Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

History Revisited - a new Museum is born

A NEW (OLD) MUSEUM. Almost 25 years to the day since he opened the Armidale Museum, David Drummond opens the Armidale Folk Museum on 20 November 1958.
The Armidale Museum was closed in January 1942 for the duration of the War. Thirteen years later, and despite protests, the museum was still closed. The War had become quite extended!

During the week, I was asked where the Museum building was. It was next to the old Fire Station in Rusden Street.. If my geography is correct, the site is now occupied by the new council chambers.

Council had decided to re-open the museum, but the premises were still rented and things dragged on.

In March 1955, Council acquired the Literary Institute. In September 1955 following a visit to Europe assessing the local museums in Britain and in the Northern European countries, Teachers’ College lecturer E.W. Dunlop addressed Council on the cultural and educational advantages of a folk museum for Armidale or the New England district.

Eric Dunlop, a man who had a considerable impact on Armidale, had already moved to establish an education museum in conjunction with the Armidale Teachers’ College. Now he had a new project.

Following his address, Council accepted the proposal to establish the “first folk museum in Australia” and moved to establish a committee. It wasn’t in fact the first museum in Australia, but the idea provided a rallying point. The Armidale Express welcomed the move: “the City Council in naming a committee to launch the folk museum has selected men who are fully capable of sound planning and wise development.”

Armidale now had two museum groups. The exhausted and now largely defunct Armidale Museum group had a collection and, technically, premises if they were ever to become available. The folk museum group had enthusiasm and premises, but lacked most other things.

Events again moved slowly. In May 1956, the folk museum committee arranged a temporary museum within the Literary Institute as part of the Centenary of Responsible Government. In November, Harry Court protested against the Council proposal to transfer contents of the museum from its present accommodation to the Literary Institute.

In February 1957, the PMG gave notice of intention to vacate the Museum premises. It was now possible for Council to re-establish the City Museum or, alternatively, continue with the proposal to merge the museum collection with the folk museum collection.

David Drummond and Harry Court, two previous members of the now defunct museum committee, met the folk museum committee. With Council support, the decision was taken to house the museum collection temporarily in the Literary Institute, with the folk museum committee assuming responsibility for the display, care and control of exhibits. It was also agreed that the folk museum committee should be widened to include residents with a special knowledge of the Pike display and the best methods of display.

On 20 November 1958, the new Armidale Folk Museum was officially opened by David Drummond, now member for New England. It was almost 25 years to the day since he had opened the Armidale Museum as Australia’s first municipally operated museum. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 16 March 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016.

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