Women of the River Country

On Thursday 9 April, almost 200 people attended the official opening of the Women of the River Country exhibition at the Mannum Dock Museum of River History.

This new exhibition profiles 19 women of strength, passion and dedication and portrays how women from across the Murray Darling Basin have shaped the River Murray and its landscape from Wodonga to Goolwa.

Mannum Dock Museum of River History is one of History SA’s registered museums in their Community Museums Program and the exhibition, designed by Mulloway Studio and Natasha Adams, has been part funded by a History SA CMP 2014 grant. As well as additional support from the Mid Murray Council and the SA Government Office for Women, the project has also received a federal Visions of Australia grant from the Australia Council for the Arts and after being displayed at Mannum for the rest of this year will travel to other venues across SA, VIC and NSW.  In 2016 it will being going to Swan Reach, Blanchetown, Morgan and Echuca while Mildura and Goolwa are other venues on the cards.

Introduced by Mannum Dock Museum executive officer Debbie Alexander, the launch began with a traditional welcome to country by Nganguraku Custodian Isobelle Campbell as well as a smoking ceremony. There were official speeches by Mannum Dock Museum chairman Rob Bowring, Member for Elder Annabel Digance, who was representing the South Australian Premier, Mid Murray Mayor Dave Burgess and Jocelyn Brown, the daughter of Hilda Creaser who features in the exhibition.  Craig Pilkington and famed indigenous Australian musician Archie Roach played a number of songs in honour of Archie’s late partner Ruby Hunter who is also profiled in the exhibition.

Consisting of the 19 women’s stories printed on individual tall plinths, associated artefacts are displayed in cases around the exhibition space while local river women’s stories hang in frames on the wall. There is also a touch screen where visitors can select different audio visuals relating to some of the women in the exhibition. Organisations hosting the exhibition at other venues can include their own local river women’s stories from their particular region.  

The 19 women who feature are Eliza Arbuckle; Ivy Carr; Ella Chaffey; Margaret Court; Hilda Creager; Jessie Dunstone; Mary Ann Edwards; Ruby Hunter; Pauline Milich; Elyne Mitchell; Essie Nisbet; Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Randell; Mary Ann Randell; Hattie Schell; Hattie Sexton Schell; Helen Sutherland; Jessie Wakefield; Pearl Wallace and Elizabeth Williams. There is also a book accompanying the exhibition available at the Mannum Visitor Information Centre, and future exhibition venues, priced $24.99.

More photos of the launch and the display can be seen here

School Museums in the Spotlight

South Australia was well represented at the recent 2015 Symposium of the International Association of School Museums and School History Collections held at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, on 25-28 March. This was the first time since its formation 32 years ago that the bi-annual event has been held anywhere in the world other than in Europe.

The opening keynote address was given by Professor Geoffrey Blainey who was introduced to the audience as one of Australia’s genuine ‘Living Treasures.  Session presenters included delegates from Italy, Denmark, Greece, Germany, The Netherlands, Estonia, Czechoslovakia and Australia.  Aimed specifically at museums that incorporate school rooms/buildings or have a focus on the history of schooling, conference themes included using role-play and performance to teach history and museums as learning spaces for schools.  Delegates were able to get immersed in the learning experience of the conference with the program including the Blood on the Southern Cross sound and light show, in depth look at Soverign Hill’s own education programs, and a mine tour and gold panning activity.

Among the South Australian delegates were Amy Leigh and Debbie Thiele from The Village Loxton, Linda Thatcher, NTSA Tourism Manager Moonta for Moonta Mines School, Samantha Cooper, Archivist, Pulteney Grammar School, Victoria Hardy, Willunga NTSA for James Bassett Boys School and Glenda Couch-Keen for Friedensberg Historic Early German School Museum at Springton.  History SA was able to fund two registrations for this conference, which allowed Glenda and Victoria to attend.


Caring for Collections on Kangaroo Island

Last week saw me driving down to the ferry terminal at Cape Jervis with the History SA car packed to the gunnels with archival material, monitoring equipment and sample artefacts from Artlab Australia.  I was heading for Kangaroo Island to facilitate a two-day ‘Caring for Collections’ workshop for community museums and history groups. We run this skills development program annually in different regions in South Australia and this was the first time we had been able to offer such an experience to those on the other side of the Backstairs Passage.  Better still it was free of charge courtesy of a National Library of Australia Community Heritage Grant.

All went to plan and our two workshop presenters from Artlab – Preventive Conservator Anne Dineen and Senior Textile Conservator Kristin Phillips – arrived safely by plane later that day and we were soon all set up ready to go in the Natural Resources Board Room in Kingscote.

Almost 20 people attended each day made up of mainly volunteers from Kangaroo Island’s three museums – Hope Cottage Museum at Kingscote, Penneshaw Maritime & Folk Museum and Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum.  Both mornings were spent learning the theory behind managing a museum environment, identifying risks and pests that might affect our collections as well as best practice regarding storing or displaying archival material, photographs, costume and textiles.  Afterwards, participants could ‘have a go’ at what they had learnt.

On the first afternoon everyone gathered at nearby historic Hope Cottage, built in 1859, and now a museum run by the Kingscote branch of the National Trust.  Participants were divided into groups to try out their new found knowledge. Armed with magnifying glasses and torches, teams enthusiastically searched for signs of pest activity, keenly clutching their resulting collection of bugs (but not too many!) collected via sticky traps and plastic bags. Then there was a chance to try out electronic monitors to measure light, relative humidity and temperature in various parts of the building and discover ways in which artefacts might be displayed in better environmental conditions.

The second afternoon saw us back in the meeting room where participants learnt how to surface clean objects (including a seagull!) with the aid of micro attachments on a regular vacuum cleaner as well as a tulle-covered embroidery hoop; how to encapsulate documents using Mylar; or enclose a booklet by making a four flap folder; and how to make padded clothes hangers for storing/displaying costume plus a padded support for a very elegant 19th century smoking cap.

It was obvious everyone had a lot of fun over the two days. As well as being able to take home a free set of printed notes from the workshop, participants also went away equipped with a lot of useful food for thought for their respective museums and contact details if they needed help in the future.

Photos from the two day workshop can be seen here 

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