If you ever thought that knowing about where you live might actually be a good idea, then you need to check out your local museum. There are a surprising amount of museums around. Some are brilliant. Some not so. Some are buried away in back streets but usually they occupy an important historical house that is hard to miss.
They're usually run by enthusiastic volunteer local history buffs of a certain age and are chock full of items that tell the story of aspects of a suburb or towns past. The vastness of some collections is overwhelming.
Around Sydney's suburbs, there are some excellent museums dotted here and there.
The Nepean District Historical Society call The Arms of Australia Inn Museum at Emu Plains their home. Dated to 1840, this old pub looks as authentic as it gets. It's not hard to imagine it operating in the good old days.
The old inn is full of items on display from the local area's rich history while outside, the grounds have farming equipment and other large items scattered around. They also serve a delicious Devonshire Tea.
One of the many impressive rooms at the Arms of Australia Inn Museum
The folks at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery have created an impressive heritage precinct. They have cobbled together a township of relocated buildings and recreations covering 18th and 19th century shops, school rooms and cottages of the area.
All are filled to capacity with stacks of items. The General Store and the office of the old Fairfield Biz newspaper are a highlight.
Fairfield City Museum
Camden Museum is housed in part, in the old Fire Station. They have an amazing collection that is both vast yet well presented. Spreading over two floors, it starts with their impressive indigenous collection and progresses to its pioneer settlers and through to the 20th century.
The main hall is simply stunning. Maximising the space available, from floor to ceiling, the museum has been able to display thousands of items in their collection. Much better to have them on display than stashed away in a box.
Camden Historical Museum
But local museums aren't limited to Sydney. Almost every town is proud of its heritage no matter how small.
Out at Appin past Campbelltown, the little historical group out there have found a new home at the old Post Office on the Appin road. They have an extensive rural collection and the Post Office cottage oozes history. Their small but enthusiastic band of volunteers are experts in the local area and have family connections going back to the first settlers.
Appin Historical Society are now at the old Post Office
Port Macquarie is one of the earliest settlements in Australia, founded in 1822. Their museum must rank as one of the most impressive local museums in the land. Continually expanding and being able to display tens of thousands of items, this place takes more than one day to do it justice.
Highlights include an outstanding convict display, models of the old convict barracks and old estates, gun collection and bedrooms wonderfully decorated in period furniture.
For an island as tiny as Lord Howe Island with a population of only 300 or so, it sure is a surprise that it has such a heluva big museum. It is fortunate that is has a long list of benefactors that have donated money to fund its building, displays and maintenance.
The islands isolation and dependence on seafaring activities such as whaling and shipping, the associated shipwrecks and later tourism, has dominated the island history. The large collection of whaling related items is a stark reminder of a bygone industry.
In another room is the impressive natural history display featuring the island's unique flora and fauna. Audio-visual displays, nightly talks and a cafe make this museum an essential stop during your visit to one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
The Bathurst Historical Society Museum is located in the centre of town and is a great place to visit. Their impressive collection is spread over two floors in a wing of the National Trust listed Bathurst Court House and has some interesting Aboriginal, convict and bushranger era items.
I could go on and on, but just do yourself a favour. Find out about the history of where you live. You'll probably be surprised at the changes that have occurred and you'll be able to catch up with the stories and the characters that built your town.