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Published May 15th 2017
Wander off the beaten path
A Volunteer Blacksmith at the Prospect Hill Museum Forge
Prospect Hill is a small village in the Battunga country, about 5km from Meadows in South Australia. Historically Prospect Hill has been the centre of a farming community, and it's not far from Adelaide Hills attractions including Kuitpo Forest and Hahndorf.
Like other small communities in country South Australia, the residents of Prospect Hill are proud of their achievements and display their history with pride. The Prospect Hill Historical Museum is a collaboration of local residents who contribute to its collection and is operated by the Prospect Hill Community Association. It tells the story of life in the local district over the last 150 years - the way people lived, how they worked, and documents the community groups that once provided fellowship.
The Museum Dog Welcomes Visitors to the Prospect Hill Historical Museum
The museum collection is distributed over several buildings: a former shop and post office, a permanent exhibition showing the impact of the Ash Wednesday fires on locals, the 1893 Meadows school room, a working blacksmith shop, museum engine shed, and the Prospect Hill Dairy Museum. Depending upon your personal taste, there's something here for pretty much everyone. Like the Kapunda Museum at Prospect Hill it can be a little overwhelming - the trick is to just browse the bits that appeal to you.
I was welcomed to the museum by an octogenarian lady volunteer who still has her passion for photography, and we chatted for a while about cameras. I suspect that the museum's collection of cameras and projectors may be down to her. After admiring the old telephone switchboard that was in use until 1973, I meandered through the rooms of the shop.
Certificate From Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes
Each room in the Prospect Hill Museum tells a different part of the story of this close-knit community. Household goods such as wind-up gramophones, antique tobacco tins, kerosene lamps, and an antique eight-day clock are in one area. A bedroom is fitted with furnishings from an earlier century, displaying retro clothing, and children's cots. The laundry contains no modern appliances - just mangles and other ways to wash by hand.
A volunteer blacksmith was busy hammering hot metal at the forge. Like all the other people at the museum, he was happy to stop and chat, offering more local information. It's great to see working displays like this when much of the other museum content is static. There are enough old tools to satisfy the most ardent of man-shed enthusiasts.
Families with children can give them a surprise in the original 1893 Meadows school room. It's rather different from a classroom today, although some grandparents will remember the environment well. It was tempting to browse the ninth edition Encyclopaedia Britannica published from January 1875, where the content would have little relevance to our modern world.
The Prospect Hill Dairy Museum is of course located in an old dairy. There are lots of interpretive signs to explain how the dairy worked, what the dairy farming challenges were, and information about farming in the Prospect Hill area.
My guide Ray was a little disappointed that I skimmed through his favourite place - the Engine Shed, where he restores antique farm machinery. Unfortunately old engines and agricultural equipment are not for me. He was consoled to tell me that it will soon be on display at a fair in the Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf.
The Prospect Hill Museum suffers from a severe disadvantage because Prospect Hill isn't particularly on the road to anywhere. You need to make a conscious decision to call in - but that decision isn't hard. The museum is close to many Battunga Country attractions, and the friendly locals love visitors. They are proud of their village, proud of their achievements, and proud to show you their history.
Escape the city and pop into the Pik a Pie Cafe and bakery or Meadows Bakery, then take a leisurely drive to Prospect Hill Historical Museum. There are fun things to do for all the family, with a playground across the road. After you visit the museum, there are several Adelaide Hills wineries nearby to visit or take a walk in Kuitpo Forest.
A museum can be the last lifeline of a small community, a chance for the community to tell its story. It contains the lifelong treasures of local people, bequeathed in the hope that their stories will live another day through you. I hope they do.