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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

A great Goldfields museum in the small town of Coolgardie, Western Australia

The Coolgardie Goldfields Exhibition Museum is housed in the historical 1898 built Warden’s Court building.

This is a must-see museum when you are travelling in the goldfields. For a small $4 donation, just to see inside the beautifully restored building is worth the entry fee. Walking around the many rooms and exhibits can take you back in time, so that you don’t even realise two or three hours has passed by. There is so much to see and occupy your attention. I enjoyed the variety of signage, photographs and artefacts. This extensive museum covers two floors, each room a walk back in time showing how hard life was and how rewarding it could be.

“On September 17 1892 Arthur Bayley rode into Southern Cross, made his way to the Warden’s office and applied for a reward claim in a new area 128 miles to the east of Southern Cross. As proof he produced 544 ounces of gold obtained from the ground they had pegged…. This new goldfield became known as Coolgardie” from a sign in the museum. His co-discoverer was William Ford.

There is a pharmacy display of medicines used in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Coolgardie safe was invented by necessity here in the late 1890s. Arthur McCormick invented this way of cooling food due to water evaporation long before the days of refrigerators.

Necessity also saw various items repurposed. Kerosene boxes were made into seats and drawers, tins were reutilised as seats.

Various recreated displays show you goldfields life.

Other rooms show recreations of the domestic life of the goldfield family homes.

Until 1903 when the water pipeline was turned on from Perth water was a rare commodity. Beer was cheaper than water on the goldfields. Camels would bring water and provisions to the people, requiring little if any water on the 600 mile journey from Perth. The camel owners were the Afghans. They made their riches through the labours of their animals. Extensive photograph collections are in the museum capturing life from those days. T'Othersiders was the name given to people who were not born in Western Australia. (The othersiders)

The Varischetti mine room casts you back to March 1907 when storms and heavy rains lashed the Bonnievale mine near Coolgardie. All the men were able to get out, except for Modesto Varischetti. It took 9 days to get him out. It was an incredible rescue with miners and equipment being brought by a special train from Perth. It made it in 13 hours, a record that stood for almost 50 years, until diesel engines. The whole country was in suspense until his successful rescue. The room shows many photos and equipment from the rescue and tells the story of these heroes.

The famous Waghorn Bottle collection is one of the largest antique bottle displays in Australia. It includes bottles and glassware dating from 300BC through to present day.

When we visit these museums and towns we admire and respect the ingenuity, perseverance and fortitude of the early pioneers. We ask ourselves… “If we were put in the same situation as them, could we survive as they did?”

For a small town this is a grand museum. Entry fee also covers entry to the Warden’s house in town as well. Staff at both the museum and house were courteous, well informed and superb at their jobs. They welcomed me as you would a friend and provided a wealth of information. The love they have for their jobs and town was very evident. Well done Coolgardie!

Happy Travels!

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