Wollondilly sounds like a quintessential rural Australian place name but the shire of Wollondilly is located just to the south-west of Camden, only some 80 kilometres or so from Sydney. It consists of a number of small villages such as Bargo, Picton, Warragamba, Thirlmere and The Oaks and still has the look and feel of a rural community.
A great way to appreciate the region and its historical context is by visiting the Wollondilly Heritage Centre. This fascinating little place is run and staffed by volunteers from The Oaks Historical Society who have done an outstanding job in preserving and displaying historical artefacts and the human history of the Wollondilly region.
In the main exhibition building, the cultural collection includes impressive displays of household items, mining equipment, farming equipment, drawings, photos and indigenous items. The story of the creation of Lake Burragorang is perhaps the most captivating story here. Lake Burragorang was formed in 1960 with the Cox, Wollondilly & Warragamba rivers creating Warragamba Dam. Under the waters today lie the lands of many people and their stories are brilliantly told here with the drowning and evacuation of the village of Burragorang the most poignant.
Burragorang Cottage is furnished with a large array of items from domestic life from the 19th and 20th century. There are many non-electric kitchen items which show how we made butter, cooked on fuel stoves, and the technological changes in keeping food cool. Then there are laundry technological changes - washing, starching, making soap, scrubbing boards, ironing etc.
The 'From Farm to Table Pavilion' features stories from the farms and orchards told in DVD footage, story boards and original objects. It brings to life the the hardships and daily routine of working on farms, processing picked fruit or collecting eggs early last century. The Drill Hall is a community room with audio visual historic films, war and community memorabilia displays.
The Faces and Places pavilion's reconstructed one teacher school room is a highlight of the visit. The school operated at nearby Lakeland between 1887 to 1908 and survived as a storage shed until donated to the museum in 1992. There are also some great old photos of historical notables and events.
The local heritage collection includes an impressive collection of historical files including church records, family history correspondence, family histories, newspapers, photographs and oral histories. These are available to view by prior arrangement only.
The shop at the centre sells the familiar range of country fare such as jams and chutneys as well as local souvenirs. There are copious volumes of local history books and tourist information available if you want to know more about Wollondilly's intriguing past.