We recently visited the Eaglehawk Heritage Society and chatted with Bev Hanson and Aylene Kirkwood OAM about the pending closure of this
wonderful and historically significant collection of Eaglehawk treasures.
Eaglehawk Heritage Society was formed to preserve the history and heritage of the area and provides a museum and research facility within the historic Courthouse building The Society was formed back in 1994 when Bev and Aylene were part of a group of people who shared the idea that Eaglehawk’s history needed a central place to be housed and made available for the public to view and appreciate.
The Courthouse, sitting on crown land, was virtually derelict when the Heritage Society moved in around 1997. A valued member of the society, the late John Hall applied for numerous grants including one that was for over $80,000. Although Aylene and Bev thought there was not a hope in the world of getting this grant, they were successful and the whole building was restored.
Aylene and Bev have worked hard and donated countless hours to this project. They have had a lot of pride in bringing Eaglehawk’s history together and the old courthouse has been their second home. Most people know that if Aylene’s not home, she can be found at the Society
busily working away preserving Eaglehawk’s history.
After over 28 years, the Society will be packing up and closing its
doors due to lack of visitors, declining membership and lack of volunteers.
“Covid affected us. But even prior to that things were on the decline.
Our membership fell, mainly due to ill health and people who got older and then left. It got so that we couldn’t open every Sunday. We really struggled to have two people available to open”.
The ladies explained that their immediate concern is to return all of the items to their donors or the donor’s families.
“It’s really, really sad that things have come to this”.
“We’re looking to give back acquisitions to the people who donated them. Many have died, so we need to locate their families.
A lot of them no longer have a landline, they’ve only got mobile phones, so they’re difficult to find. We really need these people to get in contact with us. Even if they don’t want their items back, we’d like that verified”.
“I have spent so many sleepless nights wondering what’s going to happen to all of this lovely stuff if people don’t want it? What are we going to do with it?” says Aylene.
“Some people have donated items and don’t want them returned. However, permission is still needed to pass an item onto a new owner or be added to a new collection. So the sooner it’s done, the better”
Aylene said she really doesn’t want it to be dragging out for another 12 months. But admits that it may take that long.
“We’ve had lots of pleasure out of people’s items over the years and we don’t want to see them go to other places and be placed in storage – we’d rather they go back to family. A lot of people have already come in to
collect items, but as you can see, there’s still a lot of stuff”. It’s important that the society is notified before items are collected, please don’t just turn up in anticipation of taking an item away with you.
The RSL have been great, and have agreed to take a lot of the war memorial items. So it is a relief that those items are going to the right place. The Bendigo public library will also take some items and there may be the possibility to create an Eaglehawk Research Center as part of their facilities.
Although the Society is closing, Bev will continue to run the Facebook page and is interested in doing family histories. Aylene will remain available for anyone who requests information or photos.
3556 magazine staff would like to acknowledge and thank all past and
present volunteers of the Heritage Society for their time and dedication to this important project.