Earlier this year I popped up to Whyalla to visit the two CMP registered museums there - Mount Laura Homestead Museum and the Whyalla Maritime Museum - and to see for the first time the Steel Cap Gallery, that collects the history of BHP in Whyalla.
Flying in on a Monday morning my first visit was to the Maritime Museum to talk details of their cataloguing project with the museum's manager Teresa. The museum received a grant in the 2014-15 CMP grant round to undertake more comprehensive cataloguing of collection items and to develop a collection database. The Museum's collection is substantial in size and diverse as well, encompassing everything from the HMAS Whyalla warship to natural history specimens, objects relating to ship building in Whyalla and a large photographic archive. Faced with a cataloguing backlog, museums often find themselves a bit stuck as to where to start. Lucky this can almost always be resolved by thinking about the significance of different groups of colletion items. Some key ones for Whyalla Maritime Museum are the original fittings on the HMAS Whyalla and objects that relate to Whyalla's ship-building industry. A tour of the HMAS Whyalla is a must at the museum, with some very interesting stories told and spaces to see including the well-made cabinetry that makes efficient use of space in the cabins!
Just down the road from the Maritime Museum is the Steel Cap Gallery, on the grounds of the Tanderra Craft Village. Run by an enthusiastic volunteer committee the museum is a treasure-trove of photographs and objects relating to BHP and ship building in Whyalla and the people who worked for the company and lived on site (the museum is in a former single men's quarters building). It was great to spend some time talking about what the museum might do to present displays differently and to ensure that key points about the impact of BHP in Whyalla are made. So much potential for people stories and angles to take to add to the appeal of the museum.
Then on to Mount Laura Homestead Museum. In a prime position in town adjacent a new public library and a major shopping centre, the museum is based around the Nicholson family pastoral station Homestead and on the last acres of the station's land. Sheds and relocated buildings around the Homestead house a wide variety of farming mahinery and evidence of life in Whyalla in decades past. The museum has been working on two CMP funded projects in the last couple of years, to install and utilise compactus storage units and to commission a significance assessment of the collections. In the last few months the museum has built and opened an extension to the Telstra Building so that they can display telecommunications equipment from the local region that museum members have collected. It's perhaps not widely known that Whyalla Homestead Museum houses a very substantial collection of South Australian relevant telecommunications items. For those who remember the Electra House Telecom Museum that closed over twenty years ago, this is where some of the collections ended up.