By Dorothy Wickham
If you have tracked your ancestors to the Ballarat region it is worth noting that the Central Highlands Historical Association Inc. is the umbrella association for fifty heritage organisations. These groups have interests as diverse as local history, family history and genealogy, the history of railways, trams, paddle steamers, astronomy, aviation and military matters. The CHHA was formed in 1985 and is an active and innovative organisation which assists by developing and maintaining resource and information networks among the member societies. It represents member societies to municipal, state and federal governments on matters of joint concern. The CHHA publishes a journal and conducts a number of public events throughout the year including a history fair.
Each society has its own unique specialities. A Directory of Museums and Societies 1997 has been published by the Central Highlands Historical Association. This 40-page booklet contains information on hours of opening, contact phone numbers and a short description of the special features of each collection. Details for obtaining a copy of the Directory can be found at the end of this article.
Some societies have particularly interesting and significant collections. The following are a sample list and are by no means an entire list of the Association.
The Creswick Museum was bequeathed a collection of Lindsay paintings. It also has many other items of interest to anyone researching the Creswick area. The Clunes Museum has many archives, mining and agricultural tools, as well as memorabilia relating to Clunes, Victoria's first gold town.
The Ballarat Historical Society has a notable photographic collection, some of which is housed in the Gold Museum and some at the Ballarat Municipal Library.
The Ballarat & District Genealogical Society's collection is also housed in the Australiana Room at the Ballarat Municipal Library. This extensive collection includes Ballarat and district cemetery records, parish baptisms and marriages, biographical indexes, school and hospital records, and many other sources useful to genealogists.
Cape Clear has a wonderful photographic collection, Woady Yaloak Historical Society is located in the Smythesdale courthouse and has a mammoth amount of material pertaining particularly to the Smythesdale area.
The Ballarat Astronomical Society caters for group bookings. Tours of the observatory include relevant history with showings of century-old telescopes which are still in operation. The buildings have superb stained glass windows and the site has been listed by the Historic Buildings Council of Victoria.
The Ballarat Engine and Machinery Preservation Society Inc. brings together people with a common interest in the preservation of old engines and machinery. The collections are privately owned by society members. If your ancestor was part of a machinery firm such as Preston and Kelly, this society may be able to help you with a wealth of information. The Phoenix Foundry was another large firm in the Ballarat area and a book on this foundry has been published.
The Ballarat Tramway Museum Inc. maintains and operates vintage trams on a section of the original Ballarat tramway system. It also operates a museum with accompanying archives and resource centre. A history of the Ballarat's tramways was published in 2005.
The Blacksmith Cottage and Forge in Main Street, Bacchus Marsh is open every fourth Sunday of the month from 12 noon to 4.00 pm.
The Bungaree Historical Society is located at the Old Bluestone School, Bungaree and one member has indexed the Bungaree court records. These courts recorded truancy as well as the misdemeanours such as the filing for maintenance. Bungaree also has a collection of agricultural implements.
The Carisbrook Historical Society's collection includes a large number of photographs and a range of school, cemetery and family history records.
The Daylesford Historical Society, as well as a comprehensive photographic collection, has a bound set of early newspapers, family histories, cemetery and baptismal records, rate books, memorabilia, artefacts and old machinery. It also has an important collection of Aboriginal artefacts.
The Gold Museum is located opposite Sovereign Hill, Ballarat. It has a large and varied collection, including the Simon Collection of gold nuggets, samples and coins. It houses the collection of the Ballarat Historical Society. It has an extensive postcard and photograph collection and a wide variety of materials relating to the history of Ballarat. The Museum also offers a diverse program of temporary and travelling exhibitions. It has a sportsman's Hall of Fame.
The Lake Bolac and District Historical Society is involved in the preservation of social history in that district.
Two rallies are conducted annually by the Lake Goldsmith Steam and Preservation Society Ltd.
The settlement of Italian-speaking people in the Hepburn Springs area is celebrated by The Swiss Italian Festa.
Mount Rouse & District Historical Society (Penshurst)