MUSEUMS have changed remarkably over the past few decades. Dingy cabinets with complicated labels have made way for to brighter, more interactive displays designed to entice and compel.
Unless you have worked in a museum, you might not think as much about the storage areas, the “behind the scenes” parts of a museum.
This is where museum staff spend most of their time - planning, researching, assessing, packing and treating the many, many objects we have in our care.
If you visit the Museum of the Riverina’s Botanic Gardens site, you will find wonderful displays about the history of Wagga, and other fascinating insights into the lives of people from this region in the past. Yet these objects on display account for a fraction of the museum’s collection.
The remaining objects – almost 30,000 of them – are carefully stored, packed and cared for in our climate-controlled storage rooms.
Objects need to be “rested” sometimes to help preserve them, so at times we swap objects in a display.
We also need to research new objects so that we can share their interesting stories with our visitors. This may mean a trip to the archives, or interviewing people who remember or know about the time or place where that object came from.
Before an object makes it to the display case in an exhibition, there are many hours of work involved!
Many of our objects are extremely valuable, not for their dollar value but for the irreplaceable link they give us with significant people and events from our community’s history.
The Museum of the Riverina’s treasures include a bullet fired from a bushranger’s gun; a baby’s christening gown brought from Ireland in the nineteenth century, and the world’s largest collection of door knockers.
We are gradually running out of storage space and need to create a plan for the future to ensure that the children of Wagga (and their children) will be able to learn about history not only from books or the internet, but through the everyday items that were actually part of life in “the olden days”.
To ensure we are able to continue this legacy, the Museum of the Riverina is writing a masterplan, which will give us a roadmap for the next 20 years.
This plan will help to guide our work in caring for the important objects, stories and history of the Riverina.
It will also take stock of the many significant pieces of farming machinery that we currently have on display in outdoor areas, so that we can share the fascinating stories of innovation that have shaped food production in the Riverina.
Next time you visit the museum, spare a thought for all the other wonderful treasures we are caring for behind the scenes, that are patiently waiting for their moment in the “spotlight”.