Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ballarat Adventure - Day Two

Another day of exploring Ballarat and its collecting institutions. Our point of departure was the Sovereign Hill Lodge where some of the group had stayed overnight.

Into our bus and off to the first stop, Ballarat University Archives where Clare showed us the collection and spoke of their future plans. A large section of the collection is the archive of the Ballarat School of Mines, established in 1870. The Geoffrey Blainey Mining Collection is also housed as part of the collection. Material relating to other former institutions, including Ballarat Teachers' College and Ballarat CAE is also held in the archive.

A short walk to the State Library's new storage facility where the newspaper collection is stored as well as runs of most journals prior to 1976, some manuscripts, maps and objects are stored. Figures of 13 km of newspaper storage and 6 km of manuscripts storage were mentioned. There is also a large object storeroom.

It is an incredible experience walking past racks and racks of newspapers from Australia and overseas. The major collection is Victorian metropolitan and suburban and country newspapers but there is also a large collection of interstate newspapers and an extensive overseas newspaper collection, especially older newspapers. Being particularly interested in The Argus it was moving to see all those years and physical volumes of reporting collected in one space. When exploring this facility members of the group disappeared to investigate the newspapers held relating to their local area.

Tim explained that items from this collection have to be ordered via the State Library and at present can only be viewed in the library.

Lunch and then to the Gold Museum where Roger provided a quick tour of the museum before taking us on a tour behind the scenes. Most group members remarked that they would need to return on another occasion and explore the museum displays properly when they had more time.

Roger showed us the different storage areas for collection items and also spoke of the museum's reliance on and work with volunteers. The museum also houses the collection of the Ballarat Historical Society.

On the 1st January part of the storage area was flooded and Roger described the experience of salvaging items and the extent of the water damage. The irony of water intrusion on a collection in the middle of a drought was not missed.

A quick stop at the gift shop at the museum - a major source of museum funds - and then back to Ballarat Station for the trip home to Melbourne.

During the two days fourteen librarians (some could only attend one day) from Melbourne and regional library services were involved in this tour of Ballarat collecting institutions. It was a great opportunity to have an introduction to the range of institutions collectively recording the history of Ballarat and the surrounding area. We also had the opportunity to view other important collections relating to the history of Victoria held by these organisations.

The other important outcome was the networking that occurred during the two days of shared experiences. As one person remarked at the dinner on Thursday - It is good to be able to talk about issues with people who understand. During the many discussions that took place during the two days it was obvious that we all face the same challenges in ensuring that the local history and genealogy collections in our areas are accessible to the public.

History collections in Ballarat are scattered throughout organisations but such dispersal of collections occurs in most localities - the important task is to ensure that researchers can easily locate and have access to the material they need.

At the end of the two days it was unanimous that we should start planning our next local studies adventure.

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