The Strathalbyn and District Heritage Centre is located in the former police station which was built in 1858 with courthouse added in 1867. Not only is the museum open to the public on a regular basis, it is also available for Bus Tours, Community and School Group bookings, plus historic research.
The collection has many historic items such as: A fine collection of horse buggies and carts together with associated horse tack which date back to the early days of transportation in the district; a strong representation of old farming implements, notable among them is a fully restored horseworks; an original furphy water cart, a huge hand-hewn wooden thresher and a working wire tie hay baler; several items from now-closed local industries including a restored Blackstone Engine (from the old Ice Works) and an example of a Treblig bicycle; a blacksmith’s shop, including a collection of blacksmith’s tools and a working forge; a collection of over 3000 photographs, many of which have been copied and displayed throughout the Museum; objects bought back from both World Wars including uniforms, flying suits, guns, grenades, gas masks and helmets; items associated with the activities of the local court and police station. There are period rooms set up to display items that were common in sitting rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and laundries of Victorian and Edwardian Strathalbyn; sufficient items from doctors’ surgeries, pharmacists’ shops and dental practices to occupy a whole room plus a collection of magic lantern glass slides, with projector, along with several fine examples of cameras. The Museum also holds an extensive collection of water colour and oil paintings by artists who lived and worked locally; and is entrusted with archiving past editions of the local newspaper back to 1866 plus many other historically important documents.
Harold Stowe, Jack McLean (original chairman of the Strathalbyn branch), Alan Gemmell and their supporters helped lobby the State Government to pass management of the police station and old courtroom to the care of the National Trust and when this became a reality in 1974, the premises became the “Strathalbyn Police Station and Old Courthouse Museum”. In thirty five years of collecting, the Stowe Collection (as it was known) had grown to include the town’s accumulated archives, memorabilia, artefacts, records, historic photographs plus past issues of The Southern Argus newspaper and these form the basis for the Museum’s current collection. The collection, which now consists of some 6,000 items of importance to the history of Strathalbyn, continued to grow through the 1980s and 1990s as members of the public entrusted their family and other records to the Museum. The collection of old farm machinery also grew rapidly to more properly reflect the rural history of the region making the total collection a continuous record of life in the Strathalbyn district from 1839 awards. The Museum was officially opened on 26th July 1974 by Mr Warren Bonython, President of the National Trust of SA.