Reopening of Rejuvenated Latvian Museum

On Saturday 11 December, the History Trust of South Australia’s Community History Officers, Amanda James and Pauline Cockrill attended the reopening of Adelaide’s Latvian Museum, which has been closed to the public for around 5 years.

Visitors view examples of national costume and ceramics, representing Latvia’s cultural heritage, displayed in new cabinets.

Located at 36 Rose Terrace in Wayville, the museum was officially reopened by His Excellency Marģers Krams, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Latvia to the Commonwealth of Australia, along with Ilze Radzins, President of the Latvian Association of SA.

Housed in a 19th century stone-fronted villa, the museum aims to reflect the heritage of the post WW2 immigrants who brought their culture and art to South Australia from Latvia.  Prior to COVID and some necessary building renovations, the History Trust had been closely involved in the rejuvenation of the museum, with both funding and expert advice. In 2017-19 Community History Officer, Pauline Cockrill worked with the museum volunteers to clean, catalogue and review the displays in preparation for Latvia’s centenary celebrations taking place 2017-2021. In 2018, Latvia celebrated a hundred years since it became an independent state.

The Latvian Museum has had close connections with the History Trust for many years, being part of its Community Museums Program, (now the Museums and Collections (MaC) Program), the development and funding program for community museums and historical groups that manage collections.  We should like to acknowledge the many years of sterling work undertaken by previous volunteer curator Mara Kolomitsev who sadly passed way in 2020.

Fascinating memorabilia relating to Aldona Laurs (nee Muizniece) born in Riga in 1911. She was a Red Cross nurse during WW2 and afterwards worked at the DP Camp Insula, near Berchtesgaden in Germany. She migrated to Adelaide in 1948.

We look forward to the Latvian Museum joining MaC and being able to assist them in incorporating into the museum displays, the many oral histories of the Latvian community being ably gathered by Marija Perijma.

Saturday’s event was a memorable occasion for the local Latvian community, and many of the hardworking volunteers involved in the museum’s rejuvenation were in attendance.  After an opportunity to view the museum’s displays, attendees were invited to the Latvian Association’s meeting rooms next door for refreshments including traditional Latvian  specialties: Piragi (bacon filled buns) and Klingeris (a sweet bread served at birthdays and other celebrations).

L-R: Ilze Radzina, Marija Perejma, Pauline Cockrill, His Excellency Mr Margers Krams and Mrs Sandra Krama

Gifts were exchanged between the Ambassador and the Latvian Association, and the museum also received a fascinating donation to the collection from a local member of the Latvian community in the form of a pair of binoculars belonging to his father. They had been requisitioned from a Russian soldier during the reoccupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union in 1944 following the withdrawal of Nazi German troops.

HE Ambassador of Latvia, Margers Krams looks on as the President of the Latvian Association, Ilse Radzins is presented with some WW2 memorabilia for the museum.
Slices of celebratory Latvian cake (Klingeris) are passed around at the reception afterwards

Visiting the City of Adelaide

On 22 September the History Trust of South Australia’s Community History Officers, Amanda James and Pauline Cockrill were delighted to be given a personal tour of the Clipper Ship, City of Adelaide by Director Peter Christopher.

The City of Adelaide is currently berthed in Dock 2, Honey Street in Port Adelaide. The volunteer not-for-profit organisation which preserves this historic vessel, Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd (CSCOAL) recently joined our Museums and Collections (MaC) Program, the History Trust of South Australia’s development and funding program for community museums and historical groups that manage collections.

Peter talking about the composite hull – wood and iron frame.

The ship was purpose-built in Sunderland in the north of England to transport passengers and goods between the UK and South Australia and was named after its capital city.  The world’s oldest composite clipper ship (wooden hull on iron frame), and one of only two to survive, the other being the famous but younger Cutty Sark.

The City of Adelaide’s maiden voyage was in 1864 and for over 20 years she played an important part in the immigration of Australia. Later she worked as a cargo ship, then an isolation hospital near Southampton before being taken over by the Royal Navy.  The ship was left to rot on a private slip on the River Clyde in Scotland before being rescued by a group of Australian volunteers headed by Peter Christopher and brought to Port Adelaide in 2014.

