By Raquel Mustillo
THE newest chapter in the Naracoorte Sheep’s Back Museum has opened with the recent debut of the purpose-built Children’s Museum.
After almost five years of planning and construction, the new museum provides young visitors with a space specifically dedicated to the educational growth for children through imaginative and physical play.
The facility, housed in a former structure from the Kybybolite Primary School, targets children with a range of hands-on exhibits including a fossil table, an old cash register and lino printing.
The interactive exhibits cover a wide variety of region-specific interests, including native birds and animals, old cameras, board games and household goods and a section dedicated to the World Heritage listed Naracoorte Caves.
Designed by former Naracoorte teacher and artist Rod Bax, the charming museum was the creative product of the National Trust of South Australia Naracoorte Branch in tandem with artists Wayan Dudug, David Archer, Kim Horne, Annabel Hume, Jojo Spook and students from local schools.
National Trust of South Australia Naracoorte Branch volunteer Judy Murdoch said the museum was developed to feature interactive displays deigned to be used by children, in contrast to traditional museums that typically have a hands-off policy regarding exhibits.
“Children tend to get dragged around museums with their parents and because the exhibits are not children-friendly, they can easily get bored,” she said.
“We found if you want to deliver a significant message to adults in your display, little children are going to be left out of the picture.
“I spoke to a group of young mothers who said they weren’t into museums when they were younger because they found it boring, so we thought we would try and engage children by creating a space where they could learn and play.
“We inherited a shelter shed from the Kybybolite school when it closed and I contacted Rod Bax who worked with me at Naracoorte High School about designing a children’s museum.
“He started taking his grandchild on tours of other museums to find out what works for children.”
Ms Murdoch said exhibits were also developed in collaboration with schools and community groups, with Naracoorte and Lucindale primary and high school students creating artwork for display.
“We had artists run workshops with groups in schools who have created things for the museum, such as the students creating wire sculptures, making paper mache birds of Bool Lagoon,” she said.
“It was important for us to have things kids could interact with in some way or another, as well as make it colourful and appeal to a range of age and wanted to involve kids in building it as far as we were able.”
Museum volunteer Lester Keyes said the museum would feature changeable exhibits to respond to the audience and engage children in storytelling.
“We have a lot of items in the back that we are going to change up so children can see something different when they come in,” he said.
“There are a lot of different themes, we have an exhibit that shows some of the items that were used in the olden days such as old lights and clocks, washing tub, tongs for curling hair and an old egg cup.
“There is also a lucky dip for kids to pick out items and them match them to creatures from the old times to make it more interactive for kids.
“We also want to do an Aboriginal theme as well somewhere down the track to showcase the traditional culture.”
Naracoorte Lucindale mayor Erika Vickery praised all contributors and volunteers for their efforts and said the facility would provide children with a fun and engaging learning experience.
“The children’s museum is still a work in progress, but it has been well put together and hands-on interesting displays for children to get involved in history,” she said.
“Rather than a museum where you just look and read, it really gives children an opportunity try and lift up one of the irons used in the old days and look at the fossils up close.
“It is a great addition and is really forward thinking to make it interesting for children as well as adults.
“It has been a real collaboration between the National Trust, the artists and the schools and the designs are quite lovely.
“With the students being involved it gives them some ownership as well and the volunteers that have been working on it have done a beautiful job of making it look inviting.”