SA Governor to attend PS Marion’s 50th anniversary celebrations

Fifty years ago, the PS Marion became a static museum in the Randell Dry Dock at Mannum cementing the small township as the birthplace of the paddle steamer in Australia.

The Governor of South Australia, His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC CSC RANR, and Mrs Scarce will be attending the 50th anniversary celebrations and on board the PS Marion from Bowhill to Mannum taking part in the reenactment of what was supposed to be the last voyage of the Marion in 1963.

Fifty years ago, the PS Marion made the five day trip back from Berri to its new home in Mannum where it sat in the Mannum Dry Dock for over 30 years until its dedicated restoration by over one hundred volunteers and its recommissioning in 1994 some 20 years ago. 

To celebrate this milestone at Mannum a river festival day will be conducted at Mary Ann reserve on Saturday 15 June 2013.

The PS Marion left Mannum Tuesday 28 May for Berri in readiness for the 50th Anniversary re-enactment trip back departing on 6 June and arriving in Mannum on 15 June.

Don’t miss the loading of the cargo at Berri wharf on 6 June where the crew will be dressed in replica t-shirts worn 50 years ago and official proceedings conducted by Mayor Peter Hunt of the Berri/Barmera Council.

If you would like to be part of history again on the Murray River with PS Marion and help celebrate her 50th Anniversary in Mannum, short cruises are on offer at Berri on Sunday 2 June and at Waikerie on Sunday 9 June, and departs Berri on 6 June for the re-enactment voyage arriving in Mannum on the 15 June for a River Festival day.

50 years ago crowds lined the banks of the Murray River in the town ships of Berri, Loxton, Cobdogla, Kingston, Waikerie, Morgan, Blanchetown, Swan Reach, Purnong and Bowhill as the unloved heritage vessel built in 1900 meandered down river towards Mannum.  The crew had special t-shirts produced for the trip which are being replicated for the re-enactment cruise along with the original cargo being loaded on board. 

The 50th Anniversary Committee, which includes original members John Norris and Chris Snow, are organizing a shipment of brandy to again be sent to the Queen to re-enact this gift forwarded back in 1963.

What Bug is That?

As part of the About Time South Australia’s History Festival program, Community History Programs hosted an information session on common pests affecting historical collections. What Bug is That? focused on identifying pests and simple ways to keep them at bay.

Led by Anne Dineen, Senior Preventive Conservator from Artlab Australia, the information session looked at basic pest identification and management – which pests are a potential problem, what objects are most at risk, how and when to check for pest activity and strategies for averting pest infestations.

Anne brought an army of pests with her (not alive) so everyone could get a close up look at various insects at different stages of their lifecycles. She also brought a variety of pest-damaged objects to demonstrate what damage can be done and how to recognise what pest may have caused the damage.  A framed photo so badly damaged that many of the photo features are now unrecognisable was a striking example of how much damage can be done if pests go undetected for any period of time!

You can find information about managing pests and cleaning in museums on this website.

Celebrations for SAAM

Last weekend I attended the official handover ceremony at the South Australian Aviation Museum (SAAM) in Port Adelaide, of a retired F-111 jet bomber aircraft from the Australian Defence Department.

It’s not every day that a museum receives such a significant item which literally dominates  a collection.  The 25 ton jet fighter with its iconic elongated black nose cone, had pride of place in the hangar while the presentation area was bristling with pollies, media, SAAM members, aviation enthusiasts and air cadets.

With the SAAM vice president Pieter van Dyk as Master of Ceremonies, there were heartfelt speeches by Mayor of Port Adelaide Enfield, Gary Johanson; Federal Member for Port Adelaide, Mark Butler; and SAAM President, David Byrne before the official handover took place by Group Captain Craig Heap, Officer Commanding 92 Wing.

Official guests were then allowed to climb up and view the cockpit – a mesmerising array of buttons, levers and dials, before partaking in refreshments and enjoying the rest of the open day which included the very popular twice yearly ear-splitting ‘Engine Run’.

SAAM members should be justly proud of their achievement.  There were only a small number of these aircraft made available to the community by the Defence Department following the F-111’s retirement in 2010 and the application process was a tough one.  Many members worked hard on the submission as well as preparing the museum to receive the monster which took 4 days to be trucked in from Queensland’s RAAF Base Amberley, and then reassembled over 2 days by an RAAF team.

Developed by the US in the 1960s, the F-111 was used by the RAAF from 1973. Capable of speeds two times greater than the speed of sound, it is remembered for flamboyant displays at air shows when pilots perform “ignited fuel dumps” that leave a blazing funnel trailing behind.

