Sustainable Collections Program making strides in Orange

Judy Kilby, Ros Davidson, Rebecca Pinchin, Charles Everett and Margo Jolly Image Courtesy Orange City Council
Judy Kilby, Ros Davidson, Rebecca Pinchin, Charles Everett and Margo Jolly, Image Courtesy Orange City Council

A small group of dedicated volunteers have been working since October 2013 on the documentation of the Bloomfield / Orange Health Service and more recently the W. E. Agland Memorial War Museum, Orange.  The project has been supported by the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne Sustainable Collections Program (SCP), with funding by Create NSW.  The SCP is an innovative, national award-winning program, involving 12 museums from across Central West NSW.  It aims to improve, coordinate and promote museum planning, policies, practices and activities for the long term benefit and a sustainable future of the towns and communities across Central NSW.  Of particular importance is the need to identify, document, conserve and interpret valuable heritage collections held in the region’s smaller volunteer operated museums.

Under the guidance of Museum Consultant, Margot Jolly, a small team of volunteers were trained in collection documentation and inducted as Orange City Council volunteers.  The team consisted of Charles Everett, Judy Kilby, Lisa Chidlow and Alison Wu who worked out of Sunset Lodge and the old museum building located at the Bloomfield Hospital site. Working conditions were not ideal in the old Bloomfield Hospital buildings where good heating was rare.  This didn’t deter the group as they worked through the documentation and photography of two-dimensional objects including images, posters and books, and objects such as medical equipment and objects from some of the trade workshops that were once at Bloomfield when it was in full operation as a mental hospital. Bloomfield Hospital served the local community for more than 80 years as a place of respite, training and employment.

During 2015 and 2016, the team were led by Rebecca Pinchin, Museum & Heritage Support Officer and Cliff Hall.  In January 2017, Orange Regional Museum’s Collection Manager, Allison Campbell, assisted the team of volunteers who worked each Tuesday.  In total, the group clocked up over 1600 volunteer hours cataloguing over 2000 objects.

Volunteers Judy Kilby, Cliff Hall, Alison Wu and Charles Everett Image courtesy Orange City Council

Some significant objects the volunteers catalogued included: early plans for the Bloomfield site, patient portraits, very early mental health texts, a timber walker possibly made on site and a patient’s suitcase with personal memorabilia.  All items for the documentation work such as catalogue sheets, camera, pencils, storage boxes and mylar were provided through the Sustainable Collections Program.

Once this project was completed, there was no stopping or separating the team, so they moved onto the W.E. Agland RSL MBE Memorial Museum in Anson Street (next to the RSL), Orange in March 2017. The volunteers chose to work Fridays to better suit the Museum opening times. New volunteers with other commitments proved challenging and some volunteers left the group. The RSL coffee shop became a popular meeting spot for morning tea.

Since 2017 the volunteers have catalogued and digitised approximately 1300 objects, images and books.  The store room at the back of the museum was fumigated and all uniforms were frozen at the Orange Regional Museum.  Picture frames not on display have been individually wrapped and textile items placed in conservation boxes.  The digital records can be found on e-hive

Charles Everett compiled a tally of the volunteer hours resulting in another 1700 volunteer hours spent documenting the RSL Museum Collection.  Les McGaw, the Secretary of RSL Sub Branch was helpful with determining names and identifying items.  Ros Davison and Chris Colvin also from the RSL were helpful in the later stages of the work.

During COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020, the group ceased working but they were close to completing the project.

Margot Jolly, Rebecca Pinchin, Ros Davidson, Charles Everett and Alison Russell from Orange City Council met up on Tuesday 14 July 2020 as a thank you for all the work the volunteers achieved and to reminisce about the past five years.

This project should not go without acknowledgement and gratitude of the fantastic work volunteers undertake within our communities.  Many have competing priorities, Alison Wu is employed four days a week and Charlie Everett is a member on many committees, but the group has continuously met to see the two projects completed to fruition.  We’re currently looking for the next project for this impressive group of dedicated volunteers.

Alison Russell
Community Museum and Heritage Manager
Orange City Council

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