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Croydon’s historic machinery collection: A case study in the uses and needs of outback heritage machinery collections

  • Jan Wegner (a1) and Jana Kahabka (a2)


One response to the development of tourism in small inland Queensland towns has been to collect heritage machinery from the surrounding countryside and display it in town as an attraction for visitors. These sites range from open-air collections of miscellaneous i3tems with no explanation of their use to both private and local government museums that are given varying levels of care and interpretation. The small north-western Queensland town of Croydon has a collection of heritage machinery in a number of sites, which range across this continuum. This article explores the potential of the collection to interpret the town’s history and the history of early gold mining, as a case study with application to other such collections.



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1 Pawlikowska-Piechotka, Anna, Łukasik, Natalia, Ostrowska-Tryzno, Anna and Sawicka, Karolina, ‘The rural open air museums: visitors, community and place’, European Countryside 4 (2015), 196.

2 Griffin, Des and Paroissien, Leon, ‘Museums in Australia: From a new era to a new century’, in Griffin, Des and Paroissien, Leon (eds), Understanding museums: Australian museums and museology, National Museum of Australia, 2011,, accessed 14 June 2017; Coffee, Kevin, ‘Cultural inclusion, exclusion and the formative roles of museums’, Museum Management and Curatorship, 23(3) (2008), 263; Labrador, Angela M., ‘Vistas in common: Sharing stories about heritage landscapes’, Museum International 63(1–2) (2011), 19; Graden, Lizette and O’Dell, Tom, ‘Museums and heritage collections in the cultural economy: The challenge of addressing wider audiences and local communities’, Museum International 68(3–4) (2017), 54.

3 Labrum, Bronwyn, ‘Historicizing the museum’s recent past’, Museum History Journal 5(1) (2012), 34.

4 Lydia Johnson, ‘Rural museums and their communities’, unpublished MA Thesis, California State University (2000), 15, 19; De Montis, A. and De Montis, V., ‘Planners in the face of mining cultural heritage: tourism development at L’Argentiera, Italy’, International Journal of Services Technology and Management 10(1) (2008), 129.

5 Sullivan, Tim, ‘History in the new millennium or problems with history?’, in Griffin, and Paroissien, (eds), Understanding museums,, accessed 14 June 2017.

6 Hooper-Greenhill, Eileen, Museums and the shaping of knowledge (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 6.

7 Tlili, Anwar, Gewirtz, Sharon and Cribb, Alan, ‘New Labour’s socially responsible museum’, Policy Studies 28(3) (2007), 269–70, 276; Bryan, Jane, Munday, Max and Bevins, Richard, ‘Developing a framework for assessing the socioeconomic impacts of museums: The regional value of the “flexible museum”’, Urban Studies 49(1) (2012), 134.

8 Weil, Stephen E., ‘The museum and the public’, Museum Management and Curatorship 16(3) (1997), 265; for the importance of objects in defining a museum, see Hudson, Kenneth, ‘The museum refuses to stand still’, Museum International 66(1–4) (2015), 138.

9 Brigden, Roy, ‘Recording change’, Folk Life 48(1) (2010), 5.

10 ibid., 6

11 Warnick, J., Mines and mineral deposits of the Croydon region (Brisbane: Queensland Department of Mines Record 1985/42), p. 4.

12 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘2016 Census quickstats: Croydon (S)’, 22 February 2018,, accessed 14 May 2018.

13 Queensland Heritage Register reference numbers: 645605, Golden Gate Mining and Town Complex; 600439, Homeward Bound Battery and Dam; 602243, Content Mine; 601857, Richmond Mine and Battery,, accessed 12 May 2018.

14 Croydon Mining News, 24 June 1910; Inspector of Mines Letterbook, p. 893, 7 January 1910, MIN 14B/G1, Queensland State Archives (QSA); Report of the Under-Secretary of Mines in Annual Report of the Department of Mines for 1910, p. 6.

15 Wilson, Catherine, ‘“I’ve got a brand new combine harvester … but who should have the key?” Some thoughts on rural life museums and agricultural preservation in Eastern England’, Folk Life 41(1) (2013), 10; Webber, Kimberley, Gillroy, Liz, Hyland, Joanne, James, Amanda, Miles, Laura, Tranter, Deborah and Walsh, Kate, ‘Drawing people together: The local and regional museum movement’, in Griffin, and Paroissien, (eds), Understanding museums,, accessed 14 May 2017.

16 Hassam, Andrew, ‘Indian jute in Australian museum collections: Forgetting and recollecting transnational networks’, Public History Review 18 (2011), 124–5.

17 Clegg, Graham, Graham, Thomas, Petersen, John and Winkworth, Kylie, Safe in the shed: Caring for historic farm machinery (Sydney: NSW Heritage Office, 2001), p. 15; Weil, Stephen E., ‘The Museum and the Public’, Museum Management and Curatorship 16(3) (1997), 265–71; Sullivan, ‘History in the new millennium’; Barrett, Jennifer, ‘“Protecting the past, safeguarding the future”: Museum studies, the profession and museum practice in Australia’, in Griffin, and Paroissien, (eds), Understanding museums,, accessed 14 May 2017.

