An exhibition depicting nationally significant war items will be first off the blocks when the redeveloped Rocky Hill Museum opens to the public next month.
Construction of the $2.7 million project was completed before Christmas but workers have been adding the finishing touches since.
The Post was given a sneak peek this week, ahead of the March 27 opening. Sydney-based Crone Architects won planning approval for a new-storey addition in early 2019. Their design, constructed by Van Mal Group over the past year, incorporates reflective metal external panelling that captures the surrounding bushland setting.
That's the effect the architects had in mind, the council's operation director Matt O'Rourke explained.
"They've done a great job," he said.
The new building next to the former museum and caretakers cottage, includes a large exhibition space upstairs across two rooms and a storage and archival area and plant room below. A lift connects the levels.
Outside, the rendered cement and reflective panel finish are designed to blend in with the landscape. Although a rooftop landscaped garden was originally planned, rocks from Rocky Hill have been placed there instead.
Mr O'Rourke said some design modifications were made to meet the budget.
"But it hasn't departed too much from the original design," he said.
"There were some things we kept because they were part of what they (the architects) were trying to achieve...It's a difficult site (due to slope) and trying to get the architect's intent can make it more challenging."
Tender prices initially came in above the $2.5 million budget, which was equally funded by the council and the federal government's Building Better Regions fund. Two tenderers, Van Mal Group and Kane Constructions, were invited to review their scope of works, with the former eventually selected. The council committed extra money to complete the project.
The finished building also incorporates mandatory fire safety measures in the bushland area. A cement render has been applied to the original museum for the same reason. This structure, which connects to the new, will continue to be used as an exhibition space. It also scored a new external roof as part of the improvements.
"The (Rocky Hill) volunteers are very happy with the new building," Mr O'Rourke said.
"It's a completely different space and a huge improvement."
Display cases have been shifted in, ready to be filled.
The council's museums coordinator, Kerry Ross said planning was well underway for the Museum's first exhibition in the new digs. Running for a year, it will display 16 items from World War One correspondent, Charles EW Bean's collection, including hand-made body armour, wicker covers from mortar shells, assembly tape found in the mud and a German rifle. Photographic images have also been sourced from the Australian War Memorial and London's Imperial War Museum.
There are some great stories behind Rocky Hill and we're looking forward to telling them.Kerry Ross - museum's coordinator
But the former museum will also be well utilised. In its foyer, a concurrent exhibition will feature photos and stories from its time as a caretakers cottage. Mrs Ross said she and volunteers had contacted the families of former caretakers. The daughter of the first person appointed in the 1930s, Eric Keith, lives in Queensland and plans to visit towards the end of the year.
She said it was not as widely known that the Rocky Hill Memorial also had a museum in its basement, which operated from 1927 until 1990. Photos of this and others depicting the Memorial's construction and through time will form part of the display.
"There are some great stories behind it and we're looking forward to telling them," Mrs Ross said.
Two restored World War One Howitzer cannons will be put put back in place for the opening.
The council is planning a community event to follow the official opening, details of which will be finalised this week.
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