About the Andrew Ross Museum
How the Andrew Ross Museum came into being
In 1992, a message was received by the Eltham Historical Society from long-time Kangaroo Ground resident, the late Bruce Ness, that the teacher’s residence in the grounds of the Kangaroo Ground Primary School was no longer in use and that fears were being held that the Education Dept might be considering having it either demolished or removed.
Bruce suggested that one way of preventing such an eventuality occurring would be for the Society to convert it into a museum. It proved too big an ask for the Society’s then small membership, but one of its committee members, Mick Woiwod, offered to take the project in hand, himself. Knowing little about museums, he gathered around him a small band of local volunteers to search out the best way forward. Wendy Bradley, one of this emerging group had recently completed her Museum Studies Course. Another, Gary Paterson, was a practicing architect with a keen interest in history and this saw the museum get underway as an ongoing interim sub-committee of the Eltham Historical Society.
The obvious choice for a name was that of ‘Andrew Ross’ after the district’s first school-teacher who had taught on the same site between 1851 and 1876. The committee’s next move was to apply to Museums Australia (Victoria) for a seeding grant of $1,500. With this successfully negotiated the volunteers designed the building’s front room as its ‘Andrew Ross Room’, drawing inspiration from the 43 ‘Reminiscences’ that he had written for the Evelyn Observer (the newspaper that Ross established in Kangaroo Ground in 1873 before his return to England). ‘Reminiscences’ detailed the story of Kangaroo Ground over the first 13 of the 25 years that he’d spent in the town teaching.
The remaining rooms were set up with the first of a series of changing displays.
Leading up to the museum’s launch in March 1993, Mick Woiwod and Bruce Bence of Warrandyte arranged to have the reminiscences transcribed and reproduced, with the inclusion of illustrations, maps and index into a 67 page book, entitled the Reminiscences of Andrew Ross. The first publication of this was launched the day the museum was formally opened.
Those reminiscences have now been incorporated into the complete Diary of Andrew Ross 1828 – 1895, introduced, annotated and edited by Mick Woiwod and available for purchase from the museum.
Over the following years, the museum re-established itself as the wholly independent body that it is today and has maintained a comprehensive programme of events.
In 1995, its founding chairman (later patron), Bruce Nixon, commissioned Mick Woiwod to write Kangaroo Ground: The Highland Taken, and since then, largely through the good offices of Bruce Nixon and the local community, a further twenty books were written and published . Bruce himself publishing a further two under his own Tarcoola Press imprint. In 1996, the museum hosted a successful Furphy Festival & Poetry Award in recognition of that family’s close association with Kangaroo Ground and Andrew Ross. Other successful initiatives have been two Moonlight Tours of the Kangaroo Ground Cemetery that in each instance attracted some two hundred visitors. The museum has also overseen the production of two 3 act plays based on local themes, written, directed and performed by museum volunteers and members of its wider community. A major step forward for the Andrew Ross Museum came in 2003 when it gained its full Accreditation from Museums Australia (Victoria), a goal it had been working towards for a number of years. Over this same period, Mick Woiwod handed over to the museum most of his research material to be catalogued and appropriately archived.
In 2007, the museum’s ‘Andrew Ross Room’ underwent a major update thanks to the good work of museum artists, Don Brown and Joan Pickard who, having developed a large format mural depicting the Kangaroo Ground landscape of the 1850s, backed it up with an audio detailing its story and that of the two dioramas they’d installed in the room featuring the former Kangaroo Ground Hotel and Kangaroo Ground School.
On Australia Day 2008 the Board of the Andrew Ross Museum was awarded the distinction of ‘Best Business and Community Group of the Year ’ by the Shire of Nillumbik. Over the past 25 years, the museum has overseen the publication of numerous local history books.
Each year the museum also issues two editions of its in-house publication, the Kangaroo Ground Chronicle.
Room 1 remains a showcase of Victoriana, a pot pourri of home, school and hotel life, with artwork depicting rural views of the area and tangible displays of the cemetery, the slab walled class setting, the hotel and the Evelyn Observer newspaper, all set up and run by Andrew Ross. The room also contains a copy of the daily diary kept by Mr. Ross and a multi-layered story board featuring highlights from his keen-eyed observations of the local community, including memorable occasions such as the establishment of the road board which eventually became the local council, and the first furtive attempts by gold prospectors to dig their way to fortune.
Room 2 was originally designed to tell the story of Kangaroo Ground’s first ten farming families. Over the years the displays have changed many times to reflect the history and events affecting the community. Currently it includes information and artifacts on the effects of the gold-rush and the area’s many bushfires, with a display featuring first-hand accounts, photos and actual items melted in the devastating fire of Black Saturday in February 2009.
Room 3 showcases the history of the area in a wraparound gallery of photos and paintings. It also houses displays of farming implements used by the early settlers, and items from inside their homes including a collection of early lamps, plus a selection of books for sale.
Currently, the museum is open every Thursday between 10 am & 12:00 noon, during which time its volunteer staff work industriously on archival tasks and the development of new exhibitions or updating the museums 17 volume historic photographic collection.