Orange's hidden treasure

THE original gold nugget found at Ophir, Michael Francis Dalton’s top-hat, a church organ owned by Byng’s Parson Tom, and a trunk full of documents from the Treweeke family business are just some of the items the Orange and District Historical Society considers its most precious.

But without a museum to display them in, the society is unable to secure grants to have them independently assessed to ascertain their wider significance.

It is a catch-22 for the group.

“Once we get the museum we can also get grants to conserve some of the items,” president Phil Stevenson said.

The society is beginning a major review of their extensive collection this week with the expectation some items, including display cases from the former museum, could be culled ahead of the museum project progressing.

All items earmarked for disposal will be given a six month grace and will go through an extensive process including consultation from museum advisor Kirsten Davies and consultant Margot Jolly.

Mr Stevenson said the most valued items relate to the region’s pioneering families but more recent items are still significant.

The collection, acquired over more than 60 years, is currently split between a 84 square metre cool store shed and the heritage cottage in March Street.

While the Ophir gold nugget is stored in a bank vault.

Mr Stevenson said the group was grateful to council for providing the cottage and cool store, but said it was keen for the society to downsize its collection.

He said the group does not expect all their items to earn a place in the museum alongside the council’s collection and other displays.

But he hopes they will be called on to offer their expertise and information.

Mr Stevenson said the society also had a “huge collection” of oral histories and videos of local experts speaking on a range of topics, including mining and orcharding history from 60 History Alive evenings the group held.

The society also has an extensive digital collection including information, images, and maps, much of it thanks to long-term member Ross Maroney.

Mr Maroney said Orange played a significant part in Australia’s early history meaning the society’s collection had wider significance.

“The Byng and Ophir area was the beginning of the gold rush and as a result of that the population of Australia tripled,” he said.

“It’s something we’re proud of in Orange.”

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