10 Years of Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre – Their Story
2021 marks the ten-year anniversary of The School Museum which was opened in 2011, a few years after the closing of the Hall primary school in 2006.
The closure of Hall primary school was against the wishes of many residents of the Hall, where the school had been an essential part of the village since it was built in the early 1900s.
There was a revived interest in having a School Museum when the centenary of the school was approaching in 2011, the Hall School Museum was officially opened and the “Friends of Hall School Museum” was founded to help preserve the school’s history and artifacts.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Alastair Crombie, the Honorary Curator of the Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre about the 10-year anniversary of the museum.
Q: How long have you been with the museum?
A: It’s not a straightforward question because a school museum was first established here in 1961 with it being officially recognized by the ACT government in 1986. This museum ran until the school closed in 2006, it was a museum belonging to the school.
I got involved after the school closed in 2006 when we took over the museum, so I’ve been involved for 12 or 13 years. The closing of Hall school has led to all of this being opened and the start of the friends.
The closing of the school meant that the old Hall school in the centre of this campus which is a 1910 one-teacher bush school, was essentially orphaned. There was no one here to look after it.
I was president of the progress association at the time and we determined two things. We would take it over and take care of [The Old School Building and secondly, we would make sure that there was a celebration of the centenary of the school which was coming up in 2011.
I suppose within two or three years of taking over the school, we began to see that we could use this as a base to tell wider stories about the settlement of a district.
Q: How do you think the museum’s sort of evolved and changed over the last 10 years?
A: The main changes have been moving away from a single emphasis on being a school museum, telling the story of early colonial education, in this case starting in 1910.
To becoming a district heritage centre that tells the story of indigenous custodianship of the land and then the colonial settlement story in what we’ve come to know and call Ginninderra.
So we’ve specialized in the families and events of the two centuries of settlement in this general district.
A: It evolved gradually the first step being the discovery that Hall was one of a dozen or so little one-teacher bush schools scattered around the district here, So we went off in search of them, documented them and put on an exhibition about them.
In that process, we exposed ourselves to some of the families for whom these schools had been an important part of their ancestors’ lives. So then that gave us a handle on families who settled in the district and I think then the rest grew from that.
Q: What do you think have been some of the most important steps for evolving the museum to where it is today?
A: Well, there’s no doubt that taking in the Lyall Gillespie collection was a major turning point. We had already at that stage begun to focus attention on Ginninderra, but here’s Canberra’s preeminent historian arguably, with a lifetime’s collection of papers, books, photos, maps, you name it and we’re asked to become custodians of that collection.
So that gave us an enormous task which we had to catalogue the whole collection but as we did it we became more and more aware of how much treasure there was in the collection and that was certainly the major event.
Q: Have there been any major problems for the museum over the last ten years?
A: I don’t know. So major problems come to mind there’s a constant constraint which is in the number and the expertise of volunteers who are attracted here.
You can always see if we had one or two people with great competence in one field or another that, much more could be done much faster but having said that we’ve done pretty well actually if you take the IT area which is a big challenge for a lot of community museums like ourselves and we’ve got two or three really talented people and designing very good collection management systems.
A: What do you think is in the museum’s future from here, do you think you continue expanding and growing?
Q: I think part of the answer is that it would become more and more an online experience. The visitors will always be major and vital part of it, people coming in the door especially pioneer family descendants and quite a lot of them are finding the way here now.
But in the nature of the world, we will be trying to improve our digital storage and management systems and make more and more of our collection available one way or another online right that’s everything.
Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre is open on Thursdays from 9 AM to noon and on Sundays from noon to 4 PM.