Chairman's Report 2016  
A walk around the Museum






Strathalbyn & District
Heritage Centre,
South Australia



The year began with farewells to serving Management Committee members Ann Doman, Elaine Watson and Helen Cromwell. Ann and Elaine continue as volunteers, while Helen leaves us after many years of great service to the Branch.

It is true to say the Museum would be unable to function without the work of Ann and Elaine. Ann is the Museum's Accessions Officer, handling all aspects of incoming collection items. Ann has excellent organisational skills and is 'front and centre' in each and every Museum activity, from stocktaking to collections management to staff functions. Elaine is expert in data input and interrogation, using the Museum's database (MOSAiC) program. She often has two or three of we 'lame ducks' lined up at her desk and asking for help with data extraction!

Geoff Poyner, John Fox, Barry Quemby and Trevor McLean were welcomed as new members of the Committee.

Community involvement included participation in the Strathalbyn Antique Fair, monthly working bees at the Strathalbyn Cemetery, liaison with the pioneering McLean family towards the online publication of their family history information, a submission to the then local Member the Hon Jamie Briggs regarding mooted cuts to Trove (the National Library's online search facility), and articles on local history, published by the Southern Argus.

In June, the Branch nominated well-known local history researcher and prolific author Brian Simpson for a Regional History award (winners yet to be announced).

The Branch is currently in negotiation with the District Council on the possibility of involvement in Snapshots in Time. This project seeks to make historic images from the collections of organisations and individuals within the district available online.

As always, our volunteers have been active in raising the funds necessary to keep both the Branch and the Museum (or Heritage Centre) in a financially sound condition. Our stall in the Strathalbyn Antique Fair stall (August 2015) raised just short of $900. A garage sale in November raised $1,175, while a second in April raised just over $1000. Well done to all involved.

Major R & M activities have included the removal of badly faded yellow paint from large areas of the Museum's police cell block. Over recent weeks our volunteers have been busy stripping off the old paint, and what a difference it makes as the beautiful old stone work is revealed! Volunteers (and especially Terry Watson) are now busy remediating those sections of wall that show fretting mortar. Planning is for the interior walls of the Police Courtyard to receive the same treatment.

Passers-by may also have noticed that the front of the old Police Station has been re-painted. Again, this is an enormous improvement. The paint used was specially chosen to maintain the authenticy of this heritage listed building.

As part of rationalising and extending desperately needed storage facilities, Ken Knight and Geoff Poyner have been busy constructing a small storage shed on the site of a rusted-out 1940s rainwater tank. This work has been designed to tie in with the shed's surroundings and will also be painted to match. The shed is to be used to store hard non-collection items such as scaffolding. The Branch is indebted to the Strathalbyn Lions Club for its very generous donation of $600 towards the project and to the Strathalbyn SES for demolishing and carting away the old rainwater tank.

Members of our Executive Committee have regularly attended the quarterly meetings of Hills and Southern Districts Branches. Each Branch is invited to submit a report of their activities to meetings and these have proven more than useful in sharing ideas for improvement.

A new edition of Nancy Gemmell's "Old Strathalbyn & Its People" has now been printed and will go on sale once all of the old stock has been sold. Thank you to Elaine Watson for her work in bringing this project to fruition, to Warren Doman for his work on some images and to Brian Simpson for ensuring accuracy.

Two or three years ago most of a dilapidated old stone building on the southern outskirts of Strathalbyn was demolished by the Alexandrina Council on the grounds of public safety. Local lore has it that this was a Cobb and Co stable, but no amount of searching on our part could link the building in any way to Cobb and Co. The stone and many of the heavy old timbers were subsequently donated to the Strathalbyn National Trust.

These materials have been in storage at the Council depot, but we recently shifted the several tonnes of stone to the SteamRanger yards for storage and the old timbers to our own premises.

Current thinking is to work towards using the stone and the timber to construct a new toilet facility at the museum. This would alleviate situations in which busloads of up to 50 people arrive at the museum only to find we have only one male and one female toilet, each equipped with grab rails and little else to cater for the disabled.

Concept plans have been drawn up (to include disabled facilities) and the plans and potential locations referred for advice to the National Trust's heritage architect, Mario Russo. Mario has recently suggested the best location (one most likely to gain the necessary approvals) and has kindly offered to draw up properly detailed plans.

The First Settlers display was the centrepiece of the museum's History Festival attractions, featuring large opaltype photographs of the district's first European settlers. Opaltypes are photographs printed on milk glass. Remarkably, these were taken in the early 1880s and are still in very good condition. The impetus for moving the display to its new location was to reduce the amount of reflected light striking the opaltypes. They are now in semi darkness, even on bright sunny days, and to view them now requires the use of non-UV producing artificial lighting.

A major project, now in full swing, centres on aspects of the Farming History of the Strathalbyn district from first settlement in 1839 to around 1920. Currently our volunteers are busy constructing one of the interactive elements in this display, featuring three ways to lift heavy loads. Visitors will have opportunities to try safely lifting loads using a block and tackle, a wheat bag lifter and an old screw jack. Engineering this display to ensure complete safety for participants is proving a demanding exercise! Grants totalling $12, 730 are set aside to complete this Farming History project, which is due for launch in May 2017. Thank you to Ken Knight and Gary Stalenberg for undertaking this challenging task.

Needless to say, the expertise of the several retired farmers (and those with farm experience) among our volunteers has been called upon to help ensure accuracy and authenticity. Thank you to Trevor McLean for his willingness to share his extensive knowledge of local farming history, and also to John Fox, Geoff Poyner, Bob Weckert , Peter Lovelock and Ken Knight for their inputs.