Museums & Galleries Qld

Jana Kahabka blogs from mentorship at Workshops Rail Museum

Posted on: 30 October 2013

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Jana here from Croydon Shire Council. Had my first day at the Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich as a mentee with the M&GSQ sponsored program to provide training for small museum staff all over Queensland. Thank you to them.

The Museum/s I work with as the Cultural Heritage Coordinator for Croydon Shire Council variously range from a State of the Art visitor centre with small object displays, didactic 4 sided columns of information, a small theatre with a fantastic audio- visual of Croydon’s history from gold to now with a hologram Town Crier and two screen visuals. It has an air conned, humidity controlled archive room and an air conned storage room for documents awaiting preparation for archiving, objects and tourist brochures and miscellany. It has gardens at the back with two antique Bedfords (which get prepped to run in the annual Croydon Poddy Dodgers Parade and driven proudly by generational locals), more machinery and Hans Pehl sculptures (say no more).

The four State heritage registered civic buildings all in their original locations, restored and freely open to the public have displays from modern to old style and of course, some humorous. Croydon Shire has 15 State Registered Heritage places.

The General Store has one side of it’s shop front devoted to a museum of shop products and objects and memorabilia from the gold days and the shop itself has the original store furniture and has continuously run (more or less) as a store since 1894. The Club Hotel was built in 1887 as a boarding house and reworked into a pub a few years later and is now the only remaining hotel of 64 in the gold field and 36 in the Croydon township alone. We have lots of heritage buildings for a small town that was systematically demolished after the gold and in war and depressions when there was a scarcity of corrugated iron everywhere. We have a complete collection of gold mining and associated machinery (nationally significant after assessment by Dr Jan Wegner of Cairns JCU).

We have a genealogy database of 18,000 people that have lived in Croydon and associated documents, photographs, articles held in ledgers and folders and coded with unique information that is sourced in person, by phone and by email from all over Australia.

Cataloguing was held in the Mosaic database but all vestiges have been lost in computers not linked to mains data bases, in Croydon and in the Cairns QM office and in some cases we have hand written records, in others none at all.

I wear many hats in Croydon so I have little time to regenerate catalogues or even inventories. I am hoping that the exposure I get to an organization that has systems in order and big heritage collections  will help me with ways to reconstruct our records in a shorthand way. Digitization is of particular interest and the Workshops techniques will really interest me.

I am also looking forward to the nuts and bolts of display design and implementation at the Workshops Rail Museum itself.

And last but not least I am hoping to have some discussions around a failproof organizational structure for a Restorations Group to finalize the restoration if the A10 steam locomotive that Council recovered from its abandonment at the Station Creek Pioneer Mill when Forsayth closed it down in 1914. The Norman, as it was called in the gold days, has been partially restored and is patiently sitting in its purpose built (and equipped) shed waiting to be up and running on the line, which it constructed in 1891, again. 202 is the only surviving A10 of the three that originally built the line, and is a real Croydon treasure.

Today is my second day here and I am definitely in the right place for everything I need to know.

Yesterday I was inducted. I received my access swipe and was shown around this magnificent facility by national treasure David Mewes. Richelle overviewed the Events and Exhibitions aspect of the museum and I met key members of staff. It was very interesting to discover that the annual ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ event generated 30% of the annual income of the museum. Simple, but clearly a winning formula for attracting a particular target group that don’t experience the same romance in their exposure to the train experience of today, which is fast, plain and everyday. I still remember steam train trips from Sutherland in ‘The Shire’ to Wollongong through the Royal National Park to visit my grandmother in the late 1950’s as a young child and I can still smell the smoke and remember my mother trying to keep me clean from the soot.

Today David went through the cataloguing system including the John Kerr database, which has nuances with our genealogy database, but contains much broader information that is not individual based, and the associated photographic and other records held in other data bases. A four page research/copy request form and a two week advance booking ensures that David can keep to the 28 day turn around as there is additional time required for placing all requests and their status into an excel database that enables easy tracking. The fees for this research contributes to museum income. Love it.

The Genealogy information contained in the railway ‘cards’ (including a person’s name, address, date of birth, date joined the railways, dates of any re-classifications, training, retirement or resignation, etc..) have been moved to Records Management in Queensland Rail where there are protocols that pre-empt research and a sliding scale of fees. This is more like the person based information that we have.

David then took me for a tour of the workshops – the blacksmith’s shop, pattern shop, etc.

The experience of a museum of displays in the building the heritage originated in is very familiar, having been the officer in charge of St Helena and Fort Lytton historic national parks. It is the same at Croydon. It’s an extra dimensional experience. Here it is wonderful to be sitting in an office and walking through the excellent exhibitions and looking up at the walkways and across to old machinery attached to side walls of the ‘workshops’.

Really looking forward to tomorrow and the session with David on ‘Steam Train Restoration’.

M&GSQ’s 2013 Mentorship, Exchange and Fellowship Program is funded by Arts Queensland through the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF). RADF is a joint Queensland Government and Local Government partnership to support local arts and culture.

See M&GSQ’s website, www.magsq.com.au for more information about the Mentorship, Exchange and Fellowship Program.

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Museums & Galleries Queensland

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Museums & Galleries Queensland is the peak professional body for the public museum and gallery sector in Queensland.

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