18 Croydon Goldfield Warden’s Annual Reports, in the Annual Reports for the Department of Mines, 1891, p. 45; 1895, p. 827; 1900, p. 65; 1901, p. 53; 1902, p. 52; 1903, p. 54; 1907, p. 54.

19 Queenslander, 11 May 1889, 912; Queenslander, 18 July 1891, 102; Croydon Mining News, 1 March 1889; Croydon Mining News, 12 August 1909; Croydon Mining Record, 19 May 1904; Cairns Northern Herald, 5 November 1915, 6.

20 For example, Jan Wegner interview with Gilbert Bennion at Tweed Heads, December 1985.

21 Mining News, 18 July 1895, Mining News, 8 July 1910.

22 Jan Wegner interview with Norman Rains at Townsville, 29 October 1994.

23 Cedric Hughes, pers. comm. with Jan Wegner (telephone call), April 2012.

24 Croydon Mining News, 9 September 1910.

25 Weil, ‘The museum and the public’, 265; Johnson, ‘Rural museums’, 11.

26 Prince, David R., ‘Preserving motivations: The interpretation of the past’, International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship 8(2) (1989), 158, 160.

27 Mackay, Andrew, ‘My Roots? Why and how should we make rural life museums more relevant to our visitors?’, Folk Life 39(1) (2000), 27.

28 Ellwood, Galiina, ‘Aboriginal prospectors and miners of tropical Queensland, from pre-contact times to ca. 1950’, Journal of Australasian Mining History 12 (2014), 5960.

29 Interviews with Mrs Ethel Marshall at Croydon, 1986, and Norman Raines at Croydon, 1985; Arthur Spencer, ‘Unhonoured heroines’, MS, Royal Historical Society of Queensland Library; Croydon Mining News, 11 November 1910.

30 For example, Croydon Mining News, 11 March 1910.

31 For example, Cairns Post, 11 July 1913, 3.

32 See, for example, Croydon Mining Record, 25 May 1905.

33 Armstrong, John, Locomotives in the tropics (Brisbane: Australian Railway Historical Society (Qld), 1985), vol. I, p. 35; ‘Death of Mr H. Horniblow’, Queenslander, 12 February 1910, 29; Rockhampton Bulletin, 12 October 1877, 2; Locomotive history cards for engine nos. 181-302, item 326104, Queensland State Archives (QSA), research courtesy of Galiina Ellwood; Knowles, J.W., Lonely rails in the Gulf Country (Brisbane: J.W. Knowles, 1993), pp. 35, 10.

34 ‘Railways Commissioner’s report for 1892-3’, Brisbane Courier, 9 September 1893, 5; Locomotive history cards for engine nos. 181-302, item 326104, QSA; Register of letters, Normanton Division, 11 July 1901, item 302086, QSA; Armstrong, Locomotives, p. 35; Knowles, Lonely rails, p. 17; National Trust of Queensland, The Normanton to Croydon railway (Brisbane: National Trust, n.d.).

35 Locomotive history cards, item 326104, QSA; Normanton-Cloncurry Railway correspondence register, 24 April 1906, item 301952, QSA; Knowles, Lonely rails, pp. 17–20, 58.

36 Correspondence held by True Blue Information Centre, Croydon Shire Council.

37 Jana Kahabka, ‘Croydon’s BIG Metal Exhibition Project Management Plan’, November 2015, Croydon Shire Council.

39 Wilson, ‘”I’ve got a brand new combine harvester”’, 21.

40 Dave Davies, Robey Trust, pers. comm. (email) to Jan Wegner, 25 March 2011.

41 Queensland Government Mining Journal, 15 October 1907, 508.

42 Brisbane Courier, 26 July 1884, 6; Brisbane Courier, 28 March 1885, 3; Croydon Mining News, 26 July 1907.

43 Of the mining towns, Charters Towers had two; Chillagoe had one, associated with the Chillagoe Smelters; and there was another at Irvinebank, attached to the tin mill and smelter there. There were also foundries at Longreach and Mareeba. All the rest were on or close to the coast (including Toowoomba and Ipswich, both of which have also closed in recent years).

44 Winkworth, Kylie, ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom: Museums in regional Australia’, in Griffin, and Paroissien, (eds), Understanding museums,, accessed 14 May 2017 [especially n. 2].

45 This, of course, is a common problem for small rural museums worldwide. See Wilson, Lesley-Ann and Boyle, Emily, ‘The role of partnerships in the delivery of local government museum services: A case study from Northern Ireland’, International Journal of Public Sector Management 17(6) (2004), 522.

46 Hassam, ‘Indian jute’, 116–17.


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