioned Fictions and Textured Texts: Femininity and Narrative in Victorian Popular Literature” which she is currently working on at the University of Adelaide.

Frisque is on display for one week only Tuesday 26 February to Tuesday 5 March.  Entry is by gold coin donation.  More photographs from the opening night can be seen here. 

Ayers House is located at 288 North Terrace opposite the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  It is a National Trust property and an accredited museum in History SA’s Community Museums Program.

Lots to see in Loxton

This week Amanda and I drove the 250 km or so to the Riverland to visit Loxton Historical Village, one of the 61 museums on our Community Museums Program.  We had arranged to meet with Tracy Bye, Tourism Manager for Loxton Waikerie council who is responsible for the management of this unique open air museum which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary later this year.

It was good to catch up and hear about her plans for the complex but particularly to discuss their forthcoming interpretation project, funded through a 2012-3 History SA CMP grant.  After some initial chat in her office at the Loxton Visitor Centre, formerly the local fire station, we had the opportunity to visit the complex where the volunteers were busy preparing their float for the Loxton Mardi Gras parade at the weekend.   However it was probably the only museum we have visited where the welcome party included a kangaroo and three sheep!

The Village has come a long way since its beginnings in 1970 when a pug and pine hut was recreated based on the town’s first building, the so called “Loxton’s Hut” originally occupied by the man who gave the town its name, William Charles Loxton, a boundary rider on Bookpurnong station.  Other farm dwellings followed and a village street began to form, the complex being officially opened on 2 September 1973 by then SA Premier, the Hon Don Dunstan. It received another boost with Centenary of Federation Funding to create the area called the Irrigation Museum.  It now is made up of over 45 historic or replica buildings that have been either moved here from other locations or recreated by volunteers. Its plan and history can be found here while the enthusiastic staff and volunteers now put on three “Village Alive Days’ a year.

There was lots to see and lots to discuss. With so much history, and so much ‘stuff’ in a museum collection it can often be a daunting task to know where or how to start a new display or interpretation project.  To get the ball rolling, Amanda put together a simple template for the interpretation plan divided into key messages, stories and format.  Sometimes you have to stand well back and think ‘what is the main thing you want the visitor to learn or remember about a topic’; and then ‘what are the best stories you can use to illustrate it’?  Finally you have to decide how best to tell that story – should it be with text panels, objects, multimedia or a combination?  This group are considering using QR (Quick Response) codes as part of their overall interpretation plan and we look forward to working with them on this new and exciting journey.

More photos from this trip and a previous trip to Loxton Historical Village can be seen here 

Changes at Gawler Museum

I haven’t been to see the Gawler Museum for a few years, so it was great earlier this week to see the changes that have been made.  Last time I was at the museum the section under the mezzanine floor was partitioned off and used for an uninviting work and crowded storage area and there was nowhere to store larger collection items not being used in displays.  But the museum’s been working hard getting a large new store room and workroom built and now the partition is down, the staircase to the mezzanine moved to a more practical spot and the displays set out in a more inviting way.  The museum is planning a grand opening for the store/workroom in May.

One of my favourite displays at the museum has always been the items relating to Timers Fashions, a local clothing manufacturer that was a significant part of the economic life of the town and a major employer of women.  Not only is the new display more appealing but the subject matter is a great way to use some of the costume and other textile items that the museum has in its collection, which are sometimes hard to present in interesting ways.

I love the donation box too!  More donation and fundraising examples from SA museums are here.

Beer Barons or Bankrupts?

Only two major breweries now exist in South Australia both with histories of 150 years or more.  However did you know that there were numerous small breweries operating throughout the State from settlement in 1836 to the mid-1950s?  A new book has recently been published which tells the fascinating story of these early brewers, explaining why so many failed and how brewing giants Coopers and West End have survived.

Alison Painter’s Beer Barons or Bankrupts? Early Brewers in South Australia is divided logically into periods covering the establishment, growth, and contraction of the industry in the state.  This 345pp hard cover book is well-researched and illustrated by a splendid array of photographs of people, breweries and other buildings plus colourful beer labels and some excellent sketches prepared by Alison’s husband John.

A professional historian, Alison has a background of experience within the brewing industry and has previously published works on both Coopers and the Johnstons of Oakbank.  The book received financial support from History SA through a South Australian History Fund 2010-11 grant and from brewers Coopers and West End.

As well as delving into the pictorial records of the State Library, she also researched the archives of many community museums and historical societies throughout the state such as those based in Burra, Clare, Gawler, Goolwa, Jamestown, Kapunda, Melrose, Mount Gambier, Oakbank, Port MacDonnell and Walkerville.

The cover of the book shows a wonderful image of WH Baker delivering beer to the Old Spot Hotel in Gawler dating from the c1880s, courtesy of the John Clift Collection.

The book was printed by Hyde Park Press and costs $60.50 (+$12.50 postage where applicable). It is available from the author Alison Painter, 3 Maud Street CLAPHAM SA 5062, phone: 08 8276 8986 or email

Bravest of the Brave is now in Port Lincoln

History SA/Veterans SA’s travelling exhibition Bravest of the Brave, which tells the moving stories of the eight South Australians awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War, has now arrived in Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula.  It was packed up and transported to its new venue at the RSL Clubrooms on Hallett Place just in time for Port Lincoln’s famous Tunarama Festival over the long Australia Day weekend.

Affectionately known as BOB, the exhibition consists of seven double-sided pop up banners and four wooden plinths displaying the men’s framed citations and replica medals. The eight ordinary men were Arthur Blackburn, Phillip Davey, Roy Inwood, Jorgen Jensen, John Leak, Arthur Sullivan, Lawrence Weathers and James Park Woods – who on one day of their lives, under extraordinary circumstances, demonstrated extraordinary heroism for their comrades and country. Some were born or educated in South Australia; some enlisted here, while others lived here either before or after the war.   

