With my own childhood memories of old farm machinery and more recent part inheritance of a circa 1970’s Ford tractor, being invited to speak at the launch of Talking Machines at Wagga’s Museum of the Riverina (MOR) certainly seemed appropriate if not timely. Supported by a Regional Partnerships Grant from the then Arts NSW (now Create NSW), Talking Machines is the result of a partnership between MOR, Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Oral History NSW, Museums & Galleries of NSW and 10 community museums from across the Riverina. 43 videos were produced along with a new and unique educational resource for the National Year 9/10 History syllabus.
As the title suggests, Talking Machines tells the story of agricultural production, of machines that worked the land, from approx. 1850 to 1950. Margaret Simpson, curatorial advisor to the project and Transport Collection Curator at Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, co-wrote with her husband Phillip the definitive reference book on the subject titled, Old Farm Machinery in Australia: a field guide and sourcebook.
Margaret self-describes as having a heart that has always cared about old farm machinery. She and Phillip spent the last six years visiting and advising local history museums all around NSW about the agricultural machines and implements in their care. Unfortunately Margaret wasn’t able to attend the launch, which was disappointing for all involved and particularly for me, as I was hoping to get some advice on whom to talk to regarding maintenance on the previously mentioned 1970’s tractor!
Prior to attending the launch, Tamara Lavrencic (M&G NSW’s Museums & Collections Manager) and I took some time to visit nearby Coolamon’s Up to Date Store museum and to meet with Coolamon Shire Council’s General Manager, Tony Donohue. Tony proudly showed us around the museum and associated heritage precinct, described to me later that day as NSW’s most exciting ‘under the radar’ museum hub. Both Tamara and I were certainly impressed.
Check out both Talking Machines and Coolamon’s heritage precinct for yourself at the following links;