The late Miriam Chisholm was a stalwart of the Goulburn and District Historical Society, donating hundreds of items to its home, Saint Clair villa in the 1970s.
Costumes and textiles dating from the 1840s to the 1900s and archives associated with the prominent pastoralist family form a significant part of the vast collection.
Then there are the 1500 architectural plans of prominent Goulburn architect, EC Manfred and his sons, the James Sinclair collection and thousands of other items and documents. Across 70 years, the Society has amassed about 10,000 items.
Current conservation work on the 1840s Saint Clair is presenting the Society with a new challenge - how to best manage the collection for its return to the Sloane Street premises.
On Tuesday, Goulburn Mulwaree Council granted $3500 from its financial assistance budget to help employ a temporary museums advisor.
The Society had hoped for $7000 to match grant funding from Museums and Galleries NSW it was seeking. However president Jennifer Lamb said the application would go ahead. The money will pay for 20 visits by the museum advisor across a year.
"We really need to go through and assess what we have, what is significant, the items that are duplicated, what can be passed on to others or are less relevant to Goulburn and what we do," Ms Lamb said.
Some items have also deteriorated or been damaged over the years.
Much of the collection is currently in council storage. The council has also offered the Society space in the basement of its Clinton Street building to house the Manfred collection. This will be monitored to ensure optimal conditions.
Ms Lamb said off-site storage would continue after the shift back into Saint Clair. This would allow for revolving exhibitions and displays that tell the villa's and Goulburn's stories.
The museum advisor would also provide strategic direction for the museum, advise on tourism and funding opportunities and help work on a Saint Clair interpretation plan commissioned by the council.
Ms Lamb said while the money was less than requested it would still allow something to happen.
"We acknowledge and appreciate the council's support (also) in working with us on storage," she said.
The council's museums officer, Kerry Ross suggested the Museums and Galleries grant application.
In February, the Society moved out of its temporary accommodation in Mitre 10's building adjoining Saint Clair. The business needed it to expand but Helen Hadlow came to the history group's rescue, offering the bottom storey of her 1858 building on the corner of Bradley and Sloane Streets, rent free.
Meantime, local firm, Longstone Pty Ltd, is making sound progress on Saint Clair's conservation. The $1.178 million stage has addressed damp and mould, stabilised the foundation, removed asbestos, repaired brickwork, installed new joinery, replaced the villa's roof and guttering, a rear balcony and stair case, the front walkway, updated plumbing and electrical and restored the rear coach house.
History Goulburn volunteers received a sneak peek several weeks ago.
"The work so far is really good," Ms Lamb said.
"The coach house will be fully conserved and we'll have an archives centre there."
The villa will house the exhibitions.
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It's unknown when the Society will move back into Saint Clair. The council's marketing, events and culture business manager, Sarah Ruberto, hoped it would be this year.
Ms Lamb said the Society would fund heating, display areas, IT set-up and more using accrued funds and donations when it shifted back.
"All of the council's funding for Saint Clair is for conservation work and to ensure its survival," she said.
- The Society is open from 10am to 4pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 324 Sloane Street. Anyone wishing to become a volunteer can call Bill Sommerville on 0417 27 2417.
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