The museum is housed in the old 1917 Swan Reach school building, which was built in 1917 using stone cut from the cliffs along the River Murray, sea shells can be found embedded in the stone because approximately twenty three million years ago the area was under an ancient ocean.
The museum’s collection consists of Aboriginal artefacts, agricultural and domestic equipment from a farm in the Galga area, which was owned by a family who settled on the land in 1904, they lived in a tent for two years until they had cleared enough mallee to put a crop in and in their spare time dug a well one hundred and eighty six feet deep to get water. Also during the 1960s a family by the name of Lush was farming in the Galga area and one of their children, Julie played sport in the district and made her debut in the Swan Reach Town Hall in 1966, Julie went on to become one of Australia’s best known singers. Her name is Julie Anthony and she has lent her debutant dress to help tell her story whilst in the district.
A footpath meanders around the museum and a past a shed which is dedicated to telling the history of Lock 1 and the ferries in our district, included in the display are two vintage engines once used on the ferries, old machinery, tools and wooden patterns used to cast the steel ferry wheels, a large photographic collection of the ferries in the district and the construction of Lock 1 compliments the display. Next is a small blacksmith shop made from old native pine and flattened tar drums, common building materials in the 1930s – 40s, inside is a collection of tools that the blacksmith would used to ply his trade and one wall is dedicated to a collection of rabbit and dingo traps. The path the leads to an old telephone exchange building, which contains one of the State’s last manual telephone switchboards, a sound proof box used to send and receive telegrams via Morse code, there is also a collection of old phones and test equipment. From here the path, lined with rose bushes, passes old farming implements from the district leading back to the museum’s entrance.
The museum has a well stocked souvenir shop, offers a limited family history research service and facility, guided tours and a “Day at School” experience for Years 1-8 in the early 20th century classroom is a available upon request, numbers are limited to 15 children at any one time.
The Mid Murray Lands Local History Group has established the museum and was opened by two of its old students in 2001. The continuing support from the Mid Murray Council, owners of the land and buildings, grants from History SA and help from the museum’s many supporters has enable us to create a tourism attraction in Swan Reach which serves all visitors travelling through the town, be it by road or river.