THE idea’s been floating around for years but a small group of local history buffs has come together to found a Museum of Perth to tell our city’s forgotten stories.
The private museum down in Grand Lane is being started up by Reece Harley, Two Feet and a Heartbeat walking tours founders Ryan Zakich and Ryan Mossny, Heritage Perth boss Richard Offen and former Perth MP Diana Warnock, along with amateur historian Dallas Robertson who has long run the cyber-Museum of Perth online and who headed up opposition to the Michelides tobacco factory being demolished.
Mr Harley—a Perth city councillor who’s outspoken on the preservation of heritage—says “our city deserves a space where Perth’s history can be shared and debated.
“As a visitor to Perth, or even as a resident, it’s not that easy to find out about our city’s history.”
Ms Warnock says she’s always been an inner-city type and interested in the city’s history and urban issues (husband Bill founded the think-tank CityVision in 1987).
“Every great city around the world—Paris, London, New York—has a museum that focuses on the city,” Ms Warnock says.
The long-retired MP and journalist says it’s great to see so many younger people interested in their city’s history: “I’m looking around the room [at the other board members] and thought apart from the building, I’m probably the oldest thing here,” she chuckles.
Set down in Grand Lane, the group’s aim is to tell the social, cultural, political and architectural history of the city.
“We’ve got a tiny space but bold ambitions,” Mr Harley says, “and we’re hoping that the Museum of Perth is a lasting legacy for the city for future generations.”
The group’s planning a permanent collection which tells the whole arc of Perth’s history from Aboriginal to colonial, convict to gold rush, the WWI years, the art deco era, the depression, WWII, the move to suburbia, the destruction of historic buildings through the 1960s to 1990s and finally the current move to new urbanism and a renewed interest in heritage.
There’s also space for rotating exhibitions and a microcinema for documentaries, movies and archival footage of Perth.
As a not-for-profit, the organisers are hoping fundraising can get them across the line to help fit out and populate their space.
The building at the back of 117 Barrack Street is itself steeped in history: it was long home to The West Australian League of Wheelmen, the cycling governing body that boasted “hundreds of wheelmen throughout the colony are members of the league” and which sought to “secure a fair and equitable administration of justice as regards the rights of cyclists on public roads” (the struggle endures).
A cafe planned for the front half of the space is being named for Henry Saw, who had a shop just round the corner, and who was, reportedly, the first person to roast coffee in Perth back in 1852.
The cafe will open towards the end of the month and the museum should be up and running by mid August. You can follow the progress at http://www.museumofperth.com.au
by DAVID BELL