By Gav Ross
WONTHAGGI and District Historical Society’s quaint museum – housed in the 104 year-old train station building – is bursting at the seams.
There’s barely any room for new artefacts, let alone what’s already in storage.
Now, after years of planning and tireless fundraising, it looks like a much-needed extension to the museum is finally going to take place.
The society has revealed detailed plans to build a 16-metre long structure along the western edge of the beloved station – an area currently only occupied by grass and a decaying shipping container.
Society president Faye Quilford said the extension is years overdue and urgently needed.
“We only have so much room here and this will allow the heritage building to be dedicated solely to displaying items in our collection,” she explained.
“At the moment we have lots of things stored inside and outside the building and there’s just no more room.”
The storage situation has been so dire for several years that one society member has had to convert one of their own sheds at home into a makeshift storeroom.
“We also have had to hire space at a local storage facility to keep some wheelchairs, sewing machines, a day bed and other artefacts,” Faye said.
Finalising plans for the extension became all the more urgent after the group’s shipping container – which was chock full of historic items – started leaking earlier this year.
“We had to pull everything out of it and lay it across the platform,” society vice president Jill Miles explained.
“And of course that was no good after a while because when it’s windy everything gets wet and damaged on the platform.”
Up until recently, there was a proposal to weather-proof the platform by enclosing it in glass, but Faye says that would be too expensive and an extra, dedicated building would be far more suitable.
“We are waiting to hear from Heritage Victoria about our plans and Bass Coast Shire Council is approaching them on our behalf,” Faye said.
“The new building will aesthetically match the heritage building and it will be similar in ways to structures that used to exist on the platform when the railway line was in operation.”
Since the grand old station is heritage-listed, it is off limits and cannot be altered when the extension is constructed.
Faye confirmed the extension will be separate to the station and linked only by corrugated iron walls.
The society plans on funding the majority of the project itself and it is hoped construction will begin sometime in 2016.
Cr Neil Rankine said the society remains vitally important to Wonthaggi and the shire is keen to work with the group.
“They hold our history, and I reckon the old saying that if you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to make or repeat mistakes is absolutely true,” he said.
“As more and more items of relevance are donated, the society has to decide how to store or display these elements of the growing story of Wonthaggi.
“It’s obviously very hard to rationalise a collection where every item makes some part of one of the jigsaw puzzles of the town, and the museum needs to act as display and meeting space so it’s not practical to store everything in there.
“Council will probably be able to offer in-kind support as well through our engineering and other departments to understand the building regulation requirements (and) assist with drawing up final construction plans.
“Renewal and community grants money might also be used to finish off or fit out the project.”