Chattering voices: Activating stories in Riverina Museum collections

Annette Brown

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This research investigates the role of museum objects and collections as mnemonics in storytelling. The thesis locates the place of local history, and in particular oral history and story-telling, within a broader historiography. Objects and collections dating from the mid 19th century to the late 20th century from fourteen Riverina museums were examined and, using significance' criteria, object files were established. These files collated existing images, stories and information already gathered by the museums and my research has contributed further material from community members, and local studies collections' of Riverina libraries and archives. Sources examined included published and un-published local histories, newspapers, women's magazines, oral histories, written field interviews and questionnaires. The themes of agriculture, commerce, transport, women, making do, education, World Wars I and II, and entertainment were used to explore the significant link between the stories and objects. All of the objects examined were found to offer significant insight into the social and cultural history of the Riverina.The primary aim of this research is to preserve the stories gathered and reconnect them to their relevant objects and collections.
By examining these artifacts within the context of their associated stories, the importance of micro-narratives within the dialogue of local history has been exposed. This research material fills a gap in previously under-researched fields of study in Australia in the areas of traditional crafts and rural technologies, including embroidery, quiltmaking, riverboat operation and millet broom making, which have either disappeared or are rapidly declining. An outcome of this investigation is to contribute new research material for use by professionals, volunteers and visitors in regional museums in the Riverina. Further audiences for this research are scholars in the areas of social/cultural history, local history, textiles, graphic design, rural and media studies.
The conclusions drawn from this research found that while these objects and collections are valued as heritage items, it is the accompanying stories and the sources of those stories which are of paramount importance to both the museums involved and the wider community. While the examination of objects and collections under thematic headings has put into action a process of historic and cultural distillation, reflecting the local and regional history of the Riverina, this process has the potential to act as a model for other regional museums in Australia.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Award date01 Feb 2011
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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