A good idea. Make it Happen - Mayor Ian Macintosh
At the request of Mayor Ian Macintosh, and with the goal to appropriately house and display the superb Somerville Collection of minerals and fossils, the Bathurst City Council (BCC) committed to take on the challenge to develop the new Museum in Bathurst.
A cultural vision for Bathurst
Under the leadership of BCC David Sherley (BCC Director of Corporate Services) with Amanda Lawson (Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Director) it was planned that Bathurst would position its cultural facilities through the city.
Council embarked on a process of developing infrastructure for cultural growth. A cultural vision was commissioned which reflected a growth in lifestyle and a strategy to attract new residents and provide for current citizen. - David Sherley
The Gothic style Bathurst Public School in Howick Street had already been suggested as the ideal location for a Museum that was to house a T.rex. Negotiations with the State Government resulted in the site being leased by BCC with a sublease to the Somerville Company “at a peppercorn rate”.
The aim was to restore the old Public School building to its former grandeur, install the necessary facilities to convert it into a state-of-the-art museum and to create exciting, innovative and beautiful exhibitions that would stimulate, educate and entertain visitors.
While the CSU team pulled together funding from donations, Bathurst City Council
(Bathurst Regional Council from 2004) committed significant funding to the project, and acquired State and Federal Government grants to restore the building, employ a planner and design the Museum.
Warren Somerville was appointed as Curator, but the need to recruit someone to steer the museum development was recognised by Mike Archer from the Australian Museum. Trish McDonald was brought on board as the Museum Planner due to her previous experience with Australian Museum.
Step by step, as funding was acquired, building works were completed in a series of stages. The specimens were cleaned, catalogued and stored. The lengthy process of restoring the school buildings began in consultation with heritage architects and engineers. This included the removal of all non-significant additions and return of the interior to its original condition.
Specimen display and interpretation was designed by Thylacine Exhibition Design. As the museum moved towards completion, work on fitting out the exhibition spaces began in earnest. It took over six weeks to install the 1700 specimens, as every specimen required an individually designed support mount.
Open to the public
The Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum - Home of the Somerville Collection was officially opened by Premier Bob Carr on Thursday 22 July 2004.
The Museum opened to the public on Monday 26 July 2004.
“...this extraordinary individual’s vision has been realised.” – Peter Hodgson
The largest of the fossil specimens, the 10.6 m long, 4.5m high Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, was dismantled at the Australian Museum and brought to Bathurst for installation into the fossil gallery space. This required 4.5m high scaffolding to be erected and a rigger employed to suspend the skull support cable from the ceiling. No exhibition furniture could be installed until this skeleton was installed. - Trish McDonald, Museum Planner
The Museum opened two years later than expected because of the decision to maximise quality, and not to compromise development. - David Sherley, 2018 General Manager, Bathurst Regional Council
Exhibition installation began in March with a large crew of Thylacine preparators, local
preparator assistants (some paid and other volunteers) and conservators from the Australian Museum. Tim Pike, Collection Manager, Bathurst Regional Council
Each of the mounts had to be appropriately positioned on a showcase layout before the fittings for the support mounts in the showcases could be drilled in. This was a very precise and time-consuming exercise taking from March to early May. - Tim Pike, Collection Manager, Bathurst Regional Council
I was knocked out by what I’ve seen ... We’ve talked about it for years.... but it exceeds my expectations.... It is a great tourist resource and a great educational resource at once achieved through a partnership. NSW Premier Bob Carr, Western Advocate, Friday 23 July 2004 p. 1
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