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Members of Mid West Museums gather at the Chapman Valley Museum on April 28. Picture: John Stokes, Chapman Valley Historical Society
Members of Mid West Museums gather at the Chapman Valley Museum on April 28. Picture: John Stokes, Chapman Valley Historical Society

Today (May 18) marks the 35th International Museum Day and since its inception in 1977 the themes for this special day have had a common focus on celebrating the important role of museums that inspire people to explore their identity, culture, environment and sense of place. This year is no different with museums and their visitors invited to reflect on the role of museums in our society in the face of numerous changes.

The Mid West region is richly dotted with historical societies, museums and other groups with important collections all striving to fulfil this mission. From community to community these societies vary greatly in their collections, buildings, programs and capacity to be open to the public on a regular basis, yet through their membership of the Museums Australia (WA) Mid West Chapter the group is one of the most active in the state, and united by a common purpose of making this region’s history accessible, bringing stories alive, and always inviting participation in its events and activities.

At a recent Chapter meeting held at the Chapman Valley Museum, the twice yearly reports provided by the members showed the diversity of challenge each group faces and the inspirational way each group goes about realising its aims. This invaluable network, supported by the WA Museum in Geraldton, who has maintained the Secretarial and Treasurer role for over a decade, works tirelessly at improving their services to the public and their local communities.

With a mostly volunteer workforce, these societies give thousands of hours each year to their collections, museums, audiences and community events. Some of the societies have developed online and social media in recent years to increase their ways of communicating to visitors.

In a 24/7 world the Morawa Historical Society can wake up to all kinds of requests from around the world for information from its extensive vintage operating manuals collection, or Carnamah is busy sending likes and comments on its Facebook page and updating its website.

Many of us will take the time to see a museum or art gallery if we are lucky enough to travel to Rome, Paris, Madrid or New York, but have you been to your local one lately?

International Museums Day is a great time to reconnect with the many public collections in each Mid West community and to meet the dedicated people who are passionate about keeping these museums open to all. Here are just a few museums throughout the region that you should see.

'''Carnamah
'''During the last year a dedicated band of volunteers from the Carnamah Historical Society have contributed almost 3200 hours of time working in the museum and at MacPherson homestead, keeping both sites clean, welcoming visitors, replacing the museum roof, and working on their website and social media.
They also have objects, photos and stories in the new Landmarks Gallery at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra and were the first Historical Society in the Mid West to create their own Facebook page.
Carnamah are the Vice Chair of the Mid West Chapter of Museums through its President George Fowler.
www.carnamah.com.au/
P: 9951 1690
Chapman Valley
Chapman Valley Museum recently acquired a donation of over 700 records along with several types of gramophone. They have also taken receipt of a collection of old sewing machines and old maps of the Bowes estate which takes in Nabawa, Naraling and Yuna. They have a beautiful new museum brochure with support from the Shire of Chapman Valley.
P: 9964 3373
'''Cervantes
'''The Cervantes Historical Society has been working with the Yued Noongar people in the region to gather historical Aboriginal information, contributed to research on the Lt George Grey expedition in 1839, and provided historical information to the Cervantes Progress Association to use at local look-outs and walk trails.
P: 9652 7774
'''Dongara
'''Irwin District Historical Society has won eight awards for its Museum innovation and best practice since the Old Police Station Museum opened a decade ago.
The IDHS has approximately 3000 objects and 3200 photographs held at the Police Museum and at Russ Cottage, its other museum location.
www.irwinhistory.org.au/
idhs@midwest.com.au
'''Geraldton
'''The Geraldton Greenough Historical Society is working with a heritage consultant to undertake a significance assessment of the collection at the Greenough Pioneer Museum.
The Pioneer Museum and the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage at Bluff Point are open to the public most days of the week and are a wonderful way to discover our local history.
Lighthouse Keepers Cottage: 9923 1837
Greenough Pioneer Museum: 9926 1058
www.greenough-pioneer-museum.com/index.html
The Birdwood Military Museum is also undertaking a significance assessment of its militaria collection and is currently putting a lot of volunteer time into photographing and documenting its collection.
www.geraldtonrsl.org.au/
P: 9964 1520
The Western Australian Museum Geraldton created a Facebook page in January and is starting to increase its social media presence. The Museum’s latest temporary exhibition ANZANG: Nature Photography opens on Friday 18th May.
museum.wa.gov.au/museums/Geraldton
'''Mt Magnet
'''In April, the Mt Magnet Historical Society moved into its new purpose built Mining and Pastoral museum with an array of displays that feature the history of the region, including the development of the town and the history of the goldfields.
shire@mtmagnet.wa.gov.au
'''Morawa
'''The Morawa District Historical Society has a comprehensive set of historical agricultural machinery, automotive, tools and windmill manuals. They receive enquiries on this fantastic collection from all over the world on a weekly basis.
They also have one of the largest windmill collections in the world, with over 40 different models in different stages of restoration.
Morawa is currently the chair of the Mid West Chapter of Museums through its President John Pulbrook.
P: 9971 1777
members.westnet.com.au/caladenia/
'''Northampton
'''Northampton recently provided a Coolgardie safe from their collection to the National Trust WA’s ‘Safe-Keeping’ display as part of the inaugural WA Heritage Festival , along with Chapman Valley and Morawa.
Chiverton House Museum: 9934 1215
'''Wubin
'''The Wubin Historical Society is completing an exhibition on the Rabbit Proof fence and the history of the No. 2 Fence, which runs through the area.
After being closed for the summer, work in the Wheatbin Museum has been at full pace, with the museum officially opening for the tourist season on the June long weekend.
wheatbinmuseum@bigpond.com