By Sue Atkinson
Last month I had the pleasure of attending a fair day at a wonderful community run museum set in the midlands of Tasmania. This museum is just under an hour from Hobart where you will find the small farming towns of Levendale and Woodsdale which was settled in the late 1850s with now a population of approximately 300.
With no public transport, a primary school of just 20 students, two churches, two town halls and 40 kilometers from the nearest shop the Levendale and Woodsdale History Rooms group formed in 2004 then went on to established the Woodsdale Museum to record the rich history of the area.
However, in 2008, with a dwindling membership of over-60s, the history group was in desperate need of new members and some fresh ideas.
For a region characterised by younger farmers passionate about their properties, and even more passionate about their sheep, an idea was quickly born to approach these farmers about coming on board to promote the wool industry through the museum. Four new members in their 30s quickly signed up.
With funding from the Tasmanian Community Fund two new sheds were built in late 2008 and became a hive of activity over the Christmas holidays as history group members and volunteers from the area came together to fit out the sheds in time for the February 2009 opening.
As well as increasing history group membership, the developments have changed the whole dynamic of the museum with three well integrated interpretive and educational exhibitions. The only one of their kind in Tasmania, the interpretation and farm sheds have not only secured the future of the volunteer run museum but have also highlighted the impressive skills and abilities of a small Tasmanian community.
The youngest volunteer Mathew at 22 who now holds the position of Vice President and created their website also organises a yearly event named “Back to Woodsdale Picnic & Fair Day” held each year on the second Sunday in March. This day celebrates a range of activities including shearing demonstrations, dog trials, billy tea and damper making, cross cut saw challenges, woollen clothing fashion displays, post and rail fencing, blacksmith, wool handing demonstrations and lots of activities for the children such as face painting and the jumping castle.
This community museum not only highlights the past but looking at the future of the farming industry in Tasmania. Local resident author Rachael Treasure talks about how the Woodsale Museum www.thewoodsdalemuseum.com is used a plattform for raising serious farming issues. Click on this link http://tasmanianhistorygroups.edublogs.org/woodsdale-museum to hear podcasts where Mathew and Rachael talk about how they see the museum future.
This small community museum has shown that it can overcome any hurdles in its way and is a great template for other community museums to look at sustainability of their institutions. So if you are ever out in the midlands of Tasmania call in and see for yourself the work these passionate volunteers have done.
Sue Atkinson can be read further at www.museumconsultant.edublogs.org