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 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’ (1814-1895), the district’s first school-teacher who’d 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 set about redesigning the building’s front room as its ‘Andrew Ross Room’, using texts drawn from the 43 ‘Reminiscences’ that he had written for the Evelyn Observer (the newspaper that he’d established in Kangaroo Ground in 1873 before his return to England).
‘Reminiscences’ that detailed the story of Kangaroo Ground over the first 13 of the 25 years that he’d spent in the town teaching.
Room 2, was set up to tell the story of Kangaroo Ground’s first ten farming families, based on surviving photographic material and a 3D Relief Map showing the location of their farms. In Room 3, the volunteers located a quality audio system (Listening to the Landscape), that it had inherited from the Eltham Historical Society, detailing the life of families on district farms in the 1930s and 1940s. Room 4 was then set aside for archival & workshop operations.
Leading up to the museum’s launch in March 1993, Mick Woiwod and Bruce Bence of Warrandyte arranged to have Ross’s 42 Evelyn Observer ‘Reminiscences’ transcribed and by the inclusion of illustrations, maps, and index, etc., reproduce it as a 67 page book titled Reminiscences of Andrew Ross, This first publication of the Andrew Ross Museum was launched the day that the museum was formally opened. Over following years, the museum re-established itself as the wholly independent body that it is today.
Over the past seventeen years, the Andrew Ross Museum has maintained a comprehensive program of events. In 1995, its founding chairman (now 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 eleven books have been 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 has handed over to the museum most of his research material to be catalogued and appropriately archived. Currently, the museum opens each first and third Sunday between 2:00 & 4:00 pm and every Thursday between 9:00 & 12:00 am, during which time its staff work industriously on archival tasks and the development of new exhibitions or updating the museums 17 volume historic photographic collection.
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 20 years, the museum has overseen the publication of eleven local history books and, later this year, hopes to launch a further two in-house publications, namely, The Christmas Hills Story and the Diary and Reminiscences of Andrew Ross. Each year it issues four editions of the in-house publication, the Kangaroo Ground Chronicle