Blog Archives

Proserpine Museum: open for business

Proserpine Museum. Image, Proserpine Museum website.

Today, volunteers at Proserpine Museum opened the doors for business for the first time since Cyclone Debbie. With many local businesses still closed and undergoing repairs, this reopening is great news for Proserpine.

Volunteers report that the building held strong during the cyclone. Although a small of amount of water got into one of the displays, there was very little damage – most of their collection was raised off the floor and this helped it to stay safe. Volunteers held a working bee to remove wet carpet and received assistance from the army to clean up the front of the building.

This means that the museum can now focus on preparing for it’s annual book bonanza in May, an event that has been running for over 20 years. Money raised goes towards the cost of maintaining the museum.

Visit the Proserpine Museum website for more information.

 

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Winton one year on

The early hours of Saturday July 18th will mark the first anniversary of the fire which claimed the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton.  It has been a long hard road for the volunteers of the Winton District Historical Society so it is timely to reflect on the enormous amount they have achieved since the devastating impact of the fire. Previous blogs have detailed the remarkable results achieved by conservators on a number of significant objects (Winton Fire response – Waltzing Matilda Centre, Winton Fire Response – the next phase of recovery, Phoenix objects from Winton, The conservation of a fire damaged print), but the work hasn’t stopped there.

Since March 21st the volunteers have opened those areas of the complex unaffected by the fire on a daily basis, and have welcomed over 1800 visitors. Although displays in the main Waltzing Matilda Centre were impacted by the fire, there’s still plenty for visitors to see in the museum complex with a fascinating range of cultural and natural history objects from the region on display.  Visitors can also see objects salvaged from the fire and the ongoing work of volunteers in conserving them.

The Waltzing Matilda Story, which previously formed part of the Billabong Show in the Centre, was saved from the fire and can be viewed in the Sarah Riley Theatre, which has also played host to a variety of community activities since the fire, including Waltzing Matilda Day, a famil tour and smoko for interstate journalists, and a free talk on overshots in Western Queensland by historian Sandi Robb.

In amongst all this activity, the volunteers have continued to work steadily through the objects still requiring attention.  Locals and visitors have also donated their time and expertise in the ongoing cleaning process, and the Winton Creative Arts Group have achieved stunning results with some of the collection, reading room, and storage furniture, with 11 large items and 12 chairs restored.

With all these achievements it’s easy for outsiders to forget the physical and emotional toll a disaster such as this takes on those who face loss and damage of their treasured collections.  But the images below demonstrate just what a huge accomplishment the successes of the past year have been.  The Winton District Historical Society are collaborating with Council, architects and the curatorial team on plans for the new Waltzing Matilda Centre, incorporating the museum precinct, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.

Follow the new Centre’s progress at Waltzing Matilda Centre

 

Exploring the value of First World War projects at the SLQ Heritage Leaders Forum

At the recent Q ANZAC 100 Heritage Leaders Workshop held at the State Library in Brisbane, I was asked to participate in a forum about community involvement in First World War Projects with three other speakers. This gave me the opportunity to discuss a few of the projects I have worked on as the MDO for far north Queensland:

Anzac advert

Exhibition Flyer. Graphic design: Nettie O’Connell

Defending the Pacific

Portraits of the North (Mareeba Historical Society)

Cooktown at War (James Cook Museum, Cooktown)

HistoryPin Project (Australian Sugar Industry Museum, Mourilyan)

Re-Honouring Cardwell (Cardwell and District Historical Society)

But as we sat and discussed the projects and their merits, I wish, in hindsight, that I had reflected a little more on what aspects of the projects didn’t go to plan or experienced hiccups. I am the first confess that the delivery of some of my projects encountered speed humps and that we had to make changes and deviations along the way.  It’s rare that we speak publically about mistakes or hiccups – but I find these are the very things that provide invaluable learning. If we shared these experiences more readily with some of the other groups undertaking projects we might help them avoid some of the issues we have encountered.

I was also aware that the projects I discussed are but a few of those that have been produced locally, and that one of the legacies of this extraordinarily busy period of history making was the skills and contributions of museum and historical society volunteers. In far north Queensland, Cairns Historical Society, Mareeba Historical Society, Mareeba Shire Council, Cairns Regional Council, Douglas Shire Historical Society, Loudoun House Museum, Mount Garnet Visitor Information centre, Cooktown History Centre, to name just a few, have all delivered a range of  exhibitions and events that provide a distinctive far north Queensland take on the First World War and involved people in undertaking historical and museum based work.

Donald Lawie, Mulgrave Settlers Museum, Gordonvale. Image: Matt Finch.

Don Lawrie, Mulgrave Settlers Museum, Gordonvale. Image: Matt Finch.

