Sheep's Back Museum: A look behind the scenes

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at the Sheep's Back Museum in Naracoorte?

The Herald paid a visit there on a Wednesday to find out.

In the well-equipped workshop, a group of men was assembling a framework for hanging space for the growing costume collection in the store room. A visit there revealed a well-organised and carefully controlled environment where second-hand steel shelving, discarded from Foodland when they upgraded their store, housed carefully labelled and numbered polypropylene crates where everyday objects and once-loved treasures were carefully packed.

In the adjacent workroom, half a dozen more volunteers were at work: tapping at computers on collection records...cataloguing, and carefully packing into archival folders, new items for the district's archives...researching the internet and the museum's library for information on newly-donated items.

Some of them were happy just swapping yarns in the warm and friendly environment!.

Another small room revealed yet another volunteer transferring data from old hand written files to her computer. A few weeks before, she was transcribing to the computer the voice of Jack Farmer, Naracoorte historian from 50 years ago, recorded on scratchy tapes.

Graham Brammer, National Trust's branch chairman, led the way to the little timber post office from Hynam, where the McLean family served the community for 100 years, before active township post offices became a thing of the past.

The post office room was just as it had been left, while the adjacent living area suggested the lifestyle of 'Granny McLean' when she was postmistress.

Around the quaint building and its old-fashioned garden, carefully tended by another volunteer, stands a well, identified as one probably dug by Chinese enroute to the gold fields by a Chinese scholar with an interest in Chinese stonework, and commented on the water display of windmills, once common in this district of underground water.

Tucked in the corner of the site was the one-time shelter-shed from Kybybolite Primary School. The school rooms themselves form the meeting areas for the National Trust and a number of others who hire rooms there

They also contain the first 1940s prefabricated room, which has been set up as a museum to recall the small one-teacher schools of the past. The shelter shed is in process of being transformed into a children's museum, under the watchful eye of ex-Naracoorte High School art teacher and well-known artist, Rod Bax.

The process will also involve not only the museum's volunteers, but also art workshops with specialised artists working with community members to create something that will be quite different... and hopefully, the museum coordinator Judy Murdoch, says, "great fun".

The area where the men of the volunteer corps feel most at home is with a series of displays telling the story of the role of the horse in powering machinery, and in the Bullocky Shed, the saga of Jim Kelly and his friends who in 1986, trekked with their bullock team to Adelaide with the support of the Rotary Club.

Here can be found a group of volunteers sorting and tidying the (old) timber store so necessary in creating and maintaining a museum of this sort.

Nearby is an open shed, housing significant examples of the machinery of early times, and in particular some machines that were developed to create an industry here in growing and harvesting subterranean clover, which 100 years ago changed the district.

By their own admission, these volunteers might run out of years and money, but never new ideas!