Peter and his volunteers gave a fascinating tour of the ship and we discussed the restoration and future plans for interpretation.  Their aim is to make the ship the centre-piece of a seaport village in Port Adelaide’s inner harbour.

The area of the vessel that tells the story of when it was an isolation ship

We are pleased to learn that the group are already taking advantage of their MaC membership, applying for a MaC Small Project grant to assist their upcoming Descendants Day in November. The History Trust looks forward to assisting this enterprising group in the future.

Amanda with volunteer Ian inside the storage container that is the museum shop
Ann Margaret Bickford supplied 3 casks of lime juice cordial for each of the 23 voyages of the City of Adelaide as a medicine to avoid getting scurvy.

New Interpretive Trail launched at Milang

Last Sunday 30 May, as part of South Australia’s History Festival, a new interpretive walking trail at Milang on the Fleurieu Peninsula was officially launched by Member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie MP. An initiative of the Port Milang Railway Museum, the trail was funded by the History Trust of South Australia through our Museums and Collections (MaC) program.  This is a development and funding program for community museums and historical groups that manage collections.

Visitors walking Nuggett’s Trail can read about the history of the tramway and the lakes on the 10 interpretive signs

The History Trust’s Community History Officer Pauline Cockrill was delighted to cut the ribbon and meet champion Clydesdale Wheelabarraback Hugh Barry aka Harry who, with his owner Mike Connell of the SA Working Draught Horse Association, took the lead along the new trail down to the jetty.  Harry was taking the part of Nuggett after which the trail is named.  Nuggett was the last horse that was used for over two decades, until his death in 1934, to transport goods to and from the jetty.

In the form of ten signs constructed along the 400m route from the railway station to the jetty, Nuggett’s Trail tells the story of the tramway. The jetty was built in 1856 and for many years horses were the motive power to convey goods, later replaced by a 1923-4 Chevrolet car until the tramway was removed in the 1960s.

The Port Milang Railway Museum is free and open from noon to 4pm at weekends, with Devonshire teas and free train rides available on Sundays.

Launch of the Rejuvenated Round House

Welcome to Country at the beginning of the launch

The CEO of the History Trust of South Australia (HTSA), Greg Mackie OAM launched the rejuvenated historic Round House on 5 May during South Australia’s History Festival.  The launch had been postponed from the previous year because of COVID.


Since early 2019 HTSA has been working with the Rural City of Murray Bridge (RCMB) who own the Round House to assist in the rejuvenation of this State Heritage and National Estate listed building. It is one of Murray Bridge’s oldest surviving buildings, completed in 1876 during the construction of the first bridge to span the Murray River.

HTSA and RCMB team

The project utilised skills of the History Trust’s Public Engagement branch led by Community History Officer Pauline Cockrill.  HTSA undertook several tasks on behalf of RCMB: a review of collection records; a significance assessment of Round House collections; an Interpretation plan for the Round House and the development of museum and collection skills of volunteers.

Taking a selfie with bridge engineer Henry Parker – Bec Turner, Christeen Schoepf and Pauline Cockrill

When the project commenced very little was known about the collections at the Round House, the many previous uses of the building, or the many people who had lived and worked there throughout its almost 150 year history. Professional historian Christeen Schoepf was subcontracted to do further research into residents of the Round House. Council received a $5,000 grant through HTSA’s South Australian History Fund to engage Christeen to undertake oral history interviews to support best practice interpretation, encourage community participation and to incorporate into the new display.


Implementation of the Significance Assessment and Interpretation Plan developed by has been led by Bec Turner and has involved a team of volunteers and collaboration/consultation with other organisations such as the National Railway Museum, museum design company Synthetic Creative Services, landscaping design company  WAX Design, the National Trust of South Australia and HTSA

The newly rejuvenated hallway of the Round House

The Round House project demonstrates successful collaboration between HTSA and a local council.  First occasion of such a collaboration and we are now working with Adelaide Hills Council on an exciting interpretation project at Fabrik, the former Onkaparinga Woollen Mill site.

The newly revitalised Round House stands as an excellent example of meaningful collaboration between state and local governments, of how it is possible to tell authentic, significant stories through connecting well-researched history with best practice, creative methods of interpretation, on a relatively low budget.

