Numurkah & District Historical Society - Established 4th August 1964
On the 4"' of August 1964, a public meeting was held in the Council Chambers at Numurkah. The meeting was convened by Cr. F. W. R. Johnson, the Shire President of the day, and the purpose of the meeting was the formation of a Historical Society.
Those present, around twenty interested persons, heard from Mr. Charles E. Newman the reasons why it was considered that Numurkah needed a Historical Society. Among the many and varied reasons given were the need to preserve important landmarks, buildings and other artefacts of interest such as aboriginal burial grounds as well as to record and collate data in a practical and permanent manner regarding the events of the day as well as the pioneering era of our forefathers.
Other activities proposed were to arrange for the collection and display of all manner of artefacts including paintings, photographs, documents, early machinery, household goods, along with the keeping of a pictorial record of the development of our town and district, and of auspicious events.
Two motions were put to the meeting, the first that "this meeting favours the formation of a Historical Society" and the second that "the Society be named the Numurkah Historical Society (or similar) and that membership be open to all interested persons." Both of these motions were carried and the current Numurkah & District Historical Society was born.
The first Office Bearers were then elected with Mr. C. E. Newman elected President, Mr. H. Gray was Secretary and Mrs. Hilda Morieson was elected as Director of Activities. Along with a Committee of three, Cr. R. Hodge, Mr. Steen and Mr. I. McRiald it was decided that a Committee meeting be held in a fortnight, with a General meeting on September 16th 1964.
The first General meeting attracted a crowd of 12 persons, with much discussion on whether the activities should be confined to local artefacts, until increased membership made further activities possible. The Numurkah Shire Council was interested in the establishment of a "Folk Museum" on an area of land west of the tennis courts although this never eventuated, even though plans were drawn up. Membership fees were set at one pound annually, with no fee for juniors under 18.
The first Annual Report stated that the Society had 28 members and a surprising number of both heavy and light machinery and vehicles were collected and stored. Planning was in process for marking old buildings with plaques, tracing the old Coach route with the Numurkah Camera Club to record same, with a prize to be awarded for photographs of historical interest and the erection of the log-hut Folk Museum. Moves were also afoot to have a house in Numurkah classified by the National Trust. Moves to affiliate with the Royal Historical Society were put aside as there was not much by way of benefits to a small group such as Numurkah's Society.
By the 1967 Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Society was housed in the old Dominion Knitting Mill situated close to the Saleyards, sharing the premises with the newly formed Numurkah Singers. At this meeting it was suggested that the Society open its Museum each Sunday afternoon.
At the time of the 1968 AGM, moves were being made to obtain some form of shelter for the many examples of machinery the Society had obtained. Mrs. Morieson, on being re-elected as President stated that she would like to see "a perfect little farm at the Folk Museum", which was still in the planning stage. The first of the plaques to go up in the town had been unveiled at the site of the first shop in Numurkah, the newsagency conducted by Joseph Crow. The second plaque was ready for attachment indicating the town's first Post Office.
In 1970, Numurkah & District Historical Society was still attempting to get a Folk Museum up and running, preparations were being made to shift an old locomotive into the park (the site for our Folk Museum) and a Committee meeting was held at the Coonanga Homestead (near Strathmerton) for the first time.
Mrs Hilda Morieson was working on behalf of the Society to acquire the property Coonanga, the owners being Mr and Mrs Lang. Mr Lang worked overseas for the Australian Government and there must have been quite a lot of communication between Hilda & the Langs as in March of 1969 the Society decided to accept Mr Lang’s offer of the property. Mr Lang unfortunately died before signing any papers, but the work continued with Mrs Lang. Eventually all the paperwork was completed and the Society became the new owners of an old, derelict homestead at Ulupna in the early 1970's. Over the next few years many meetings, working bees, BBQ's, and social events were held at Coonanga, but with the property being so far away from town, numbers attending dropped off.
The Society was still growing, both in member numbers and in the amount of artefacts now in their collection and in 1970 a shelter was urgently required for wagons, buggies and other vehicles. Planning was in hand to bring a Canoe Tree from 1.5 miles away into Coonanga Homestead.
In February of 1971 a notice of motion was put that 'the name be changed from Numurkah Historical Society to Numurkah & District Historical Society'. At this time the Numurkah Singers moved out of the knitting mill and the Historical Society took over the entire building.
In early 1973 Ray Hodge suggested that it may be desirable to shift the Coonanga Homestead into Numurkah if a suitable site could be found. A deputation was formed to meet with Numurkah Shire Council to discuss the Coonanga Project. The result from this meeting with Council was that Council had made no definite decision. Another letter was sent to Council regarding erecting a Machinery Shed.
A working bee was held at the Museum to clean up after the floods in 1974.
John Sigley joined the Society in the late 1980's and was asked to organise a Craft Fair to raise funds to bring the Coonanga Homestead into Numurkah. It turned out to be an impossible task. The Craft Fairs ran for around 6 years, raising a substantial sum of money. In the end the Society could no longer afford to keep Coonanga, due to rising insurance costs, lack of suitable tenants, the cost of installing power and water, and the property’s distance from Numurkah which made security difficult. The property was put on the market and sold, but only after all avenues had been exhausted. It was offered, free of charge, to the National Trust, Heritage Victoria and the Shire of Moira - all three bodies declined.
In March 1988, the Numurkah Shire Council wrote to the then Secretary of the Society Mrs G. Holmes advising them that the Council had agreed to purchase the old National Bank at the corner of Melville and Knox Streets, Numurkah for use by the Historical Society as an Historical Museum. This building was built in 1892 by the Bank of Victoria and was later owned by the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney and also the National Bank. A public appeal was launched to meet the shortfall between the Gordon Trust Contribution and the purchase price. Cr. and Mrs Don Graham commenced the appeal with a significant personal donation.
The building was sold to the Numurkah Shire Council for the price of $45,000 with a condition of the sale imposed by the vendors being that it was to be used for community or historical purposes. Numurkah Shire Council contributed $19,000 and $26,000 was paid by the Gordon Family Estate. In November 1988, the newly housed Numurkah & District Historical Society was formally opened to the public by Numurkah Shire Councillor Rae Nicoll and the Member for Murray Valley Mr Ken Jasper.
During the ensuing years, the Numurkah & District Historical Society has continued to provide exhibitions and displays in the former bank building and has many active members.
Continuing funding is always sought for the purpose of improving the Society’s management of the collection.
Major working bees have been conducted to introduce and/or improve various displays. These have included the Yarwood Pavilion in Rotary Park, Isolation Ward, Police Cells, Breezeway, Railway Display, Tool Shed in the museum’s back-yard, and the Telephone/Switchboard display in the museum. Many items have been brought out of storage, as these new displays have been developed.
Digitisation of the museum’s collection has become a major part of our current journey and this includes cataloguing artefacts on Victorian Collections and scanning and identifying photos on the museum’s computers.
Research seems to have increased in recent years in terms of helping individuals seek information about their families through our records. But also as part of the close link with the Numurkah & Wunghnu Cemetery Trust, our records have provided information for their very popular cemetery walks.
The Society is continually expanding its social, cultural and/or financial links with outside agencies, corporate groups, organisations and local special-purpose working groups as part of its aim to substantiate our work to promote local history (eg Lions Club, Cemetery Trust, Soldier Settlement Mural Working Group). And as well as our normal opening hours, the Society caters for groups (schools, service clubs, aged care, and tourist groups) by appointment.