The Invisible Value of Historical Societies: Preserving the Stories of the Past

A treasured collection of period dresses and artifacts from the 1800s has found itself in storage, tucked away in sheds and rented spaces. The Yarram and District Historical Society, known for its beautifully preserved 178-year-old wedding dress, has faced the unfortunate reality of having to relocate due to the sale of its museum building.

Secretary Karen Smith expressed her disappointment, stating the heartbreaking truth that the society has had to put everything away. However, despite the challenges they face, the society continues to provide a vital service to the community. With its research library and archives now housed in a kindergarten building and a shed, the society remains committed to assisting individuals seeking knowledge about their heritage.

Historical societies like the one in Yarram often embody the stories and memories of the elders who have lived in the area for generations. They are the keepers of the past, answering inquiries about ancestral homes, individuals who lived in the region during a specific time period, and even providing photographs for community celebrations.

Bill Bodman, a committee member, shared his family’s rich history. His great-grandfather was a bullock wagon driver during the 1800s, contributing to the once-thriving trading depot of Port Albert. The district holds historical significance as one of Victoria’s original sea ports, attracting tourists eager to explore the remnants of its vibrant past.

Esme Rash, the secretary of the Yarram Genealogy Group, highlighted the extensive collection of information gathered over time. From schools and cemeteries to churches and shipping records, the society’s research encompasses a variety of topics. Ms. Rash, now housing the genealogy archives in her own home, emphasized the importance of preserving this valuable data.

One of the significant challenges faced by historical societies is the aging population of volunteers. As younger generations seek opportunities elsewhere, these organizations struggle to attract new recruits. Additionally, finding suitable buildings with accessible facilities adds to the obstacles these societies face.

To ensure their longevity, historical societies must adapt and engage with the public in more interactive ways. The Yarram Historical Society recognizes the potential for oral history projects, particularly regarding the town’s Indigenous and migrant history. They are exploring various avenues to generate interest and promote community involvement, such as hosting weekend events and collaborating with local groups.

However, these endeavors require not just dedication but also financial support. Historical societies like the Yarram and District Historical Society rely on the assistance of the council, local businesses, and the community to bring their collections back to life. With their extensive archives and artifacts, these societies hold the historical narrative of their regions, making them a valuable resource for preserving and understanding the past.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the historical society in Yarram known for?
  2. The Yarram and District Historical Society is known for its beautifully preserved 178-year-old wedding dress, among other period dresses and artifacts from the 1800s.

  3. Where is the collection currently stored?
  4. The collection has been boxed up and placed in storage, including a shed and a kindergarten building, after the society’s museum building was sold.

  5. What services do historical societies provide?
  6. Historical societies play a crucial role in preserving the stories and memories of a community. They help individuals research their family histories, provide information about local landmarks and events, and offer resources such as photographs and archives.

  7. Why is it challenging for historical societies to attract younger volunteers?
  8. The average age of volunteers in historical societies tends to be higher, making it challenging to attract younger generations who often seek opportunities elsewhere. Additionally, finding suitable buildings with accessible facilities poses a challenge for these societies.

  9. How can historical societies stay relevant in the future?
  10. Historical societies can stay relevant by becoming more interactive with the public. They can engage with the community through projects like oral history recordings and by hosting events and collaborations with local groups.