Your very own car can be a time machine.
If you ever get the chance to go to Mudgee, you should do it. The many people who live in Sydney suffer from the need to escape to the countryside once in a while to enjoy good wine and cheese – usually in the Hunter Valley, which is a great destination.
But what’s good about Mudgee, aside from the different location, is that if you hop in a car you’re 20 minutes away from this old gold mining town that’s barely changed since the 19th century. Soon as you enter the streets you notice the quaint shop signs and wide unmarked roads. You almost expect to see rugged, bearded gold miners pushing along carts of dirt containing gold flakes.
Once you enter Westpac or IGA though, it pretty much is the same as any shop back in the suburbs of Sydney with less selection – which is why you head towards the Gulgong Pioneers Museum.
Now this museum is a true gem. Its focus is not on art or ancient relics, but on everyday goods that span across many decades of the past century or two. You walk in to see a relatively small area that is full of old musical organs and gramophones. You’ll see an empty counter and wonder “am I supposed to be in here?”
No need to go out and check the door sign again, you’re in the right spot. There’s a camera staring at you and soon enough, a lady will come out and inform you of the price – $10 for adults and $8 for students.
You pay the woman and look around the room you’re in, its walls are lined with rifles and the floor is filled with gramophones. If this was it, you might feel ripped off, despite the novelty of seeing an ancient His Master’s Voice poster with the dog and the gramophone. That’s right, HMV, remember that store? Non-existent now because of iTunes and JB hi-fi.
Anyway, there are two exits to this room and you take the one out back. This is when you begin to realise how big this museum is. You look around and see tractors that don’t even look like tractors, and multiple sheds that look like they’re on the brink of collapse.
You can just look around freely, but if you want to ensure seeing everything, look at the crudely printed map they give you of the museum. It will take you through rooms containing everything from what looks like ancient mechanics equipment with familiar brands like Shell and Penzoil to blacksmith’s workshops that are straight out of a movie. There’s an old dentist examination room, an old classroom with books and honour student lists, there’s toys, there’s carriages, old cigarettes with “cork tips” from a brand that no longer exists, a bar with “Toohey’s oatmeal stout”, something I can’t imagine selling well anymore. There are typesetting machines (what they used to print books and newspapers), all the way to some of the first computers with books explaining how to use MS-DOS, the earliest form of Windows.
According to Jan Zammit, a volunteer at the museum everything item on display was donated. “Everything we have comes from the surrounding area, the people who live here and have been here for a while and have old items of many different sorts,” she said. “The oldest items are from about the 1870’s but as long as it’s considered somewhat old or is clearly out of production we’ll take it.”
The Museum was established in 1962 and has had great support from the community. It is entirely run by volunteers and has 10,000 to 12,000 visitors a year.
People continue to donate items making the collection ever growing. Words really can’t do this place justice, so go take a look back into the lives of the past for yourself. – Sion Weatherhead
Photos By Sion Weatherhead.