Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Sara Quon on SHMA’s rare & lost trades

Blacksmith Justin McCann at Sovereign Hill. Picture by Adam Trafford.

Sara Quon, Sovereign Hill forges new path with focus on rare and lost trades, The Courier, 15 October 2022

The creation of Sovereign Hill 52 years ago was a big, bold idea that captured the public imagination to become one of the nation’s most treasured tourism icons.

And now comes another pioneering step into the future which will be one of the biggest in our history.

This month, the Australian Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades will be fully open for the business of preserving and promoting artisanal skills that are endangered in the fast pace of modern living.

The venue is an Australian-first which will be a home for both local artisans and those from around Australia to teach and pass on their skills in workshops.

Importantly for Ballarat this is also a new cultural tourism experience which will drive patronage to our hospitality and accommodation venues, many of whom have had a very challenging few years.

This project links so strongly to Ballarat being declared a UNESCO City of Craft and Folk Art.

It is another proof point of our city’s artisan culture, our love of heritage and work to ensure it is still seen as relevant and worth celebrating as we evolve as a city.

Sovereign Hill is proud to play a role in drawing people to our city to learn, to collaborate and to share their knowledge.

The debut group of artisan classes includes silversmithing, weaving and basketry, woodwork carvings and construction, leatherwork, locksmithing, longbow and cane fishing rod-making, medieval styled metal works, dyeing techniques, knife-making, chair creation and leadlight glass making.

All the work is done by hand by craftspeople who are the very best in their fields.

The sweep of their experiences, abilities and commitment to their work will enthral those who enrol for their classes as it has our team that has been working with them on this project.

People who take a workshop will leave the centre with more than just the unique pieces they have created under expert tutors.

They will leave with skills they can apply, develop and share which could be either a new hobby or a future focus.

They will leave with a heightened respect for the handmade.

The creative bonds forged at the Rare Trades Centre could change lives and save vanishing skills and crafts.

It’s exciting that we have struck out in this direction to create a world-class place of teaching and learning.

“The creative bonds forged at the Rare Trades Centre could change lives and save vanishing skills and crafts. It’s exciting that we have struck out in this direction to create a world-class place of teaching and learning.”
Sara Quon

At the Rare Trades Centre, stories will be told with hands and heart.

This new venture catapults Sovereign Hill into a new era further blending heritage with creativity which has been a feature of Ballarat since the discovery of gold in the 1850s.

Skills, expertise and dedication helped make Ballarat what it is today.

We are building on those same qualities at the Rare Trades Centre which will become a national destination for the creative and curious to perpetuate timeless ideas.

These are exciting times at Sovereign Hill.

In 2019 the federal government chose to invest in one tourism project in each state, Ballarat was fortunate this project was chosen for Victoria.

The Rare Trades Centre is part of the federal government’s investment in the next phase of Sovereign Hill.

Despite the challenges of the last few years for our community, our industry and our team, we are not standing still on The Hill.

The Master Plan we released two years ago is our roadmap which will help in our Covid recovery as visitors return in numbers.

The plan is to be true to our DNA, our core uniquely Ballarat offer but also to create new spaces, invest in new ideas as we share the stories of this place for generations to come and be an anchor destination for tourism in the region.

These projects will bring more jobs to our city, will give people renewed reasons to visit as they seek out meaningful, immersive experiences which expands and enhances Sovereign Hill’s reputation as a place of learning.

The Centre, with five different workshop zones, is housed in the Gold Museum building as we have redesigned and reinvigorated this very special 44-year-old building.

Sitting alongside the Rare Trades Centre will be The Australian Centre for Gold Rush Collections.

As outlined in the Master Plan they will be two separate and distinct places.

We have over 150,000 pieces of gold fields history in our care, the collection, and this new collections centre will give new and different ways for the public to engage with this collection and understand the stories these objects tell of our cultural heritage.

It will fuel research and provide diverse public programming.

It will assist us to tell our unique stories to more people.

The build phase of these projects is nearly completed and now we breathe life into them. We look forward to welcoming Ballarat locals in to tour the Centre.

Visit our website for details of tour dates and times.

Our vision ahead of the Commonwealth Games is to build the Gold Pavilion. It will create a new entrance, orientation, education, and exhibition building nested alongside the Outdoor Museum.

This next phase of work is critical to our ability to grow our educational impact, to further our economic contribution to Ballarat and to tell stories of our city’s rich heritage through exhibitions.

The Rare Trades Centre is a vital next step towards playing our role in the preservation and promotion of the deep roots of history that run through this place. Through Ballarat.

Human skills are the enduring heart of all our work at Sovereign Hill.

We’ve been here for more than half a century. What we do here incoming years will set a legacy for future generations, as our stories become theirs, to ponder, develop and share.

Website raretradescentre.com.au

By Sara Quon, CEO of Sovereign Hill Museums Association.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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