Mostly there’s no blockbuster exhibitions, gift shops or touch screens, and no dinosaur skeletons or Egyptian mummies either. Yes, small volunteer-run museums can seem like a world away from their better-known city counterparts.
These city museums find it easy to focus on the “big history”: significant events of the past; wars, natural disasters, political events, and the like. The “local” museums invite us to ‘zoom in’ and view our heritage at an everyday level; from everyday life to education and workday life.
To some people, a visit to the local museum is about as appealing as a visit to the dentist. But to others it is an opportunity to view a different era. You could find a “kitchen” full of old fashioned gadgets, mannequins dressed up in long-gone fashions, a school room, an old fashioned office – guided by an endearingly elderly volunteer who you’ll want to take home to be your nana.
These are mostly volunteer-run museums with unconventional opening hours – think every Wednesday or the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. However, during these times the volunteers from the local historical society happily share the quirky and surprising stories of the area’s past, and you come to realise that every suburb has fantastic tales to tell.
They’re a chance to have a closer encounter with lesser-known facets of Australian history. What local museums lack in animatronics, they more than make up for in charm.
Next time you get a chance, pay a visit to your local historical society or museum and be surprised by the strange and amazing stories from Australia’s “hidden history”.