3 November 2023

Merimbula museum prepares for reopening with exhibition on 'integral part' of region's history

| Claire Sams
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An oyster punt on a steel frame located outside

A new punt is one of several additions that have been made at Merimbula Old School Museum in recent weeks. Photo: Merimbula Old School Museum/Facebook.

After being closed for a makeover, a museum on the South Coast is set to reopen this weekend.

Merimbula Old School Museum is owned and operated by not-for-profit organisation Merimbula-Imlay Historical Society.

Museum curator Elizabeth Bretherton said the museum had been closed for several weeks to allow for upgrades to improve the building’s accessibility.

“It was built in the 1870s – so as you imagine, there wasn’t much in the way of accessibility,” she said.

“There are a lot of steps in the building, which made it impossible for anyone who was in any way challenged physically to make it into a lot of those rooms.

“Council obtained a grant for us for these works.”

The five-week closure saw a range of adjustments to the historic building, including a moved entrance.

Ms Bretherton said it was hoped the accessibility upgrades would increase the number of people who could view the museum and get involved with the historical society’s work.

“It makes the building much safer for disabled people, but also for our volunteers as some of our volunteers are older,” she said.

“It’s quite important that we have something that’s user-friendly [for the public], as well.”

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The museum has also expanded its collection in recent times.

“We’ve kept an area for displays on our history, and made a new gallery featuring local artist Peter Dunne,” she said.

“We’ve recreated a classroom and kitchen in the attached master’s residence.”

Ms Bretherton said the historical society turned to the sea when filling the museum.

“For a display, we chose an oystering theme because it’s such an integral part of the area.”

“We have a collection of oyster plates, which were donated to us just before COVID by collector Trevor Kennedy.

“The museum is very fortunate to have the oyster plates, and we have about 300 of them – and we have about a third of them put on display.”

Their collection also includes oyster punts and other equipment used in oyster farming.

The museum is also working on plans to host a travelling exhibition in 2024, Ms Bretherton said, and the historical society is looking to expand its resources of information.

“If people come for visits who have ancestors or forebears who lived here, they can give us snippets of personal information that we can add to our collection,” she said.

Ms Bretherton said new volunteers would always be welcome at Merimbula-Imlay Historical Society.

“There’s many jobs, but you only need to get involved once a week, once a month, or once a year,” she said.

Ms Bretherton said historical societies provided a chance for communities to learn about their local history.

“We would like to be able to show them the history of the town they live in,” she said.

“We have visitors that often say, ‘I had no idea there was so much history in the area’.

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The public can take a sneak peek at the new facilities at the museum’s upcoming open day on Saturday (4 November).

There will be a range of food and entertainment options from 11 am to 3 pm.

“The plan for the day includes a Lions sausage sizzle and a coffee van from Za’s Coffee,” Ms Bretherton said.

“The museum will have free entry for the day.

“There’ll be people on hand to explain anything that anybody would like to have explained to them about the museum.”

Those gathered can also browse stalls selling things like secondhand books and jewellery, buy raffle tickets, watch oyster shucking demonstrations and listen to live music.

The Old School Museum is located at 85 Main Street, Merimbula.

Following its reopening, it will be open from 10 am to 12:30 pm on Tuesdays, and from 1:30 to 4 pm on Thursdays and Sundays.

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