Ottawa does museums very well. My favourite is the Museum of Civilization, over the river in Hull and we were there twice last week. On Friday we spent the day there to review what we have covered so far in Canadian history. Currently we are looking at the development of settlements and the many groups of people involved in those settlements. The museum has a fantastic exhibit called the Canada Hall which traces Canada’s history from the Viking explorers to modern times. Even though we have been through the exhibit many times we only allowed ourselves to get as far as the Coureur de Bois’ shack this time. As we looked in the hospital we noticed it was Jeanne Mance’s Hospital, that we had read and written about the previous week. There were a few other moments where names and locations suddenly meant more than they had on previous visits.
Face to Face, a new exhibit on the top floor features a variety of Canadians from various periods and people groups. We wandered through, pausing the longest at Samuel de Champlain’s display to see what we could recognise from our studies. Our plan is to spend a day at the museum every month or so to reinforce and complement our studies at home. After lunch we went to the library in the museum and were able to choose a couple of videos to watch. Both fitted in perfectly with the topics we have just covered: The Voyageurs and Rendevous Canada 1606 both films from the National Film Board.
The following day we were back at the museum again as Stellae Boreales was performing in association with the new Glenn Gould exhibit. Although the audience was small the concert went well and was a good rehearsal for their fundraising concert on November 30th.
We, too, have been visiting museums in recent days, though they were only a minute fraction of the scale of the Museum of Civilization.
On Saturday, after a busy week including for me two trips to Canberra, and after a non stop busy period of several months, we linked up the caravan and travelled to Mudgee, about 200 kms from home across the Blue Mountains. We had a very restful time, but managed to take in some of the rich history of the region. We spent a day at the nearby town of Gulgong, the town which featured on Australia’s first ten dollar note. Gulgong began as a gold mining settlement in the 1830’s, but is best known today as the town where Henry Lawson spent his boyhood years in the 1880’s and 1890’s.
Henry Lawson wrote extensively about a century ago about Australian life, particularly describing the hardships of the outback, mocking authority, and supporting republicanism and trade union causes. Lawson was an alcoholic throughout much of his life, yet wrote very insightfully of the damage that alcohol did to his life and to the lives of many. Lawson’s works should be read aloud as there is a beautiful sound and rhythm to his words and phrases.
Gulgong houses a small but excellently produced museum depicting Lawson’s life and works through successive eras. The biographical material is very detailed, and there are several original manuscripts on display.
The second visit was to the Gulgong Pioneers Museum, spread over an acre of buildings. Many country towns find an old hall, fill it with old unwanted artefacts,and call it a Museum. The GPM have several old buildings relocated to the site and fitted out with period artefacts, Several themes were developed in the sections of the museum. Attractive features were the ordering of displays, good lighting, informative captions, and an awareness of the pioneer story.
Mudgee and Gulgong give great contrast in the Australian country town. Gulgong streets are where the original tracks were formed in the mining settlement. Some are quite narrow and it is necessary to give way to oncoming traffic. Many buildings are early timber construction. There are strict rules about maintaining them, even to the colour of paint that can be applied.
Mudgeee has very wide streets, laid out on a grid design. There are huge, magnificently maintained churches of several denominations. The major buildings are of stone or brick construction. Again, many are heritage listed.
In spite of the drought across much of the country, the region had an appearance of freshness and being cared for. However, most of the open barns we passed were empty; but they were cutting and baling hay as we passed.
In recent decades the are has enjoyed some prosperity through the cultivation of a range of fine wines.
As I said, an interesting and enjoyable few days.