Huon Valley News

Through the lens of history

This April is the first time ARTBOX will hold an exhibition on local history. The exhibition focuses on primary industries in the Huon Valley and the Channel.

Through the Lens of History – Primary Industry in Southwest Tasmania
A collection of items from the Channel Museum, Bruny Island History Society, Upper Huon History Group and Geeveston Archive and History Society.

An ARTBOX and Huon Valley Hub exhibition
3 April 2024 – 30 April 2024
Huon Valley Hub, 23 Main Street, Huonville

Meet the volunteers for a chat and listen to some stories from the past
Date: Saturday 6 April
Time: 4.30-5.30pm
Location: Huon Valley Hub

Some people might see history museums as musty buildings covered in dust. They’re filled with glass boxes and strange-looking mannequins wear uniforms from centuries past. So, why do people volunteer in history museums?

Gathering pears, 1911. Photo provided by Channel Museum.
Why do people get excited about history?

I caught up with Peter Horobin, Judi Castle, and Mike Avery from the Channel Museum in Margate to find out why they’re passionate about history.

Out of the three of them, Mike Avery is the only real ‘Margatian’. His family grew up in Margate, and as he grew older, he wanted to find out more about his own past, and the area he’s lived in his whole life.

Mike said he was intrigued with local families and how they are all connected to each other.

“I just get curious. I ended up having a conversation with someone and found that her mother was given away at birth. And I searched for three months to find her grandparents,” Mike said.

“We ended up getting DNA tests, and she is now in contact with her family in Central Victoria. The mother had come over to Tassie to have the baby and left her behind.”

Fishing – Clare and Marie Sward splitting scallops. Photo provided by Channel Museum.

Judi said when people visit the museum, it often sparks their own memories which they then share with the volunteers.

“It’s the evolution of time and the memories it brings back,” Judi said. “It’s fascinating.”

Peter liked to compare history to navigation, whether on land, in the air, or at sea.

“If you’re going on a journey, you have to know where you came from. If you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you are and you won’t have any idea of where you’re going. And so, museums are about telling me where you came from.” — Peter Horobin

The Pybus family. Photo provided by Channel Museum.
Tasmania’s growing pains

Peter and Judi both grew up outside of Tasmania. One thing that struck them is the amount of grief in Tasmania’s history; it is palpable.

“It’s an ever-present aura if you like. We have moved on, but we really haven’t. The history keeps being brought up so we can’t forget. Tasmanians are very passionate about their history, and they’d like to remind people of what happened.” — Judi Castle

Judi said one way or another, the past still seems to affect people’s lives every day.

“It’s the personal stories that make history and it’s unfortunate that we tend to focus on the bad things that happened that we can’t do anything about. But history is history.”

From passion to volunteering

Anyone can join a local history group. Some people are interested in curating the space. Others, like Mike, are more interested in research.

Peter said he lives next to the Channel Museum, so it was simply too hard to ignore.

“It was proximity as much as anything why I got involved. But I’ve always been interested in the stories of history,” Peter said.

Judi said she loved the people, the objects, and the local history itself.

“I love where [history] takes you. There are just so many rabbit holes that we go into; that’s what I love.” — Judi Castle

The sawmill in Gordon. Photo provided by Channel Museum.

Article by Miranda Wageman. ARTBOX and Creative Huon are an initiative of Huon Valley Council.