5 April 2024

Queanbeyan's history finds a new future in an old home

| Claire Sams
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Three people with framed certificate

Queanbeyan’s Brigid Whitbread (right) is ready to share her knowledge of the region’s history – from a new home. Photo: Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

Moving to a new home is a big deal for anyone, and equally so for a collection of historical items and precious records.

Following being carefully packed away, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council’s local history collection now calls 253 Crawford Street home, after a 2023 decision by Council.

“It was a bit unnerving to not have a definite home for a bit, but it’s a big win to have this beautiful heritage building for the heritage collection,” Brigid Whitbread said.

“It seems like a good match.”

Ms Whitbread is Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council’s local history librarian, and she helps the public and students of all ages research Queanbeyan-Palerang’s history.

“It’s fascinating what you come across – and it’s a manual research process,” Ms Whitbread said.

“With digitised documents, you just get what you ask for.

“You don’t get much scope, that serendipity of turning a page and finding a new person or term to include in your search parameters.”

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The collection includes microform copies of newspapers from across the Queanbeyan-Palerang region, including the Queanbeyan Age, Queanbeyan Chronicle, Bungendore Dispatch and Bungendore Mirror.

It also holds maps, genealogy information, research papers donated by historians, council rates books, the Sheedy Memorial Local History Collection, a World War II certificate presented to historian Bert Sheedy and a series of phone books.

“We also have some wonderful council records on things like the electricity rates and sanitation records for when we had outside toilets that needed to be emptied,” Ms Whitbread said.

Ms Whitbread said the role of the collection was to "support and cultivate" interest in Queanbeyan-Palerang's unique history.

Ms Whitbread says the role of the collection is to “support and cultivate” interest in Queanbeyan-Palerang’s unique history. Photo: Supplied.

When people want a helping hand in their research or school assessments, they’ll be heading to the new location for information on historic houses, prominent people and everyday life in the region.

While there are myriad stories contained in the collection, its new home also has a long history, since it was built in 1927.

“They raised the funds to have a purpose-built building, which is the one we’re occupying now, following the first school of arts in Monaro Street,” Ms Whitbread said.

“The patrons had a subscription service and they would donate books – we still have a few of those publications that were part of that original collection.

“It operated as a school of arts for a long time, then council took it over and it was operated as a public library for some years.

“It eventually became council chambers.”

The public can check out the collection during the Queanbeyan-Palerang Heritage Festival, via two tours from 11 am and 2:45 pm, while the building will also host a talk on the history of St Gregory’s Parish.

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Ms Whitbread said a love for and interest in the past was evident in Queanbeyan-Palerang.

“Someone posts on Facebook about a heritage matter and there’s many responses,” she said.

“People really care about their heritage and the community, and it’s really exciting to be able to support and cultivate that interest.”

For Ms Whitbread, records and other historical artefacts are worth keeping, even if people don’t access them every day.

“The original records and documents do take up space and need maintenance,” she said.

“But they’re absolutely worthy of keeping – there’s only one 1885 rates book for the Queanbeyan Borough Council.

“We’re very lucky to have this opportunity in this beautiful building to use that extra storage [space] and make them accessible.”

The collection is now held at 253 Crawford Street and will be open from 23 April. Appointments can be made from Tuesdays to Thursdays from 9:30 am to 4 pm.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Heritage Festival will be held in April and May, with further information and eventbrite links on council’s website.

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