The Victoria Cross is the British and Commonwealth’s armed forces’ most coveted award, their supreme decoration for gallantry, under enemy fire.  Only 1,356 medals have been awarded since its introduction in 1856. 

The display will be at the RSL Clubrooms until Saturday 23 February when it will be moving on to the Port Pirie RSL Museum. It is booked up to travel to a variety of venues in South Australia throughout 2013 and even part of 2014.

The first of many projects that are being prepared worldwide to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in 2014-2018, Bravest of the Brave is available from History SA free of charge to travel to schools, RSL clubs, museums, libraries, aged-care facilities, community centres etc. There is also a schools resources kit.  Enquiries regarding the exhibition’s availability should be made on 08 8203 9888 or email for more information.

Photographs of the exhibition at Port Lincoln and at other venues including its launch by the Hon Jack Snelling MP in April 2012 can be seen here

How do I conserve my War Memorabilia?

With the ANZAC Centenary 2014-2018 approaching, Australians will look back and reflect on our role in past wars and conflicts.  There are many significant items belonging to families and organisations that are poignant reminders of the invaluable contributions that so many Australians made.

These items, whether humble or heroic, are often in need of care and conservation. Did you know that Artlab Australia can assist you with conservation advice and treatments to preserve your war memorabilia?  These might be small personal items like Bibles, books, diaries, documents, photographs and prints; or medals, medallions, plaques and souvenirs.  Or perhaps you are in possession of larger items such as uniforms, flags, pennants or paintings.  Or maybe you care for monuments, statues and grave sites that are in need of urgent conservation.

In my travels as History SA’s Community History Officer I see many items of war memorabilia in the collections of community museums and history groups.  You can see some of them here. Recently I visited the Mount Lofty Districts Historical Society, who had just had the Scott Creek WWI Honour Roll in their collection restored by Artlab Australia’s Object conservator Justin Gare. The painted wooden board was found rotting in a shed and now looks stunning as you can see from the photo below.

If you would like to know more about how Artlab Australia can help you regarding your war memorabilia give them a call to discuss your conservation enquiry. Or you can visit Artlab Australia in Adelaide on one of their consultation days, on the first and third Thursday of every month throughout the year. Appointments are from 9 am to 4.30pm on each half hour. If you are unable to attend a Consultation Day Artlab can arrange an alternative time to suit your needs.  Artlab Australia is based in a big red brick building behind the State Library off Kintore Avenue.

National Railway Museum is 50!

The National Railway Museum in Port Adelaide recently launched an exciting program of events to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.  A launch party was held at the museum on Friday 25 January which was attended by many long-time supporters, members, volunteers and previous staff from the museum as well as several distinguished guests.

Museum president Barry Marshall hosted the event and there were official speeches by the Federal member for Port Adelaide, the Hon Mark Butler; the founder of the museum, Ron Fluck; and Managing Director of Genesee & Wyoming Australia, Bert Easthope.  Bob Sampson, the museum’s Executive Officer announced the bumper program of events on offer for the year which will include behind the scenes tours, the launch of the Bluebird Kestrel and the newly restored Onkaparinga Overland car, an art competition for the About Time History Festival in May.  The year will culminate with a formal 50th anniversary dinner and the return of the Redhens shuttles to Adelaide Station.

More images from the launch party can be seen here

The museum began in 1963 when a group of rail preservationists, alarmed at the scrapping of steam locomotives which had served South Australia for many decades, set about saving, restoring and maintaining many of the historic vehicles in the museum today.

The first railway museum was located on Railway Terrace at Mile End but with the assistance of the History Trust (now History SA) the museum secured a $2 million Australian Bicentennial Grant and was able to move to the current premises.  Then called the Port Dock Station Railway Museum, it was officially opened on 10 December 1988 by the Premier of South Australia, the Hon John Bannon.  More funding via a Centenary of Federation grant enabled them to expand and open the Commonwealth Railways Museum (now known as the Ronald E Fluck Pavilion) within the facility in 2001 and the whole precinct was renamed the National Railway Museum.

Along with the usual displays and regular programs, currently there is a special photographic exhibition and slide show at the museum illustrating the developments over its successful 50 year history.

The National Railway Museum is registered in History SA’s Community Museum Program.

Three Cheers for Bubble Wrap!

I’m always on the lookout for anniversaries and national observances to help get the conversation going in our social media networks.  There seems to be something for everything – even Bubble Wrap!  Apparently the last Monday of January is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, originally the brainchild of an FM radio station in Indiana dating back to 2001. That means Monday 28 January 2013 was a day for celebrating this great invention, as well as marking its 53rd birthday.

I’m sure this protective packaging is much lauded by museum curators the world over.  A quick Google search uncovered the fact that we owe our gratitude to American engineer Al Fielding and Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes who came up with the idea in 1957 when experimenting with shower curtains in order to create a new kind of plastic textured wallpaper.

Founding the Sealed Air Corporation, the team originally marketed the product as greenhouse insulation, but later realised its potential as packaging material, branding it as Bubble Wrap and introducing it to the public in January 1960. Its first major client was IBM.  Sealed Air is still going and apparently produces enough Bubble Wrap to stretch from the Earth to the Moon each year.

I particularly appreciated the attributes of this great cushioning product when packing up our travelling exhibition Bravest of the Brave recently to ensure its safe delivery by truck to Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula.   It arrived safe and sound at the Port Lincoln RSL museum where it will be on display until 23 February.

Apparently there are more than 250 pages dedicated to Bubble Wrap on Facebook, although there is only one official one.   And there are games to play online and apps for your mobile such as Bubble FREE which you can download from iTunes

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