Chairman's Report 2017  
A walk around the Museum






Strathalbyn & District
Heritage Centre,
South Australia



Our volunteers have spent literally hundreds of hours gathering information for what is probably the most ambitious display ever conceived for the Museum. Begun in 2015, the Stories of Agriculture 1839-1920 is due for launch in November of this year and will transform the machinery shed into an attractively presented tribute to the farming families of our region. Gaps in our collection have been filled as the history of each of the district's agricultural pursuits has been reviewed. As the title suggests, the major emphasis is on telling history through stories.

Telling history in dry reference book style is relatively easy but quite boring and with this in mind, the large panels currently in the machinery shed are to be replaced with those telling interesting and often humorous stories of viticulture, general horticulture, early European settlement, mixed farming (three panels) and dairying. An eighth panel is entitled A Farmer's Year, 1910.

Gathering the stories together, reading newspaper articles, scouring books and talking at length with a score of local farming identities and local history researchers has proven rewarding but enormously time-consuming.

Augmenting the story panels are eight smaller boards. These will identify each machine or item of farm equipment in a nearby area using stylised images and, for the more important pieces, an indication of their impacts on local farming. Finally, there are three interactive elements in the display. These are designed to appeal to children from a range of ages. One is on farmyard animals (constructing model farmyards), a second deals with the ways farmers had for lifting loads (strong emphasis on safety with this one!) and a third on identifying a use for some old and unusual items of farm equipment. This last element will use photographs as visual clues; each having a button adjacent to it. Pressing a button will tell you what an item was used for and, in some cases, an interesting story surrounding its use. Thank you to Ken Knight and Gary Stalenberg for their work in constructing these elements.

Amenity & Services
It goes without saying that the Museum's toilet facilities, and in particular its lack of facilities for the disabled, require action. When busloads of visitors arrive there can be queues in the courtyard and people making their way to the toilets adjacent to the Visitor Information Centre. Mario Russo (NTSA Heritage Advisor) has been good enough to submit draft plans to us for proposed new toilets and has subsequently modified them on the basis of our feedback.

Informal discussions have since taken place with Council, to get an idea of the requirements for submitting plans. The Management Committee decided to wait for the outcome of the NTSA request for transfer of various sites (including our own) from the State Government to the NTSA. In the meantime, preparations are to continue - in particular the gathering of further relevant information. Thank you to Ken Knight and Warren Doman for advancing work on this important project.

A garage sale was held in November and made a profit of $900. Geoff & Ed Poyner were kind enough to offer the use of their home for this well run and successful fundraiser. A big 'thank you' also to Ed for her ongoing work on our old horse leathers. Our Branch again participated in the Strathalbyn Antiques Fair (Trash & Treasure) during August, with the event well supported through donations of goods for sale and the preparedness of our volunteers to serve on the stall. Well done to all involved for raising the very good sum of $1053.

During the year Management Committee member Trevor McLean reported that work on the book "History of Donald and Christina McLean and their descendants: first wheat crop growers in South Australia 1838 / prepared by Donald & Christina McLean Genealogical Council (Incorporated)" was progressing. The National Trust holds the publishing rights for this book and our Branch is cooperating in its revision. Efforts are being made to ensure the authenticity of photos of pioneering family members. Members of the family are also putting together a list of places that may be of interest to family members visiting Scotland.

Work is progressing on tracing Strathalbyn's McLean ancestry in Scotland and also constructing a network of living descendants. A website is under development and McLean descendants are to be given opportunities to contribute.

Earlier this year two of our Management Committee members took a major role in editing a new local history book; History of the Hartley School. Author Marian Harvey spent two years collecting information and writing this 300-page history, and the final result is a credit to her and makes a valuable addition to our Museum library. Editing and proof reading of local history books has become a feature of the work of our volunteers over the past decade or so.