Museum Muster

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Volunteer Curator Debbie Sommers fills us in on some changes happening at our local museum – changes that will be launched on October 11 at a special community event. And, everyone’s invited to attend!


Hi Debbie. The museum is officially changing its name from Port Macquarie Historical Museum to Port Macquarie Museum, with this change to be accompanied by new branding, a new logo and a new website. What is the rationale behind this decision?

Hi Jo. Yes, we are changing our name slightly to better reflect who we are, what we do and what we offer our visitors. A Cultural Tourism Plan for our museum completed in May 2014 made a number of recommendations aimed at improving our visibility and viability into the future. As the plan states: Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. The Plan, funded by a NSW Government through the Office of Environment and Heritage, identifies four guiding principles, five key goals and 70 recommendations. We are gradually working our way through them as resources and opportunities present.

One of the recommendations was to reconsider our name and how we brand ourselves. After due consideration, we settled on the name Port Macquarie Museum, as we are quite simply, the museum revealing Port Macquarie’s stories. Our new branding and logo clearly identifies our name, role and purpose. Now the challenge is to ensure our new name is recognised and used consistently!

Our legal entity remains as the Port Macquarie Historical Society Inc.

A special event – the Museum Muster – is planned for October 11, which will be the launch platform for the changes to the museum. What activities are planned for the day?

The Museum Muster is a free family fun day to launch our name and branding changes to the Port Macquarie community. The day will include free entry, a free sausage sizzle and morning tea, activities and entertainment. Our new logo and website have been funded with the support of the Port Macquarie-Hastings Community Grants programme, and we are pleased that our Mayor Peter Besseling will officially launch these at 10am to kick the day off. Whilst our museum is not a part of Council, they have, over our 58 year history, provided much needed support for many of our projects.

Apart from introducing the new name to the public, what are the other aims of the event? Why has the event been called a “muster”?

A very important part of our role as a community organisation is to engage with our local community, and open days like the Museum Muster are about opening our doors to the community we serve and are a part of.

We have called the day a “muster”, because as a penal settlement Port Macquarie held many musters to count the convict population, and we are inviting the community to come along, celebrate with us and be counted as our supporters. Our sausage sizzle and morning tea will be much better than convict rations!

Most importantly, our large and significant collections have been “mustered” through the generosity and support of our local community. Our volunteers always enjoy the opportunity to show how we our using our collections to narrate and illustrate local stories to the community and general public.

The Muster will be held at the museum, so what time should people turn up?

Doors open at 9:30am, with the official logo and website launch at 10am. Food and entertainment will be on offer through until 2pm. People can drop in at any time throughout the day and are welcome to stay all day if they wish.

The museum was recently awarded Gold at the 2015 North Coast Tourism Awards in the Cultural Tourism category – for the second year in a row. Congratulations! To what do you believe the museum owes its success and the acknowledgement from the greater tourism community?

Thank you. It has certainly been exciting to win Gold two years running, and the awards are very welcome recognition by our tourism peers. I believe we owe our successes to the hard work, commitment and professionalism of all our volunteers. Despite being a community organisation, we understand the responsibilities entrusted to us as a community keeping place and work to ensure our collections and heritage assets are well looked after, our business processes are continually improved and that our museum and the stories we tell are visitor focused. In particular, our meet and greet volunteers and tour guides provide great customer service to the thousands of people who visit us each year.

What are some other plans in the pipeline for the museum … anything we should keep an eye out for?

We always have a number of plans and new projects in the pipeline and will be announcing a new project soon regarding our photograph collection. The project follows on from a Photograph Collection Management Plan we commissioned last year. It is innovative and will bring our photograph collection into the digital world. It will also ensure the collection is well documented, preserved and accessible into the future.

Who would you like to acknowledge or thank for their part in ensuring the museum is a thriving tourism destination?

Our volunteers play the greatest role in our success, and we could not exist without them. Our Cultural Tourism Plan aims to build on our strengths and encourages us to build new relationships with the community, education and tourism groups. We are now an active participant in local tourism networks and support local tourism initiatives and events. The wider tourism industry has been very welcoming and supportive of our renewed tourism focus.

Where can people find out more info about both the museum and the Muster?

For more information about our museum and the Muster, people can go to our current website, phone us on 6583 1108 or drop in to the museum at 22 Clarence Street, Port Macquarie.

Final say …

Thanks Jo. We are looking forward to the Muster and guarantee a warm welcome to everyone.

Thanks Debbie.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

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