Preserving history for the ages

From left, Natalie (museum officer), Madi (photographer) and Kate (volunteer) photographing items in the Emerald Museum. PICTURE: STEWART CHAMBERS 373742_03

By Tyler Wright

The Emerald Museum & Nobelius Heritage Park has received a welcome boost in its efforts to preserve history after receiving over $7000 from the National Library of Australia.

The museum was announced as a recipient of a 2023 Community Heritage Grant, receiving $7087 for the digitisation of Nobelius ledgers and catalogues.

Nobelius Heritage Park is a 12-acre remnant of the Nobelius & Sons Nursery which operated between 1886 and 1955 and is registered on the Victorian Heritage Database as a site of state significance.

Carl Axel Nobelius – the proprietor of the C.A. Nobelius’ Gembrook Nurseries – supplied trees to replace orchards that were destroyed during the Boer War between 1899 and 1902.

Mr Nobelius also planted the first Chinese gooseberry, or kiwifruit, in Victoria, with the nursery exporting to USA, South America, South Africa, New Zealand, Europe and Asia.

Museum officer Natalie Bradvica said the grant will allow people across Australia to access pre-World War I and World War I Nobelius ledgers, catalogues, account books and correspondence from an online collection database.

“A big part of the positive reaction [to the grant] that we felt was in part due to the fact that in the application we had to write a statement of national significance, arguing and advocating for why these books are important to Australia as a whole,” Ms Bradvica said.

“They were once the largest fruit and ornamental tree exporter in the southern hemisphere, so there’s really big national significance to this collection.

“Museums historically have been gatekeepers, so for us to be able to offer this information that’s contained in these books to a wider audience helps to break down barriers that a lot of people face when accessing cultural institutions.”

Ms Bradvica said the digitisation of the documents is hoped to be completed by early 2024.

“One of the key missions of the museum is to make our collection publicly accessible, and that’s a core component of what this grant is all about,” she said.

“The fact that our application for this grant was successful with this statement of national significance in mind was really quite validating.

“It will give us a really big boost in our digitisation effort.”

National Library of Australia director-general, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, said the organisation has awarded $459,987 to 59 community projects to “help staff and volunteers assess their collections or to assist with preservation activities”.

“We are delighted that the program continues to provide practical support and build professional skills within organisations,” she said.

More than 1650 projects have received grants totalling over $8.9 million since the Community Heritage Grants (CHG) program began in 1994, helping to preserve significant Australian community history and heritage for future generations.

CHG is funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts; National Library of Australia; National Archives of Australia; National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and National Museum of Australia.

The Emerald Museum displays items that relate to the history of the former Gembrook/C. A. Nobelius & Sons Nursery as well as Emerald and surrounding districts including Gembrook and Clematis.

The Nobelius Heritage Park – located at 5 Crichton Road in Emerald – remains home to tree and plant species and a spot for bird watching.