The RCMB’s short promo trailer about the Roundhouse can be seen here 

Trees: Who Gives a Root?

Who Gives a Root? is the engaging title of a new fun, informative and interactive exhibition about our humble leafy friends – trees – which opened at Unley Museum last Thursday 28th January. The launch party was held appropriately in the shade of a large tree on the village green at the back of the museum.

Innovative way of displaying information in this exhibition about trees

This new exhibition takes up the main display area in the centre of the building, once Unley’s old fire station.  It has been transformed into a forest setting with replica trees, soft green lighting and the sound of birdsong.  Information is innovatively communicated using overlays of printed paper on the walls (like photocopies – a clever reminder of the way sadly many trees end up these days). However, we are told that the entire exhibition is printed on Carbon Neutral Paper and utilises reused materials. You can learn fascinating facts such as one established tree can provide enough oxygen for ten people to breathe each year; as well as schemes such as Unley’s Tree Tag project, and  Trees for Life’s  Trees for Carbon project. Using the Eye Jack App, obtained by scanning a QR code, you can also search for 10 native Australian, tree-dwelling animals hidden around the room. There is also a large interactive table top touchscreen that enables visitors to find out about Unley’s significant trees.  Did you know that within the council area lives a River Red Gum on Wilberforce Walk, Forestville, believed to be the oldest living thing in South Australia! Estimated at 800 years of age, it is also one of the largest, with a circumference of seven metres. Before leaving, visitors can write thoughts or comments about the exhibition on ‘leaves’ to attach to a tree, while later joining in on a photo challenge, involving taking a selfie with your favourite tree and bringing the photo back to add to the wall.

Visitor using the touchscreen within the exhibition

Designed by Exhibition Studios, the exhibition was part-funded by the History Trust through their Museums and Collections (MaC) standards Program.  Unley Museum is one of eight Accredited Museums within this program.  Unley’s curator Karen Paris was assisted by researcher and self-confessed ‘tree hugger’ Marian McDuie, GIS lecturer at TAFE SA – Regional Urrbrae Campus, who was also the guest speaker at the launch.  As well as talking about the importance of trees, Marian also told us the fascinating origins of the phrase ‘tree hugger’, which dates back to an event involving several hundred Indian villagers in 1730. City of Unley’s Mayor, Michael Hewitson also gave an impassioned speech.  This council is serious about its trees. It has a Tree Strategy and in 2020, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Arbor Day Foundation recognised the City of Unley with Tree Cities of the World designation for the care and planning of urban trees and forests. This international program celebrates cities across all continents that meet core standards.

Exhibition researcher and guest speaker Marian McDuie giving presentation at the launch

Delayed by almost a year because of COVID, the exhibition will remain open for the rest of 2021. It can be seen Monday to Wednesday 10am – 4pm, Thursday 10am – 6pm and Sunday 2-5pm. It is closed on Public Holidays.

Vale Margaret Tiller

The Community History team of the History Trust of South Australia are deeply saddened by the news of the death of Margaret Tiller on the night of Sunday 31 May at the Mary Potter Hospice.

Margaret in discussion with Amanda at the Succession Planning workshop in 2018 – the last time we were able to catch up.

Margaret was a much valued member of our South Australian History network, a long time committee member and volunteer at the Mallala Museum.  An untiring advocate for the museum, she still carried on an active role there despite being ill for some time.  The success of this mid north community museum has been largely due her tireless enthusiasm and dedication. She was a school excursion volunteer at the museum and as a former, education was always central to the museum ethos.  She is remembered as Miss Field teaching at Mallala School in the late 1950s. She was not afraid of embracing new ideas and skills playing an important part in the establishment of the Mallala Now and Then community heritage wiki website in 2010, which helped put Mallala on the map. We also made great contributions to our Once Upon a Time: Stories of South Australian Childhoods travelling exhibition, and the subsequent pop up display during the 2014 History Festival.

Margaret’s ingenious display case for protecting precious ‘Thread Bear’.

We shall miss the welcoming country hospitality that she always gave us when we arrived after the long drive to Mallala for a meeting or workshop. And we shall fondly miss her enthusiastic lengthy phone calls to keep us up to date with museum news or to run past innovative ideas for new displays.  The use of Cheap as Chips aquariums for making quick and easy display cases for small objects is something we still cite in our list of tips for small museums. We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues at the museum and within the Mallala community.

