Another Step on the Road to Signifcance

This is the second post from Graduate Student Bronwyn Phillips about her experiences volunteering at the Unley Museum. See her other posts here

The Unley Museum is inside the first South Australian Fire Station and revolves around the local history of Unley. The Unley Museum has over 10,000 items.  Its collection pertains to the history of Unley and its people including documents, textiles, maps and objects of all descriptions and over 5,000 photographs.

Unley Fire Station (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Unley Fire Station (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

One of the first tasks in developing a ‘statement of significance’  is to conduct a comparative study of other museums in South Australia and to look for similarities and differences to the Unley Museum (see my earlier post about my project here). This gives an understanding of where the Unley Museum sits in the relation to the other museums.  What do they have that we do not have and what do we have that they do not have? We wanted no more than six comparitive museums and selecting them initially involved looking at the www.community.history.sa.gov.au/museums, the Government History Site where many of the regional and local museums are listed with information about them and their collections. This is a very useful site. I made a list the most likely candidates and their similarities and differences and initially had a list of eight.

Exhibition Unley Town Hall 1900 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Exhibition Unley Town Hall 1900 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

The Unley Museum funds are from the  Unley Council and much of the work conducted there is done out by the volunteers, some of whom have been there since its inception 26 years ago.  Therefore the search involved looking for museums or research/heritage programs that fulfil some of the following criteria; funded by Councils, housed in old historic buildings, museum collections revolving around local history and culture and museums with photographic collections.

Duchess of York, Queen Mother 1927 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Duchess of York, Queen Mother 1927 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

I made telephone calls to the various Museums, Research and Heritage Centres on the list to find out if they had a ‘statement of significance’. I asked them a number of other questions about their collections, collecting policy, funding and to see if they would be willing to share information with us. I talked to people ‘in the know’, sometimes the Curator and at other times I talked to whomever could answer my questions. This was  a lengthy process as some people were away, not available, on holidays etc. Most were very helpful and several sent me extensive information about their policy statements and collections. Finally Dr Elizabeth Hartnell (Unley Museum Curator) and I settled on the five institutions below.

27th Battalion Football Team 1922 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

27th Battalion Football Team 1922 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

The  five museums chosen are:

  • Bay Discovery Centre and Holdfast Bay History Centre,
  • Mitcham Village Research Centre,
  • Strathalbyn Branch of the National Trust,
  • The Norwood, Payneham
  • St Peters Cultural Heritage Program and the Hindmarsh Fire and Folk Museum.

Finally I set up an excel spreadsheet with all the similarities and differences and then compiled the answers that I had been given to my questions. If you wish to know more about the collections or the similarities and differences check the website address above or contact me for more information.

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