Orange Chinese miners' history featured at regional museum's exhibition

BEHIND THE LOOKING GLASS: Kira Brown, Marie and Phillip Schmich and Barry McGowan examine the exhibition. Photo: DECLAN RURENGA 0519drjourneys1
BEHIND THE LOOKING GLASS: Kira Brown, Marie and Phillip Schmich and Barry McGowan examine the exhibition. Photo: DECLAN RURENGA 0519drjourneys1

The story of how people made their way to Orange and the Central West has a new chapter.

Chinese Migration: To the Orange District is the latest addition to Orange Regional Museum’s series of exhibitions entitled Journeys.

Together with research from Canberra’s Barry McGowan, Orange residents have contributed artifacts to be displayed publicly.

Some of the artifacts came from Orange’s Phillip Schmich, who would take a metal detector and wander around areas which were known for mining activity.

Mr Schmich has contributed some coins and pots.

“It’s for everyone to have a look, it’s only a small collection,” Mr Schmich said.

He said he was fond of looking for items thrown away by miners which provided a window into the past and showed how peopled lived.

“There’s a treasure trove of things to be discovered,” Mr Schmich said.

“95 per cent is doing your homework and knowing where to go, the rest is luck.”

Orange’s Kira Brown has loaned several heirlooms to the exhibition, including an abacus and an opium tin.

Ms Brown said she had Chinese ancestry and the items had been handed down through family.

“My great-great-grandfather used to use the abacus all the time,” she said.

Ms Brown said like many Chinese migrants attracted by the lure of gold mining, her family moved around regional areas chasing opportunities.

“He came over from Adelaide, walked to Ballarat and then came here,” she said.

Mr McGowan said the Chinese population in the Central West was “substantial” and included pockets in Orange, Blayney, Lucknow and Wellington.

He said many were attracted by the prospect of gold’s riches.

“Gold mines wouldn’t have been profitable if it weren’t for the Chinese, they helped build the trade in towns and mining areas,” Mr McGowan said.

Orange City Council’s museum director Brad Hammond said Chinese migration was the missing piece of the Journeys exhibition.

“It feels good to acknowledge the Chinese contribution to our region, many people would be surprised to learn of the extent of Chinese contribution and involvement in our region’s history,” Mr Hammond said.

Mayor John Davis said the Chinese migrants exhibit would be the first episode of a moving feast of exhibits.