SAAM’s A8-134 served with both RAAF 1 SQN and 6 SQN in an important reconnaissance role.  Its presence in the museum has already demonstrated a huge jump in visitor numbers, bringing in much needed funds for restoration and maintenance of other aircraft.

SAAM is one of ten accredited museums in History SA’s Community Museums Program.

There are more photos from the F-111 presentation here 

Australian Dress Register is Expanding

The Australian Dress Register (ADR) is a collaborative online project initiated by the Powerhouse Museum to document significant and well provenanced men’s, women’s and children’s garments. The ADR was established in 2007 and was originally restricted to clothing relating to NSW. However, recently it has been opened up to include items of costume (dress) from around Australia. This presents a great opportunity for garments held by South Australian museums, historical societies and private collectors to be included. The date range has also been expanded and entries to the ADR are now welcome for garments dating up to 1975.

So far the ADR has around 200 items recorded. The aim is to build this number much higher so that it becomes a comprehensive research resource about Australian costume, and provides opportunity to compare and contrast costume items across small and diverse collections. Contributors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory.

The ADR captures men’s, women’s and children’s clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday. The ADR can be searched by decade or by about 20 different costume types, such as ‘wedding’, ‘workwear’ or ‘evening dress’. A comprehensive user’s guide to the ADR is available here and there are several short videos that explain some conservation and cataloguing techniques useful for documenting costume items here.

To list items on the ADR contributors need to apply for a login through the ADR website.

Industrious Strathalbyn

As part of the About Time History Festival I went to visit the Strathalbyn & District Heritage Centre who held a well-attended opening for their latest exhibition Industrial Old Strathalbyn. The event was part of the extensive 2013 About Time History Festival program.

Once again the museum chose to work with designer Richard Browning to create storyboards that outline some of the important businesses and industries that helped shape the early economic life of the district.  Industries that feature in the display include the Strathalbyn Ice Service, the Belvidere Brickworks and the local manufacture of Treblig bicycles. The exhibition in installed in the refurbished stables in the grounds of the Heritage Centre’s Courthouse and Police Station complex.

The museum’s team of volunteers have certainly been very industrious too, working hard to create a new major exhibition – and hold a delicious afternoon tea for guests at the opening too.

Two Bob Shed Draws a Crowd

Last week I was invited to be a part of the official opening party for the Gawler Museum’s new collection store and workroom.  I think the turnout of about 70 people is testimony to the wide community support which the museum receives.

I’d had a sneak peak a few weeks ago when the collection store and workroom was very nearly completed but it was great to see it all done and the museum volunteers looking so pleased with their achievement. It’s amazing really that a few years ago the area, now converted to a very functional facility, was an open verandah. The collection store and workroom has been named ‘Two Bob Shed’ to recognise the work put into the project by Bob Ahrens, whose engineering company built the structure, and Bob Harrison who supervised the Work for the Dole team who did the internal lining of the building.

The project is a great success because at last the museum has a purposefully constructed, dedicated space for both storing artefacts that are not needed for current displays and for undertaking collection management tasks such as cataloguing and display preparation.  It’s also allowed the number of items on display at any one time to be reduced, and the display space to be re-arranged, to make the collection more open and inviting for visitors.

Gawler Museum is also making great progress in other areas of museum activities.  Last year the museum received a Community Museums program grant to begin developing education materials, to relate the collections to elements of the new national curriculum for history.  It’s an important initiative for the museum to undertake and one of the first such projects by a community museum in South Australia.  It will be interesting to see how it works out.

Bravest of the Brave is now at Warradale

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, is now at the Vietnam Veterans’ Federation SA Branch’s Club Rooms in Warradale.

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 exhibition will be will be displayed throughout the About Time History Festival from 1-31 May when it will be moving on to Salisbury. 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 Warradale and at other venues including its launch by the Hon Jack Snelling MP in April 2012, can be seen here

Telling Stories of the Alexandrina Region

A crowd of around 70 guests filled the Richardson Hall Woodchester on Monday 6 May for an evening film event held as part of the About Time History Festival.

The night featured five short films produced as stage one of a two-year digital storytelling project to record some ‘lost’ aspects of history or to tell known historical stories in different ways.  Following the film screening the audience took up the chance to discuss the making of the films with the project historians and filmmaker and stayed to enjoy a fabulous supper provided by the Richardson Hall Woodchester Committee.

Telling Our Stories, draws on the people and collections of the Alexandrina Council region to capture stories about the region’s history. The project is an extension to the Just Add Water Regional Centre of culture program, held in Goolwa throughout 2012.  It has been funded by the Australia Council through the Cultural Places Initiative and undertaken as a partnership between Country Arts SA and History SA. In the next year five more films will be produced as stage two of the project.

