One of the Riverina’s most significant museums, the Parkside Cottage at Narrandera, is in danger of shutting its doors unless willing volunteers can be found.
Operating since 1968, the museum’s volunteer committee has dwindled to a handful of local residents who are struggling to keep the museum staffed and maintained.
Committee members Barbara Bryon, and Tony and Kathy Taylor do their best to have the museum open on a regular basis each Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Ms Bryon said it would be a tragedy for Narrandera if the museum was closed and the collection moth-balled.
She said maintenance was undertaken by the Narrandera Shire Council but the collection’s curation work was done by volunteers.
“We are desperate for volunteers – it is the history of Narrandera and the shire that we are trying to maintain.’’
Ms Bryon said the museum had been staffed daily in the past by a permanent caretaker until the operational structure changed last year, with Narrandera Shire Council stepping in to install a 355 committee.
“Now we rely on volunteers to have the museum open every day, even some days, it’s not happening,’’ she said. “We have five volunteers on the roster doing one day a month each – we need the community to get on board with on-ground help now to maintain the place.
“We have tried the personal approach to recruit volunteers but it hasn’t worked.
“The displays need to be rationalised with provenance information but we don’t have the manpower or funding.
“Council has employed a museum advisor to help steer us on the path but the ideas and suggestions are too big for three people to carry out.
“Ultimately, the decision to close the museum lies with the committee making a recommendation to council.’’
The collection is being transferred as a Deed of Gift to allow Council to become custodian of the building and artefacts.
The Parkside Cottage Museum contains one of the most significant items from the early history of the nation’s wool industry, the Macarthur Cloak. Wool produced by the flock at John Macarthur’s Camden Farm was exported to England, processed into cloth and sewn into a cloak in 1819.
Mr Taylor said many of the artefacts were being left to rot or rust due to lack of manpower.
“It’s criminal what’s happening,’’ Mr Taylor said. “You can only do so much for so long.
“If the museum is closed, the collection will be left to rot and rust some more.
“Even if we don’t keep the doors open, we still have to preserve the collection.
“If we had the volunteers to run the museum, we could put the word out there to the travelling community to visit.’’
Ms Bryon said visitor numbers had dwindled with few locals supporting the museum.
“We want to encourage local people to bring their families and visitors along,’’ she said.
Probus clubs and school groups from throughout the Riverina visit periodically and the volunteers would like to cater for these visitors with talks on the back lawn. There was also room to expand the collection into the former caretaker’s residence.
Mr Taylor said Narrandera Visitors Centre had assisted by referring visitors to the museum.
“Realistically, we might be lucky to get half a dozen people through a week,’’ he said.
Mrs Taylor has maintained the collection, cleaning all the display cases and museum interior. The century old weatherboard building was originally a boarding house owned by Mr WJT Bean.
Donations by philanthropist Sir Frank Duval enabled the opening of the museum housing the large collection of Dr Harold Lethbridge. Dr Lethbridge’s collection has been labelled as nationally significant by the National Museum of Australia and includes skis from Scott’s Antarctic expedition.
A Class 500 National cash register, a charcoal drip safe, 1800s black wedding gown and Chinese artefacts are among other highlights of the collection.