Fortunately, the Heritage Leaders Workshop gave participants an opportunity to see projects from across the region, and also appreciate the different sort of people involved. Far north Queensland was represented by volunteers from Mareeba Heritage Centre, Douglas Shire Historical Society, Atherton Library and Mulgrave Settlers Museum. Ken Keith spoke about the Douglas Shire Historical Society’s Douglas Diggers WWI Project. During one of the workshops, Don Lawrie from the Mulgrave Settlers Museum took the stage and entertained the audience with his storytelling and object based remembrances. I think it is this personal involvement, and the satisfaction that people glean from it, that lies at the heart of these projects’ success.

Now and THeN … using Skype to link community museums and education specialists

With learning programs playing an important role in the contemporary museum sector, organisations need to have an understanding of the Australian Curriculum. But for many volunteers and non-education specialists, the process of wading through the curriculum can be overwhelming.

Tony Coonen and Janelle Insley from Cobb and Co Museum present to the Tablelands Heritage Network via Skype at Malanda, Far North Queensland. Photo: Gwyneth Nevard.

Tony Coonan and Janelle Insley from Cobb and Co Museum present to the Tablelands Heritage Network via Skype at Malanda, Far North Queensland. Photo: Gwyneth Nevard.

To help museums and interpretation centres on the Atherton Tablelands de-mystify the new curriculum, education staff based at Queensland Museum’s Cobb and Co Museum campus in Toowoomba recently participated in a Skype-based workshop run as part of the Tablelands Heritage Network (THeN) meetings.

Tony Coonan, Education Officer, and Janelle Insley, Learning Programs Manager, outlined a range of strategies to help local museums and interpretation centres connect with schools in the area. This included searching Queensland Education’s database to create a geographically relevant contact list. Check it out here.  Most of the groups in TheN have collections that reflect local history and technology, and Janelle and Tony were able to focus on topics that draw specifically on those areas. Have a look here.

Object-based learning was also central to the discussion. Community museums, with their special association with “real things”, are perfectly placed to help students’ develop interpretation, interrogation and research skills.

With limited resources to run specialised, face-to-face education training, Skype facilitated the community’s much needed access to QM staff. The response from THeN members has been enthusiastic and they will now focus on developing education materials for museums in the network.

(THeN is an group of museums, historical societies, visitor information centres and collecting organisations that meets three times a year. It is facilitated by staff at the Tablelands Regional Council with assistance from Queensland Museum’s MDO for Far North Queensland.)

Gayndah Flood Recovery Phase Two

In February 2013 communities in the Bundaberg, Burnett and Frazer Coast region were inundated by flood waters in the wake of ex tropical cyclone Oswald. In an initial disaster response, Queensland Museum’s MDO team worked with museums at Gayndah, Bundaberg and Maryborough to salvage collection material, and provided assistance to museums faced with the massive clean up task.

Eight months later, five MDOs, and Queensland Museum’s Director of Regional Services, Deborah Bailey, returned to Gayndah to help volunteers deal with the next phase of disaster recovery. The three day trip was also a chance for the MDOs and volunteers to get some invaluable applied onsite training.

Earlier posts on the blog outline the process for freezing paper-based materials.  Frozen material can be dealt with later, at a more convenient time for people whose lives have been disrupted by a disaster.

Packages of frozen documents defrosting from Gayndah and District Historical Society. (Photo: Lydia Egunnike).

Packages of frozen documents defrosting from Gayndah and District Historical Society. (Photo: Lydia Egunnike).

To prepare for the unfreezing process, Gayndah and District Historical Society volunteers removed the wrapped packages from the freezer two days before the MDOs arrived. They wrapped them in towels and placed them in an undercover, shaded area to slowly defrost.

Lydia Egunnike, MDO for the southern inland region, organised all materials needed for the workshop, including vast quantities of paper towels, plastic spatulas and clean water. John Wein, the Secretary of the Historical Society, ensured there were plenty of fly screens on hand that could be used for drying racks, bricks to make tables higher and prevent sore backs, and food for a hungry work crew!

Activities on the first morning involved setting up works stations and drying stations both inside and on the museum verandah.

Deborah Bailey and Helen Pithe ensure fly screens used for drying stations are free of dirt. (Photo: Ewen McPhee).

Deborah Bailey and Helen Pithie ensure fly screens used for drying stations are free of dirt. (Photo: Ewen McPhee).

Jo Wills and Ewen McPhee cover fly screens with absorbent material to make a drying station. (Photo: Helen Pithe).

Jo Wills and Ewen McPhee cover fly screens with absorbent material to make a drying station. (Photo: Helen Pithie).

Lydia then provided preliminary training on how to carefully separate documents, what to do if they were stuck together, how to clean away residual dirt and mud, and how to start drying them properly.

Lydia Egunnike demonstrates how to separate and clean defrosted items rescued from the floods. (Photos: Helen Pithe).

Lydia Egunnike demonstrates how to separate and clean defrosted items rescued from the floods. (Photos: Helen Pithie).

