Celebrating 50 years of heritage at the Hervey Bay Museum

Celebrating 50 years of heritage at the Hervey Bay Museum

-By Kim Parnell-

In the heart of Hervey Bay, where the past and present intertwine, the local museum stands as a testament to the dedication of individuals like historian John Andersen and his wife Lynette. Driven by a deep-rooted connection to the region, John can trace his family back five generations, a fact that makes him very proud.

During John’s childhood, the area where the museum now stands was covered in mangroves and swampland, making it impassable. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, it served as the town dump.

Before the museum was built various fundraisers were held including the ‘A Mile of Pennies’ campaign, where the community contributed coins to stretch a symbolic mile. These efforts laid the foundation for the museum which first opened its doors on March 16, 1974, to a crowd of about one thousand people. Jim Blake, then the State Member for the Isis electorate, officially opened the museum.

Grand opening day..16th March 1974

In the early days, times were tough, and money was tight.

John says, “We owe so much to the early volunteers. It really was and still is, a labour of love.

“Over time the museum grew and gained more land and in 2015 we went from being a local museum to becoming a regional one.

“The growth has allowed for the development of unique displays and events that showcase our region’s rich history.”

The museum has seen its fair share of challenges. One of their biggest challenges occurred on the 1st of December 2015, John recalls, “It came in the form of a fire that ripped through part of the museum destroying everything in its path.

“The damage was extensive; all the workshops were destroyed and the rare 1930’ Ford truck which had taken about five years to restore was burnt to a cinder.

“We were blown away by the support as the community rallied together.

“People donated electrical equipment; and came from everywhere with everything from lawnmowers to leaf blowers. We have such a great community spirit.”

The 50th-anniversary celebrations will be a special moment in time and will be remembered for years to come. A dedicated events Committee has been busily working behind the scenes to pull the event together. One of the event features will be a marble plinth, kindly donated by J. Kirk & Sons, holding a sundial that has been designed for our local geographical latitude. The cardinal points of the sundial have been made from Uranganite (a unique local gemstone) and were designed by the Hervey Bay Gem Club.

Philip Kirk from J Kirk and Sons Funerals is casting and donating the brass plaque to be unveiled on the day.

John thinks it is only fitting to have our local state member Adrian Tantari unveil the plaque fifty years after Jim Blake lifted the veil.

There was also a competition to design a museum flag. Many people entered, and the flags were judged by the committee. The winning flag was printed and made into a large flag which will also be unveiled and flown on a new flagpole as part of the celebrations.

All the usual museum activities, demonstrations, and displays will be open. Visitors can take part in rope-making and enjoy complimentary tractor rides. Additionally, guests have the opportunity to personally cut a piece of wood using the cross-cut saw, followed by having it stamped by the Blacksmith as a unique keepsake. As a new attraction, a 100-year-old printing press will be in operation producing souvenir pamphlets.

If you are lucky enough you might even get to taste the official 50th Anniversary cake.

To date, the museum has compiled and published numerous publications full of our local history with beautiful photos and stories making them an engaging read.

Margie Willis, Museum Patron with Margaret O’Brien, long -time Museum Secretary

The golden anniversary will be celebrated with another publication that is set to be released on the day of celebrations called “50 Historic Years”. To celebrate the occasion the first 300 families through the door will receive a complimentary copy which details the history, not just of the museum, but of our region.

The museum houses many interesting objects and buildings, including the original Dundowran school which is on the register of the National Historic Schools of Australia and features in a lot of their publications.

John, a former schoolteacher, says, “The number of children that have walked through the school in the last fifty years is staggering. The students have learned so much about the history. It is so gratifying when you see the enjoyment on their faces”.

Additionally, within the museum, you’ll discover a church formerly located on Main Street, which once served as the Methodist church. This historic building was among the earliest structures relocated to the museum. For John and Lynette, the church holds significant memories, as they exchanged wedding vows there in 1970 before its relocation. Lynette’s three sisters were also married in the church. Now, it is a non-denominational church, hosting a monthly Latin Mass as well as ceremonies such as weddings, christenings, and funerals.

The committee maintains a comprehensive inventory of all items within each room, referred to as the ‘Treasures of the Museum’. Among the notable artifacts is a small woven belt displayed in the front building. Crafted by the Kanakas during the early days, this belt holds significant historical value and boasts a captivating story. It represents just one of the many interesting items you will see.

John says, “Regrettably when a relative passes away, many belongings often end up discarded as landfill. People fail to recognise the value or significance of preserving history. Here at the museum, we are eager to examine such items first and determine their suitability for inclusion in our collection.”

The museum has an extensive digital archive of photographs, which are a very valuable source of information. Continuously expanding, this collection sees new additions of both photos and display items on a regular basis, making it an ongoing and dynamic process.

Exciting times are ahead for the museum with the future addition of a theatre with a full screen that will show slides, videos, and productions during museum hours.

For John Andersen, this 50th anniversary is a special moment, a reflection on the transformation from mangroves and swampland to a thriving hub of heritage. As the museum invites everyone to join the celebration, it emphasises the importance of preserving history for future generations.

On behalf of the What’s On Fraser Coast Magazine we extend our heartfelt congratulations to Brian Taylor, a dedicated stalwart of the museum, for being honoured as Volunteer of the Year at the recent Australia Day Awards. Additionally, we celebrate the museum’s achievement in winning the title of Community Group or Organisation of the Year 2024.

50th Anniversary – Hervey Bay Historical Village & Museum

Saturday, March 16

From 9 am


13 Zephyr St, Scarness

Cover photo by Lynette Andersen – Harold Collins, Museum Vice President, Kay FRENCH, Collections Officer & Member of the Management Committee, Brian Taylor, Museum stalwart and Fraser Coast Volunteer of the Year 2024.

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