In undertakingTelling Our Stories, community historians Madeleine Regan and June Edwards and filmmaker Malcolm McKinnon have unearthed memories, images and objects to make connections between the intangible stories of individuals, and the tangible historical record. In the films, personal stories are mixed with photographs, moving image and images of objects, to place them in a historical context. Film subjects are varied and take in a range of locations in the Alexandrina Council area. The films feature people, places, boats a bicycle and even a cow. You can watch them here. 

Stage two of the project will commence later this year and anyone with a story to tell about an aspect of Alexandrina region history is invited to contact History SA – it could be your story we explore next.

New St John Ambulance Museum now open

The St John Ambulance Museum has now moved into its new home on the corner of Edmund Avenue and Rugby Street, Unley. It was officially opened on Sunday 5 May by Professor John Pearn, Priory Librarian St John Australia. Pearn is also the Emeritus, School of Medicine, University of Queensland and Senior Paediatrician of the Royal Children Hospital Queensland. Pearn unveiled a replica of the 900 year old Papal Bull that marks the beginning of the original Knights Hospitallers, who were the inspiration of today’s St John.

Special guests included the Honourable David Pisoni, State Member for Unley and Shadow Minister for Education, His Worship the Mayor, Lachlan Clyne and Glen Brewer, the Chairman of the Board of St John Ambulance and Sharyn Mitten, St John SA Chief Executive.  Dr Brian Fotheringham, President of the St John Ambulance Historical Society was Master of Ceremonies.

The museum is dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and researching the work of St John volunteers over its centuries’ long history.  The museum has a large collection of artefacts, photographs, documents and uniforms.  A key feature of the new museum is the painting of Sir Edward Hayward, who was chairman of the Council of St John from 1950 to 1976 and then President from 1976-1986. Sir Edward organised for St John to take over the State’s ambulance Service in the 1950s.

With the invaluable help of their advisor Yvonne Routledge, the museum has completed its significance assessment and preservation study and has begun the work of documenting and conserving its collection. In the current round the museum received a National Library Community Heritage Grant to rehouse its photographic collection in archival materials.

The project is now well underway. Folders, binders, protector sheets, divider cards and photographic corners were purchased from Albox Pty Ltd. Volunteers are now spending time sorting through approximately 8,000 photographs dividing them into subject areas and assembling them into the archival folders. Many of the photographs have information on their content but there is also considerable research needed in identifying those without information.

There are many tasks ahead for the dedicated volunteer team as they open to visitors and continue the work on documenting and preserving this fascinating collection.

The museum will be open to the public during the About Time History Festival on Friday 10, 17 and 24 May, 11 am to 3 pm and Saturday 11 May and Sunday 19 May from 11 am to 4 pm.

From June onwards the museum will be open the following times:

Wednesdays: 1 – 4 pm; Fridays: 10 am – 1 pm; Sundays: 1 – 4 pm or by appointment.

More photographs from the launch can be seen here 

Collection Planning at Glenbarr

A week or so ago I was pleased to be invited back to Glenbarr, an historic property and museum at Strathalbyn, to help review the Friends of Glenbarr Inc’s strategic plan.  The Friends of Glenbarr look after the day to day management of the extensive site, which is a popular group campsite and function venue, as well as the original Glenbarr Homestead and contents.

While there I got to see the room of the Homestead that the group hopes to turn into a collection storeroom.  Sure it doesn’t look like much of a space now, but the roof is sound and the room is in a handy location, so with a new floor, some stone work, lining and insulation the group is hopeful of making it work.  It will be a significant achievement when they do!

Australian memory of the World

In May 2013 Adelaide will host two events that showcase the Australian Memory of the World register, a UNESCO program that works to preserve and promote documentary heritage in Australia. Come along to a workshop led by Roslyn Russell, Chair of the International Advisory Committee of Memory of the World and find out what the manuscripts relating to the Mabo case and the 1906 film The Story of the Kelly Gang have in common – and whether there are items in your collection that could be inscribed on the register. The workshop is presented by the Australian Memory of the World Program and History SA. Tuesday 14 May, 3.30 – 5.30 pm, Migration Museum chapel, Migration Museum, 82 Kintore Avenue, Adelaide. To book:

That evening, you can join distinguished guests at the 2013 Australian Memory of the World inscription ceremony, where the newest collections to be included on the register will be announced. Guest speaker Dr Jared Thomas will give an Indigenous perspective on documentary heritage, and light refreshments will be served. Tuesday 14 May, 6.15 for 6.30, Mortlock Chamber, State Library of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide. To book:

To find out more about the register and treasures of our documentary heritage:

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