Historic move looks to future

The custodians of Wodonga’s history now have new headquarters in the heart of the city’s most nationally-significant historical site.

The Wodonga Historical Society is now based in two former caretakers’ huts at the Bonegilla Migrant Experience, bringing together the group that records and celebrates Wodonga’s past with the site that was once the first Australian home for more than 300,000 migrants from about 50 countries.

Until last year, the society was in commercial premises in South St until a change in circumstances meant a new site was needed. As a premier historical site, Bonegilla presented a strong option as an interim location.

Society members are now using the recently-renovated caretakers’ huts to fulfill their mission of preserving, cataloguing and auditing the Wodonga Historical Society’s collection of more than 4,000 artefacts, documents and other items reflecting the city’s rich and varied past.

The society’s president, Marie Elliot, said the group hoped to harness the popularity of the Bonegilla Migrant Experience to expose the collection to a growing number of history-minded visitors.

“We’ll come up with a few fresh ideas to attract people out there,” she said.

“We’ve had some really good reports from visitors (to the new facility) and they were all very complimentary of the displays we’ve put up.

“Some of the people who’ve been through came to the camp as children and some have come back and expressed what it was like for them.”

As part of the move, the society will work towards expanding the community’s access to the collection, with opening hours to more closely align with those of the popular Bonegilla Migrant Experience.

Wodonga Mayor Kev Poulton said the move offered an opportunity to grow history tourism through the synergies of basing the society at a major visitor drawcard.

“As part of our ongoing advocacy for our city, we’ll be looking at long-term options for the society’s home but in the meantime, the move to Bonegilla provides a great opportunity to showcase the society’s amazing collection to visitors from around the nation and overseas – people who come to Bonegilla to experience one of the great stories in Australian migration history,” he said.

The new historical society headquarters will be officially opened on April 6.

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