I ask you: what is a museum?

In the past, perhaps that question might seem nonsensical. Of course we all knew what a museum was:

It was a place where you found old things that no one had a use for anymore.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh. But, on the other hand, who would have asked the question anyway?

Today I’m sure we would get a number of different answers to that seemingly simple question.

The art gallery in Albury … is also a museum. Indeed, this idea is incorporated in its very name: MAMA … Murray Art Museum Albury.

So … a museum can be filled with art. It can also display things that are brand new, which have only recently been created.

Maybe even things that have been created in front of you, while you watch.

Old stuff still crops up. A recent international blockbuster exhibition held in the national art gallery, Canberra, was a treasure trove of old diamonds and jewellery from Cartier.

Is it art? Or is it an assembly of historic artefacts once worn by real people, which tell stories about the people, the times and the culture?

Museums can be quirky and individual. American comedian Steve Wright once joked he had visited “the museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums”.

When you travel out of the capital cities you can stumble upon real gems of museums.

Jindera’s Pioneer Museum is arguably the premier collection of nineteenth century ‘pioneer’ European migrant farming communities in the border region. Much of the collection is unique and, unlike a pile of diamonds, irreplaceable.

I was very pleased to assist with fundraising for both Jindera’s 150th and for the restoration work at this museum.

In Jindera the Pioneer Museum and Historical Society received almost $100,000 for works to restore the Stable and Blacksmith Shop under the Government’s Local Heritage Strategic Projects funding program.

The Heritage Near Me Activation Grants, which are specifically for items listed on council Local Environment Plans, acknowledge and support the crucial role played by the owners and managers of locally listed heritage items in communities across NSW.

The restoration work on these important buildings will allow them to become an integral part of the Museum complex and, I understand, allow a farrier and Blacksmith to go about their work here.

Here you will find original tools, as used in pioneer trades. One of the objectives of the funding is “to support long term sustainability through the transfer of skills, knowledge and experience in that it will be able to provide an outlet for the demonstration of skills which are being lost in the current technological age.”

I understand the project also includes conservation training by the heritage builder for other folk, passing on expertise for working with old timber structures.

This kind of timely grant will also ensure these buildings do not fall into a bad state of disrepair. That’s important to all of us gathered here today.

The Jindera 150th Celebration Committee also received a $5,000 grant from the Minister for Tourism to assist with the celebration activities and to boost visitor participation, so it has been a successful round of NSW grants for Jindera – and I congratulate the anniversary committee, the mayor of Greater Hume Shire Cr heather Wilton, the museum staff and all the volunteers.

While it might not be so clear what is, or is not, a museum, I think there is possibly a much more important question to ask: Are you a conservator?

Do you help out in your community to keep alive those memories which embody the soul of your town and region? Do you then see that those tales are retold so as to guide the present generation about the region, the land, the conflicts, courage and kindnesses?

We owe our community volunteers so much. And today we join in thanking them.