Tuesday 30 September 2014

Day at the Museum

The long awaited day had arrived.  The new Australian Armour and Artillery Museum in Cairns was having its Opening Day event and I was heading down to check it out.  I have always had some interest in military history, particularly that which involve North Queensland and my own family.  The fact that someone was building a big military museum at Caravonica to house the largest collection of armoured vihicles and artillery pieces in the Southern Hemisphere had come as a bit of a surprise.  For many months I had been following, on their Facebook page, the development of the buildings and the collection and could hardly believe the extent and importance of the pieces that were to be put on display.  So it was with some excitement that I drove down to Cairns to spend a day at the new museum.

A bit of a surprise
The first sight of this new museum complex showed that these folk were damn serious about their passion for military history and were here to stay.  Although I had arrived at about 10.00am, the car park was already full and I had to park my car over in the Tjapukai Cultural Park and walk across to the museum.  Along the front of the building there were a number of stalls giving the event a bit of a festive look.  The Australian Military Forces had set up a recruitment display and the local military vehicle enthusiasts had brought in some of their jeeps and there were also some food stalls.  I walked up the steps and found a queue from the counter back out to the front doors.  It took a little while to get my ticket and as I entered I was surprised by what appeared to be a German SS Officer in full dress uniform walking pass carrying a maschinepistole sub-machine gun.  Yes, it looked like some members of the Townsville based North Queensland Historical Re-enactment Society had come up to join in the opening celebrations.  I strolled past the World War Two Japanese soldier in combat dress and entered the collection.  Oh Wow!

Part of the collection
The huge building was made up of two display areas with the larger front shed been filled with the artillery pieces and the more historic tanks.  I wandered about the dozens of old cannons, reading the excellently presented information panels which gave a good run down of the history and statistics of each piece.  I must admit that my favorite was the fine specimen of the infamous German 88 millimetre gun.  At the end of the building was probably the most important piece in the armored collection, a fine example of an Australian Sentinel tank.  One of only four left in existence from only fifty-six that were ever built.  It looked like it would have been the equal to any medium tank that was been built at that time.  Oh what could have been!  Soon after my encounter with the Sentinel, a rumble from my stomach told me that it was well past lunch time and as the entry ticket acted as an all day pass, I wandered outside to one of the food stalls.  A small eatery inside the complex might be something for the future, maybe combined in with the front counter.

Returning to the collection after I had satisfied my hunger, I found an old friend viewing the guns, Stephen Fowler.  Steve is the Officer in charge of one of the local Air Cadets units and is also the president of the Cairns Historical Society and a prominent local military history enthusiast.  He had been invited to the Official Opening held the previous evening and he gave me a rundown on the event.  He also pointed out that beneath the floor of the main building was a room with a fifty metre long shooting range and out the back of the museum was a large workshop where the vehicles could be serviced and maintained.  After chatting with Steve, I wandered over to the smaller wing of the complex where some of the more modern military vehicles were on display.  As I finished up my visit, I realized I had spent four hours at the museum, so I certainly got my money worth.  I think this centre, along with Beck's military museum and the War Birds aviation museum at Mareeba and a possible military museum at the old Rocky Creek igloo will create a wonderful circuit for those interested in our military heritage.  Mr Rob Lowden and his team have certainly put together something special here and I wish them well for the future.  
The new museum complex 

Sunday 28 September 2014

Cairns Historical Society

Members of the Cairns Historical Society were excited to report that their discussions with the Cairns Regional Council had been successful with an agreement for a four-year funding program to provide for a museum manager and some operational funds, largely to meet the costs of air conditioning in the renovated School of Arts building.  They are continuing to work with the Council on the budget for the Fit Out of the new museum and are hoping for an agreement some time in the coming months.  The history trailer continues to be the major outreach program and under the leadership of Beth Pearson, the trailer has visited over a dozen schools.  The Society also participated in displays for Child Safety Week, Carnival on Collins and the Healthy Ageing Day event held on the Esplanade.  Pauline O'Keefe continues to be the person to see for information on the First World War in the Cairns region and she has been asked to join a committee for organising the centenary of Anzac Day event for next year.  We are also lobbying her to raise the possibility of a re-enactment of the Cane Beetles march of 1915.  Pauline is also keen to add to the Society's collection on World War One and is interested in exchange images between other Society in the area.

Eacham Historical Society

It has been a reasonably busy couple of months for the Eacham Historical Society, both at the Resource Centre in Malanda and at the museum at Millaa Millaa.  With the tourist season in full swing, the numbers of visitors to the museum have been very pleasing due in part to the 'grey nomads' who pass through town.  The improvement program at the museum is continuing with the concrete floor of the newer section having been painted at last and the room been rearranged.  The volunteers recently gathered to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of their members and the worry over the ageing and health of the volunteers have been relieved a little after a recent public campaign brought three new helpers onto the staff.  Public displays have been high on the Society's agenda recently, with stalls conducted at the annual Malanda Show and the Rocky Creek VP Memorial Day.  Both were quite successful although not as good as those of several years ago.  In order to attract new active members, a promgram of fieldtrips have been put in place with a remarkably successful trip made out about the tin fields and another organized for the Mount Mulligan area.  

