Friday 15 November 2019
On Saturday 16 November, the Geelong Heritage Centre will celebrate its 40th anniversary, marking four decades since the original Geelong Historical Records Centre was opened to the public in 1979.
The Geelong Historical Records Centre was located on the top floor of the Geelong Public Library, situated on the site where the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre now stands at 51 Little Malop Street.
Upon opening, donations of collection items began to flow in from the community and under the guidance of Archivist Norman Houghton, supported by a small but dedicated group of staff and volunteers, the archive of collected recorded history of the Geelong region began to grow.
Fast forward 40 years and today the Geelong Heritage Centre is located on the third floor of the iconic Geelong Library & Heritage Centre. The dim reading room of the 1970s building is a far cry from the bright, modern and technology-rich space which the public can enjoy today. Rows of freestanding shelving in the original building have been replaced with 4.2km of mobile shelving in the 520m², climate controlled and secure archive repository which houses in excess of 200,000 items.
Cr Margot Smith, Chair of the Heritage Centre’s Collection Advisory Committee, said that the Geelong Heritage Centre Archive was assessed in 2014 and is now recognised as being a nationally significant collection.
“The extensive collection features records and objects originating from communities across Geelong, Queenscliffe, Golden Plains and Surf Coast, as well as from local government and state government departments,” Cr Smith said.
“The diversity and depth of the collection really is amazing – it provides an invaluable insight into the recorded history of our region,” Cr Smith said.
A strong and collaborative partnership with the Geelong Historical Society, and recognition of the Centre as an official ‘Place of Deposit’ by the Public Record Office Victoria, has been integral to the success of the Heritage Centre during its 40 years of operation.
Throughout the history of the organisation, hundreds of volunteers have donated their time to support the work of the Heritage Centre team through indexing and related projects which help to preserve the irreplaceable documents and physical items within the archive.
The successful transition of the Geelong Heritage Centre into the Geelong Regional Library Corporation in 2015, and its integrated offer in the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre, has opened up a broad new audience. In the first two years after the GLH&C opened, more than 100,000 people visited the ruby-red Reading Room.
The Centre now hosts many community and school group visits, and offers an interactive digital experience sharing stories of the Geelong region’s history and cultural heritage.
Today, just like in the past, the passionate team of staff employed at the Geelong Heritage Centre provide specialist assistance to thousands of people who visit the Vault kim barne thaliyu (as the Level 3 Reading Room is known) each month to browse the archive, enjoy curated exhibitions or conduct research.
On the 30 October 2019, the Geelong Heritage Centre was awarded a $4,500 federal Community Heritage Grant to fund a project to undertake a preservation needs assessment of its collection. The project will ensure this incredible regional archive is preserved for future communities to access and enjoy.
Pictured is Mark Beasley (Manager, Geelong Heritage Centre Collection & Services) with Norman Houghton (original Archivist of the Geelong Historical Records Centre), celebrating the 40th anniversary in the Reading Room at the Geelong Heritage Centre. Image: Mike Dugdale
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