Thursday, September 07, 2017

Warialda's new historical museum

2 September 2017. Opening of the new Warialda Museum
2 September 2017 saw the opening of a new historical museum in Warialda. Supported by the Gwydir Shire Council who provided Masonic Centre for refurbishment,  the museum was developed by the Warialda Historical Museum & Society

The local history and museum movements in New England have long histories.

The last decades of the nineteenth century saw a burgeoning interest in Australian history. Australia as a nation did not yet exist, but each of the colonies wished to promote their own achievements, while there was an evolving sense of national identity.

In 1880, for example, the text books introduced into NSW schools contained a segment on Australian history. That same year saw the founding of the Bulletin magazine. In 1901, the Royal Australian Historical Society was established, publishing its own journal from 1908.

This growing interest spread to the North with local papers playing a key role in promoting the history of their own areas, while settler reminiscences began to appear. In the Clarence Valley, for example, Thomas Bawden, as President of the School of Arts, gave three lectures in 1886 on the early history of Grafton. His collection of newspaper clippings and personal notes eventually filled 63 volumes. By 1906, the Grafton Daily Examiner was calling for the establishment of a local museum.
Display, Warialda Historical Museum
The establishment of the Armidale Teachers’ College in 1928 marked a major step forward. It was to include a museum that Education Minister David Drummond hoped would represent the North to students from the North. To this end, he peppered his Department with minutes demanding that they find the best possible exhibits.

Down in the Clarence in 1931, Sir Earle Page suggested the establishment of a historical records museum, which was named the Clarence River Historical Society with R. C. Law as Secretary. In 1935 the society affiliated with the Royal Australian Historical Society, the first country historical society to do so.

In 1933, Drummond opened the Armidale Municipal Museum, proclaimed as 'the first municipally controlled museum' in the state.
Display Warialda Historical Museum
The museum, Drummond suggested, should be more than just a repository of specimens. To his mind, a country museum should firstly be a place for objects that are 'intimately bound up with the history of the district'; and secondly a place for things 'closely associated with the industries of the district'. He warned that, above all, the museum 'must not be allowed to become a mausoleum or dumping ground for curios'.

In 1936, the Richmond River Historical Society was founded. By 1938, it was publishing its own journal.

The war set the movements back. However, from the 1950s, the growing interest in local, regional and then family history saw the establishment of new history societies and new museums. Now the Warialda Museum is added to the list.

These local museums are very important. They help preserve local history while adding to the attractions of the town for visitors.

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