Tuesday 18th March 2014:
Australia is a spacious country, and if you live on the land, you have a lot of room. Chances are, you have a lot of sheds. Chances are, you have learnt to be resourceful from a very young age, ‘cos it is not as if you can nick around to the corner shop every time you are missing this or that. So you keep a LOT of STUFF in your sheds, ‘cos the day may come that you need that thing. Eventually, though, some descendant has to clean out that shed, and they look inside and say to each to other – “what are we going to do with all this stuff?” This is the day that Bill and I visited two museums, and we saw where all that STUFF ends up.
First of all though, our day kicked off with another communion with the past at the Standing Stones of Glen Innes. Our visit of the previous afternoon had focused on St Patrick’s Day and talking with locals, so I wanted to return in the morning to understand the mystique and meaning of this installation. There are 24 stones representing the hours of the day, four cardinal stones represent east, west, north, south, and seven stones that mark the summer and winter solstice. They also represent our most famous constellation, The Southern Cross, and also the Celtic nations of Scotland, Ireland, Isle of man, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany – and the Australis Stone – for all Australians. That’s placing a lot of responsibility on inanimate objects, but it does represent the links that the local population feel to their ancient Celtic roots.
Next up was a visit to the ‘Land of the Beardies’ History House Museum. In a sense, it is a museum within a museum, as the collection is housed within the district hospital that operated between 1877 and 1966. Former wards and treatment rooms fan out around a central courtyard, and every room is jam packed full of STUFF dating back to the 1830s pioneer era, and all of it collected from the town and district. There are more than forty exhibition areas reflecting their life and times. It is also a haven for researchers, with thousands of records in their archives, and we met several volunteers working on projects. Amongst it all, there is a recreated operating room, and one of the most poignant exhibit is two respirators, more commonly known as iron lungs, used to treat polio victims, one for an adult, and one tiny one for an infant (no photo).
This area of NSW is well-known for sapphires, and amateur fossickers come out for a dig around. After a couple of hours at the museum, we set off along Fossickers Way towards Inverell.
Continuing the museum theme, our first visit was to the Inverell Pioneer Village. This is a collection of homes and buildings, relocated from their original sites throughout the area. Inside, there are more displays, up to around WWII era, including yet another iron lung. (The last polio epidemic was in the 1950s, but there were random cases reported as late as the 1960s. I recall being given two types of vaccine in school).
Visitors wander at leisure, and on this day, we were the only people there apart from the live-in caretaker. I loved this on the blackboard inside the schoolhouse, there’s something in it for all of us, don’t you think?
And Agnes, the display of wedding dresses and porcelain dolls may have appealed:
Those pesky rabbits got a mention again. Very bad news for the Australian environment. Regular readers will recall seeing the poison spreader at the Armidale Railway museum, or you may even have seen the film Rabbit Proof Fence, the true story of three Aboriginal girls who followed the fence, stretching from north to south of Western Australia, in a bid to return to their families. It was no walk in the park, we are talking about a trek of some 2,400 km (1,500 miles) in the outback.
The oldest shack, with the fancy name of Grove Homestead, is a rough dwelling of wood slabs and a bark roof that dates to 1841. The interior is depicted below.
Bill and I like museums, and we are not the type to skim through, however by the end of this day, we were wondering whether country people ever throw anything out, and the most disturbing thought for me personally, was seeing my own life already in a museum. Haven’t we all used – or known someone who used – comptometers, plug and board switchboards, manual typewriters, telex machines, valve radios and such like? OMG, I am getting old!
Time to get some fresh air running through the old brain. We stopped by the Lake Inverell reserve, a pleasant walking and picnic spot, which doubled as water supply and bird reserve.
By the way, if you are a museum enthusiast, there are plenty more on offer in Inverell, including a 1906 Dayton motorcar on display at the National Transport Museum, and a private collection of more than 150 Victa lawnmowers, displayed in the owner’s backyard sheds.
Also worth visiting is the Bicentennial Memorial which is a series of panels depicting the history of the Inverell area. They are organised into three courtyards, the first depicting the era before European arrival in Australia, the second covering 1788-1888 and the third 1888-1988.