Ethical Storytelling Workshop

Around ten participants gathered in the Hetzel Theatre at the State Library’s Institute building on Monday 18 February eager to learn about Ethical Storytelling. It was Oral History Australia (SA/NT branch)’s first workshop for the year, and the beginning of a very special year for the organisation, being its 40th anniversary.  Catherine and I from the were amongst the attendees of the workshop which was led by freelance Adelaide-based writer May-Kuan Lim.

Many of us were working or had worked on projects that involved interviewing people and telling their stories, sometimes poignant, sensitive stories – to relay in a publication, website or exhibition. How can we ensure we do this ethically?

With the help of a power point presentation as well as some sample published passages to provoke small group discussion before reporting back to the main group, May-Kuan guided us through the duty of the writer and oral historian.  We considered what made a good story as well as the ideals in relation to the subject before outlining the process for fact finding, and what one should bear in mind when searching for the story.

May-Kuan recommended that we should always have in our minds when telling a story ‘Would I want myself/my children portrayed in this way?’  Her main take away message was that it should always be ‘people before projects’.

May-Kuan graduated in Computer science from the University of Melbourne. She was working as a broadcast engineer in a small regional TV studio in Sarawak, Malaysia in the late 1990s when she realised she would rather be writing stories than broadcasting them.  Since 2010 she has been teaching part time at Port Adelaide TAFE. Many of her students were former refugees and she was drawn to their stories particularly in light of the then current boat arrival debate. She started interviewing and writing refugee stories to try to understand why people fled and what life was like for them now.  Her book ‘Australia: Island of Refuge’ was released serially online from 1 March. Her presentation also drew on her experience helping her father write his life story, Fish in the Well: A memoir of faith and aspiration in which he recalls his early years around the Malaysian tin-mining town of Ipoh, and his search for a way out of poverty.

You can contact May-Kuan Lim via her website The Curious Scribbler or her Facebook page

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All Aboard! 50th Anniversary Last Passenger Service to Milang Re-enactment

On Friday 30 November 2018, 67 railway enthusiasts, friends and relatives were transported to Milang from Mount Barker via Strathalbyn on historic railcars, to commemorate the closing of the Milang railway station which took place 50 years ago to the day in 1968.

Organised by the Milang Historic Railway Society in collaboration with SteamRanger Heritage Railway, this fundraising event for the Port Milang Historic Railway Museum began at the Mount Barker railway station where participants were presented with authentic vintage tickets before boarding an historic ‘Red Hen’ railcar.  On this glorious sunny day, passengers rattled along to Strathalbyn watching the passing scenery and listening to talks about the historic railway line along the way as well as having the opportunity to buy a special stamped anniversary envelope to be posted at Milang that afternoon. It was all change at Strathalbyn for a comfort stop plus a group photo at the ‘Change for Milang’ sign on the platform; then all aboard again on a ‘Barwell Bull’ railcar heading for Finniss with a stop at the now deserted Sandergrove Junction where passengers alighted to take photos and reminisce.

Coaches at Finniss then took everyone to Nurragi where they were treated to an informative talk about the Nurragi Conservation Reserve by Gerry Thompson. Then on to a delicious lunch at Milang Bowling club followed by a visit to the Milang Railway Museum and Light Railway Centre where volunteers enthusiastically showed off their work.  Milang Railway Museum is registered in the History Trust’s former standards Community Museums Program and has received grants and support in kind but much of their success is due to the efforts of the volunteer team.

At 3pm Allan McInnes played the part of the last stationmaster as he ceremoniously re-enacted the locking of the stationmaster’s office door as Ted Pattenden had done on 30 November 1968.  With that, participants then boarded the coaches again for a tour of Milang before heading for Finniss and taking the ‘Barwell Bull’ back to Strathalbyn Station.  Here they were allowed to witness the turning of the railcar on the historic turntable before taking the ‘Red Hen’ back to Mount Barker.

Here’s a short film which captures the highlights of this wonderful event, with its glorious weather and smooth organisation by a great team of passionate volunteers, headed by President Allan McInnes and Secretary Peter Lucas at the Milang Historic Railway Society.

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