The B.H.R.G Weekend 2010
Yes folks, you read me right. The Ned Kelly Weekend in Beechworth looks like it will turn into the Beechworth Historical Re-enactment Group Weekend. Now you are most probably not aware that the organiser for our beloved Ned Kelly Weekend is the above group. You are probably also aware through media and fanfare etc that they have secured the original Kelly Gang Armour for next years event, and for this I tips me lid. But the hat tipping for me was short lived when I found out where these dedicated members of the community want to display the Armour. No dear friends, not in the local struggling Burke museum, but in their own building, the sub-treasury, which they are also converting to a historic police museum. Ned and the Boys would just love that.
Now to be fair to the organising committee, with the inclusion of this famous, or should I say infamous Armour in their weekend, they should attract several thousand visitors from around Australia and possibly from overseas. With the Burke museum, which has been operating as a museum in Beechworth since 1863, struggling to keep its doors open because of lack of patronage, I assumed the organising committee would do the moral thing, show some community spirit, and hold the exhibition in the museum.
You are most probably thinking…. “well, they organised the Armour, why shouldn’t they hold it in their own building?” Well the reason is this. The town of Beechworth is not “Ned Kelly” town, but a community, and communities help and support each other to survive and grow. It’s made up of people, dwellings, business, and as in Beechworth, a museum and Historic Precinct that prosper through such events that attract visitors to their well preserved historic town. What if the major sponsor of the weekend, the Beechworth Bakery, decided to go it alone and have the Armour with 24 hour guard in their shop? It would be great for business but totally inappropriate. Maybe for that matter the Indigo Shire Council could have organised it and had it on display in their chambers? Again, totally inappropriate. If it was possible to bring the Boys back to this world, and asked where they wanted their Armour shown, would it be a renovated historic police station, or the Burke museum, a place which they had most probably visited many times in their short lives. Would Ned look intently at the Chinese Armour with a smug look on his face? I think you know the answer.
As for the Burke museum, it is far from being rated well above Australian museum standards, as a recent study has pointed out. The Indigo Shire has a lot of work to do to bring it up to scratch. But one of the biggest issues pointed out was that the Burke Museum and the Historic Precinct were working as two entities and this had to cease. The study recommended that the Museum should be the centrepiece in marketing and advertising of the precinct. Here are just a couple of pages from the 51 page study in May 2009.
There are substantial benefits in integrating the management of the two entities. It would meet the objective articulated in the ISC Plan 2006-2010 of facilitating "the provision of integrated arts and cultural activities". It would maximise staff resources and expertise across the Museum and precinct, particularly with regard to administration, exhibitions, collections management, educational programs and managing public access. It would also mean that museum expertise and advice could be made available to those venues such as the Forestry Collection and Post and Telegraph Office where the displays and collection management programs are not of a satisfactory standard.
The alternative of keeping the Museum and Historic Precinct in separate administrations runs the risk that the Historic Precinct will be run down in the same way as is now happening with the Burke Museum. There are already signs of this with a decline in Precinct gate takings over the last two financial years. Furthermore, the opportunity to provide a cohesive historic precinct, incorporating the Burke Museum, of which the entire community can be proud, would be lost.
From the Museum & Heritage Services Manager down, staff should be encouraged to consider the Burke Museum and the Historic Precinct as one entity, and this should be reflected in all policy and planning programs.
D The operations of the Historic Precinct be integrated into the Robert O'Hara Burke Museum.
Purpose of the Robert O'Hara Burke Museum
While the Museum was established in part as a memorial to former citizen and explorer Robert O'Hara Burke its purposes and the environment it operates in are far different nowadays than then.
For many years it has been part of Indigo Shire Council and also has the legacy of other developments that have taken place around it. In 2001 a project set out to develop a heritage tourism product.
That product, as finite and perishable as it is, has tended to overshadow the Museum - an ongoing organisation.
The issue that really needs to be considered is that, in developing a product and providing a series of venues in a precinct, Indigo Shire Council has established the skeleton of a "museum without walls" which functions from various venues.
In Europe and elsewhere these are known as Ecomuseums and are managed as living museums. Ecomuseums also rely on strong governance and professional expertise to be sustainable.
While the cash comes through the tills, in its present form the Beechworth Historic Precinct is not sustainable and is deficient in the same areas as is the Robert O'Hara Burke Museum.
All organisations need a clear identity with stated aims that are understood by the membership and those who work for the organisation whether in a paid or unpaid basis. Everyone needs to know and understand why a museum exists
As you can see, having exhibits scattered across the town does not for success make.
I received information that the manager for Indigo Shire Tourism was approached by the B.H.R.G, and that the Burke was out of the question because of the criteria set by the State Library of Victoria and the Historical Police Museum. The $5 entry fee at the Burke could not be wavered for a gold coin donation. I later found this information incorrect as stated in this email.
Good morning Alan
Thanks for email and thank you for your support for the museum.
I agree entirely with your sentiments about wanting to enhance the attractions at the museum to bring more visitors in and we are looking at the opportunities raised in the Review which you refer to.
In regards to the Ned Kelly weekend next year (2010), the event is being run by the Beechworth Historic Re-enactment Group who have taken over the old sub-treasury building to refurbish it as a 19th century police station – as it originally was.
As part of their efforts to build up the NK weekend, they are planning major events for the town as it is the 130th anniversary of Kelly’s trial. They have made all of the arrangements to get the suits of armour here and as part of the negotiations, have agreed to house them in the ‘sub-treasury’ building with 24 hour security presence.
The entry fee was not the issue for the Burke, more that the BHRG are the organisers and will host the display in ‘their’ building.
I am confident that with good marketing and promotion, we will see many of the thousands who will flock to Beechworth that weekend visit the Burke museum. We will put a strategy in place with good signage to steer the NK weekend visitors to displays in the museum.
I hope that answers your concerns and once again, thanks for your interest and support for the museum.
Indigo Shire Council
DD 03 5728 8060
Mobile 0429 709 727
P O Box 28
Beechworth VIC 3747
All that we can ask, is for the B.H.R.G to have a change of heart and do what is right for not only the success of the Ned Kelly Weekend, but also for the troubled Burke Museum and the Community it has served for 146 years. If the BHRG took advantage of this worthy gesture, they might just find that the media will not only cover the armour, but also their undying and unselfish community spirit. There is no taking away the recognition, or the intense organisation it has taken by members of the BHRG to get permission for the loan of this once in a lifetime exhibition. Internationally renowned museums would be fighting for such a prize, but they do not have it, Beechworth does.
With the existing Kelly Gang and locally related artefacts that the Burke Museum has gathered and preserved for almost 150 years, and with the Kelly Gangs four suits of armour, can you just for a moment imagine what world standard exhibition it would make, worthy of media coverage not just in Australia but world wide. Use the old Sub-Treasury and transform it to a 19th century police station and memorabilia. At least there will be room for the many thousands who will stroll through it with time to take in what the BHRG had originally intended for the building. With a gold coin donation or small entry fee, I’m sure the BHRG will be rewarded for their efforts. Also as the organisers of the armour, I am sure the BHRG could also come to some arrangement with the ISC regarding a share from the Burke Museum for their generosity.
Members of the Beechworth Historic Re-enactment Group, It’s time to sit down and have a good think of what would be best, not just for the BHRG, but for the Ned Kelly Weekend 2010, the Burke Museum, and the Beechworth community it continues to serve after 146 years.
Show the Armour Exhibition at the Burke Museum!
Alan Crichton web site Ned Kelly Tales