Each MDO and the six volunteers (John Wein, Mary McIntyre, Brian and Sue Hutchinson, Jamie Wilson and Judith Woodman-Heuth) then set about working through the bundle of frozen documents. With John providing advice about which documents or materials they could discard, much time was saved. John also started the process of scanning dried documents that contained important information but which were not going to be kept due to damage, mould and/or general condition.

Drying booklets, folders and archives was a primary goal. Items were interleaved with paper toweling, often two or three times over the course of the site visit. Some material was stuck together so tightly it needed to be re-submerged in clean water or re-wet and gently prised apart using finer, more professional conservation tools.

Josh Tarrant separating the pages of a manual. (Photo: Helen Pithe).

Josh Tarrant separating the pages of a manual. (Photo: Helen Pithie).

Helen Pithe at work table. (Photo: Ewen McPhee).

Helen Pithe at work table. (Photo: Ewen McPhee).

Interleaving a ledger with paper towels to help the drying process. (Photo: Helen Pithe).

Interleaving a ledger with paper towels to help the drying process. (Photo: Helen Pithie).

At the end of the three days, all frozen items had been assessed with the drying process underway. This was possible because of the large number of volunteers and MDOs available, but also due to the organisation and planning that had gone into preparing for the activity.

Many thanks again to the Historical Society at Gayndah volunteers for making the MDO team feel welcome and keeping us well fed.

Volunteers bring Cairns’ Chinese heritage to life on Vimeo…

For those of you not familiar with Cairns’ Chinese heritage, here is a chance for a sneak peak into CADCAI’s (Cairns and District Chinese Association Inc) collection rooms and activities. Recently, four volunteers from CADCAI – Julie, Jackie, Ann and Emma – participated in a video making workshop run by ABC Open in Cairns. Over two days they scripted, filmed and produced a short promotional clip designed to entice visitors to their rooms in Cairns.

Their production showcases the region’s Chinese history and promotes the work they do to preserve the remarkable Lit Sung Goong Temple Collection. Salvaged by members of the Cairns Temple Society in 1964, this rare and beautiful collection comprises more than 250 individual objects. The Lit Sung Goong Temple Collection is representative of late 19th century Southern Chinse religious artefact production and is one of the most complete and virtually intact collections of Imperial Chinese temple fittings in Australia.

Follow the link to see the video CADCAI’s volunteers produced during the workshop: http://vimeo.com/71074565/

Reinvigorating FNQ’s museum workers and volunteers

Museum workers and volunteers from a range of FNQ museums have been involved in three different workshops over the past six weeks. Workshops offer participants an opportunity to acquire new skills so that they can care for and promote their collections and museums. But it’s important not to overlook the social value of these training sessions and to acknowledge how they reinvigorate the region’s industry and the people who work in it.

The three workshops held were designed to improve museum skills in exhibitions planning, collection management software and timber conservation. Each workshop has been a stand alone event that has been delivered by a different presenter or company.

FNQ MDO Dr Jo Wills delivered the exhibitions planning workshop through Heritage North in Cairns. Representatives from eight different groups from around the Tablelands, Cairns and Innisfail region participated.  Innisfail Historical Society members and Douglas Shire Historical Society representatives, for example, discovered that their collections both hold material related to the Low Isles expedition, and so can share knowledge and resources.

Collections management training for organisations using MOSAiC software was run by the MOSAiC team, Rew and Sally-Anne Whittington, in Cairns. There is now a local network of organisations using this software that can help each other out if they get into difficulties, including two Aboriginal collecting organisations at Kowanyama and Yarrabah.

Adam Godijn, Senior Paintings Conservator at ICS, demonstrates during a timber conservation workshop held at the Cairns and District Chinese Association Inc.

Adam Godijn, Senior Paintings Conservator at ICS, demonstrates during a timber conservation workshop held at the Cairns and District Chinese Association Inc.

Timber conservation workshops were held at CADCAI to conserve some of the nationally significant Lit Sung Goong Temple collection. The workshops were funded through the National Library of Australia’s Community Heritage Grant stream and included bringing two professional conservators from International Conservation Services, Adam Godijn and Oliver Hull, to work on the collection and run a timber preservation workshop. By opening up this training to other collecting groups, CADCAI have offered another workshop and networking opportunity for museum workers in the far north, including Cairns Museum and James Cook Museum in Cooktown.

Cairns Museum: installing a new exhibition

Cairns Museum will soon be opening a new exhibition called Cairns 1942: War in a northern town. Last weekend 10 volunteers worked tirelessly to help prepare the exhibition space for the new display. Old displays were dismantled and stored. New walls were installed. The exhibition space and object cases were vigorously cleaned. And new display panels and objects were temporarily placed to ensure the layout was correct. Stay tuned to see more images from the exhibition after it officially opens on Tuesday 5 June 2012.

Image

Michael, Les, Deb and Jo dismantle part of the old displays at Cairns Museum.

Photographer: Suzanne Gibson.