Bendigo Historical Society volunteer Ray Smith. Photo: Andrew Perryman

BENDIGO Historical Society lists as its first priority access to more storage for its artefacts, 20,000 items of which are already catalogued.

BHS, which works 5000 volunteer hours a year sorting, identifying and classifying its collection has already filled the space it was granted at the Bendigo Regional Archive Centre built nine years ago at Nolan Street.

But after publication of  a City of Greater Bendigo-commissioned report which councillors released for public comment on Wednesday night, the talk among members of more than 15 local historical societies including BHS, is about the prospect of a new museum in Bendigo.

The report said combined, the collections of small volunteer-based historical societies in and around Bendigo amounted to 45,000 artefacts which is already more than would fill into a major regional museum.

At a meeting of the Bendigo and District Heritage Group this week, some groups named the Bendigo Law Courts as a possible location for a museum.

The BHS, the biggest of the groups, is yet to decided formally on its preference but vice president Barbara Poustie said she would prefer to see a purpose-built facility constructed, not a refurbishment of the law courts.

Court Services Victoria is negotiating to use part of Bendigo TAFE’s McCrae Street campus for a 10-courtroom facility by mid-2022.

The move would leave the historic courts on Pall Mall vacant, but the Bendigo Weekly understands the state government wants to preserve the most prestigious of the court rooms.

Ms Poustie said the configuration of the courts with small rooms and long corridors was not conductive to exhibition space and would require many volunteers acting as protectors to prevent theft.

At the Nolan Street archive centre, she said she would welcome more space because there is none available to carry out conservation work on items or train volunteers.

The report said the society was storing materials that could expose the public records stored there to pests and mould.

BHS president Jim Evans said some materials in the society’s collection had previously been stored in sheds or in damp conditions and exposed to animals and insects.

Ms Poustie, treasurer Neville Davies and volunteers were cataloguing clothing on Tuesday at the centre.

At the back of a row of compactus shelves, one of which is broken, and through wire, there is the space reserved for the council’s artefacts.

It appears to be a space twice the size and with room to spare.

The council are counting its owned and managed heritage assets and once that is complete, there will be a clearer picture of the space required to store objects and artefacts.

“A substantial amount of space could then be available for stakeholder partners,” the report stated.

Residents can comment on the report for the next four weeks.

– Sharon Kemp