Burra More Than Mining History

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Burra National Trust branch, Burra Museum, Market Square Museum, Community Museums Program grants, research, South Australian history

A significant exhibition project to recognise important businesses that have served Burra through and beyond the mining era has opened at the National Trust’s Market Square Museum site.

Burra is well known as a prominent South Australian mining area and the history signage around the town and the buildings that are preserved very much reflect the mining heyday of the town. The new project adds greatly to the wider story of the development and decline of Burra mines by highlighting a number of important businesses and business people who helped shape the economy of the town over many decades. In undertaking the display project the National Trust, with the assistance of the Burra History Group and a lot of time on TROVE, unearthed a significant amount of new research, only some of which has made the final cut for the display panels. 

The exhibition was opened by Betty Thamm and Brian Thamm and one of the display panels talks about the Thamm business, which has operated in Aberdeen (North Burra) since 1914. Brian Thamm and his brother Ron (Betty Thamm's late husband) were the third generation of Thamms in the business, which began as a wheelwright and blacksmith shop and is now a garage specialising in farm machinery repairs and maintenance.

The Market Square Museum site is an interesting one with a shop space at the front and residence at the back, and it has a rich history of people living and working in it. The new display combines the stories of people who lived or worked in the actual building alongside the stories of key businesses that served Burra over more than 100 years.  One of those occupants was Mr Wade the tailor who lived and worked from the site between 1874 and 1889.  The museum has used a fictional audio recording of Mr Wade’s ‘ghost’ to provide an overview of occupants of the site over many decades, one of whom was briefly the notorious Frances ‘Minnie’ Knorr, hanged in Melbourne in 1894 for baby farming.

The Burra National Trust branch runs several historical sites in Burra and manages and displays a sizeable historical collection of objects and archives.  It is a registered museum in History SAs Community Museums Program and received a $9,000 grant towards the Market Square Museum project.

The new displays are a great introduction to business life in Burra and certainly show that Burra’s history is more than the mines.

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