Innisfail and District Historical Society

As this year's Innisfail Show was the 100th Show to be held, to commemorate this event the Society requested photos taken from previous shows and the group were pleased with the good response they received from the community.  The display of these imagines was very popular.  The museum's window display has been set up now commemorating the centenary of the beginning of the First World War and the Society has gathered a lot of artefacts that can be add to the display over the coming months to keep the interest going.  The volunteers have also been busy with working bees each month to deal with the ongoing challenge of maintaining the museum.

Friday 26 September 2014

Douglas Shire Historical Society

As the Douglas Shire Historical Society was officially formed back in 1994, they have reached their twentieth anniversary.  Earlier this year, the group began investigating a First World War project to honour the service personnel connected to the district.  Recently, the project team leader, Ken Keith was able to announce that their application for a grant from the Queensland ANZAC Centenary Program for $13,360 had been successful.  This money will provide for the two mobile touchscreen units which will be programmed to present a multimedia insight into the impact of the 1914-1918 war on the volunteers from the Douglas Shire.  This project is to be unveiled at the Centenary Anzac Day of 2015 and it is envisaged that additional material would be added through to 2018.  The Douglas group is also thrilled to have been able to submit a tender for the shop at the Shire Hall in partnership with the Douglas Arts Base.  It is hoped this place will become the Mossman Heritage and Arts Centre and form the hub of the Mossman Cultural Precinct along with the surrounding Heritage-listed buildings.  The next meeting will be held a week later than usual, now on the 13 October, due to the public holiday.

Mareeba Historical Society

The Mareeba group has been asked to assist the Mareeba Shire Library with their First World War display and are just waiting on conformation of the starting date.  They are also involved with the THeN group who, along with other member groups, are planning to hold a two month long WWI display in Atherton's Old Post Office Gallery.  Recently, the Society received a most interesting family history of the Wilesmith family of Watsonville and also, from the same donor, was an inspiring letter from a First World War hospital in the UK which will be featured in a display.  It was reported in their last newsletter that their accession list has now past the 18,000 mark and has over 4,000 entries in the photographic database.  Thanks to the busy members working in this field, their library is growing into a impressive resource.  On a lighter note, it was realized that the tenth anniversary of the opening of their history research centre was upon them.  It was suggested that the group hold a 10th Anniversary Morning Tea and encourage the membership to come along and see the Society's home.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Heritage North Association

The last quarterly meeting of the Heritage North group, held at Gordonvale, was a very short affair as we wanted to get straight into the planned workshop.  After the usual matters arising from the previous meeting minutes, mostly concerning the never ending issue of insurance and the Treaurer's financial report were seen to, it was decided that the members reports would go straight to the Bulletin officer in order to save time.  It was also noted that the next meeting, to be held at the Cairns Historical Society in late November, would be the Association's Annual General Meeting.  With the business of the meeting out of the way, more that two dozen historians, representing some nine member groups, begin a workshop which was facilitated by the two northern Museum Development Officers, locally based Dr Jo Wills and Ewen McPhee from Townsville.  The purpose of the workshop was to help members to better display items in their museums and included the preparation and interpretive text for labels.  Jo and Ewen gave examples of simple and low cost methods using ready available materials with the intention of improving the overall presentation of the objects.  The general consensus amongst those in attendance was that the workshop was of some value with most believing they had learnt something of use.  The team at the Mulgrave Shire Historical Society was thanked for hosting the afternoon.

Saturday 20 September 2014

El Arish History Station Museum

The little heritage group that maintain the small museum in the old railway station building at El Arish have been very busy lately.  The group's president, Marie Carman has just reported that they have finally received news that they have received a grant for about $24,000 for the Department of Veterans Affairs centenary.  They intend having a portrait and biography of each of the Generals that have streets named after them in El Arish posted on signs about the town.  The external anodized signage will match their existing signs.  Another project they are working on will see an addition to the station museum with the installation of the town's old police lock-up building.  This will give them another toilet and some badly needed storage or display room.

Mulgrave Shire Historical Society

The effort this group put into their Tea Cosy competition paid off well with about one hundred entries and a similar number of visitors attending the event.  It is hoped to continue with this competition and they are already working on some different categories for the next Tea Cosy event.  Unfortunately, the Society reported the lost of two more of their important members, local historian Clive Morton who wrote a number of books on the sugar industry and Josephine Saffioti who was an untiring worker for the group.  They will be missed.  Now that the part demolition of the town's water tower is complete, two storyboards showing many photos of the tower from the Society's collection has been put in place and the Council is working on restoring the old air raid shelter with fresh murals and upgraded storyboards which will feature information supplied by the Society.  Their Settlers Museum continues to attract a steady flow of visitors and Society members are been kept busy with requests from the many people who are now researching their family history.