23 October 2023

For the record: Precious Yass archives finally headed for permanent home

| Judith Davidson
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women looking at archives

President Cheryl Mongan shows visitors through the archives collection. Photo: Supplied.

Thanks to some creative thinking, compromises and sacrifices, the precious Yass Archives Collections seem to be well on their way to a permanent home.

In February 2023, when the archives collection and researchers had to vacate their home of 40 years, upstairs in the Yass Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, the future looked bleak. And it’s been quite a journey for the Yass & District Historical Society (YDHS) ever since.

As traumatic as it was at the time, homelessness was avoided with days to spare when the archives received permission to move into the vacant old Yass ambulance station. The catch? The lease could only be for one year, until June 2024. It was breathing space but where to then?

The Yass and District Museum, in the main street next to the Yass Visitors Information Centre, has housed exhibitions and artefacts since it was established in 1988 and served the town and district well. The YDHS owns this building. But it is just an unlined, uninsulated corrugated-iron shed attached behind what was a repurposed mechanics’ workshop. How could it be made to accommodate a working archives collection?

When all other options were considered, the idea of moving the archives into a space owned by the historical society, and from which they couldn’t be evicted and didn’t require unaffordable rent, began to make a lot of sense. How could this be achieved when the building was already fully occupied by the museum?

Despite being dear to the heart of YDHS members and the community, compromises within the museum space would need to be made. Careful de-accessioning of items and the removal of the exhibitions would make space for the archives collection.

“And that’s where we are at right now,” explained YDHS president Cheryl Mongan.

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YDHS volunteers and community groups such as the local Antique Farm Machinery are working together to carefully store the most historically relevant pieces of the museum collection and clean and sort a fascinating selection of memorabilia and antiques that will go to auction on 18 November at 11 am at the museum in Cooma Street.

“This will be an auction not to be missed,” Cheryl said. ”We are expecting a lot of interest from serious collectors but there will also be plenty of scope for people wanting that interesting piece that they just fall in love with.”

After the auction, there is a lot of expensive work yet to be done to insulate and line the building to bring it up to the standard required to house such a precious collection and still provide display and storage areas for the museum collection.

“Time and money are short,” Cheryl said. “Once we receive the promised grant funding from the State Government, we will have a clear way forward that will ensure the records and artefacts belonging to the history of the Yass Valley are safe.

”Equally important is that the skilled team of volunteer archive researchers have a workspace in which they can continue to respond to the many requests that come to them from all over Australia and beyond.”

So, add Saturday, 18 November, to your social calendar. Whether you are just browsing for that must-have object, looking for a bargain or seriously seeking that special piece for your collection, it should be an interesting experience and a great day out.

“You can check out our progress on our Yass History Facebook page,” Cheryl added.

”And did I mention the barbecue on site for the auction?”

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