Photo of an existing wool industry display in Yass Museum – One of the displays that will have to go to make room for the Yass Archives if no other home is found.
A difficult Decision – Who Cares?
The irreplaceable local Archival collection is currently safely housed in the old Ambulance Station after its precipitous removal from the first floor of the Soldiers Memorial Hall in February. But in less than twelve months a harsh reality faces the Yass and District Historical Society (YDHS) who manage the Archive. It only has tenure in its current location until June next year.
What then? Community members who took advantage of the archive open day earlier this year will appreciate the size of the collection. It took a huge packing effort by dedicated volunteers and then professional removalists three days and an estimated $10,000 to safely rehouse the collection.
Promises without guarantee have been made that the Archives will be able to move into the current Library space once the new Civic Centre and Library are built but that won’t happen by June next year, or within the next several years given the current economic climate.
Presently, the only guaranteed option available to the Society is to move the Archival collection into the Museum which is owned by the YDHS. Financially the Society cannot afford to pay rent on a second location even if a suitable space became available. To accomplish this, the Museum will have to be closed, displays dismantled and extensive deaccessioning and disposal of objects in the Museum collection carried out. This will be done under the provisions of the YDHS Collection Policy which covers the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of objects.
To compound the problem the only workable space for the archival collection will need to be insulated and lined and serious drainage and plumbing issues addressed. President Cheryl Mongan explained “It was estimated last year that $100,000 was needed to make the aged museum building, a former garage, an appropriate space for such a valuable and fragile collection. Not to mention provide working space for the volunteer research team to continue to respond to enquiries that come to us from all over Australia. This is very much a working Archive and at times our only means of income.”
Ms Mongan went on to explain, “This is a decision we are facing with great regret. The current Museum was established by the hard work of an enthusiastic and dedicated team of Yass citizens in the 1980s and we owe these people an immense debt of gratitude for having the vision and energy to create a museum for Yass.
The Museum has continued to be part of the town’s tourist offering with the exhibitions and displays it has housed over the years to interpret the fascinating story of Yass’s development and achievements. Cultural tourism benefits the whole community with local businesses – accommodation, cafes, service stations and stores, benefitting from our visitors who travel from all parts of the country.”
It is proposed that a smaller two-room museum display will be incorporated within the space available.
Consultation with YDHS members continues but the Museum and Archives are also very much a community asset. Does the community care if the Museum must close or its size be substantially reduced?
What value does the community place on their heritage?
The Council has made it clear that they are unable to assist further.
With the rapid growth and development of Yass, surely we can envision for the near future a purpose-designed and built building that houses the collections and showcases the story of Yass. Meanwhile, we do what we must because we only have until June 2024 to sort this out.
The YDHS is really interested to hear from the community. You can send your comments to email@example.com or follow us on Facebook.
Judith Davidson for YDHS