Living History in Cygnet
In a little wooden hall in the main street of Cygnet, stories of bygones ages are gathered up and nurtured. Not consigned to history but held quietly, unobtrusively. Stepping through the wooden Gothic arch into the old Methodist Sunday School, you can sense the whispers and echoes of so many who have gone before.
The Cygnet Living History Museum houses a remarkable collection of local oral history as well as as publications, maps, photographs and artifacts. Interesting objects, not really valuable or rare, give us glimpses into the lives of real people who still echo behind and underneath our busy but comfortable modern existence.
But the beating heart of the Cygnet Living History museum is not the objects, fascinating as they are. It is in the stories, told by living people. Some are no longer with us and so their stories are irreplaceable.
The Cygnet Living History Museum is a primarily a repository, a holding place for stories. E.M. Forster once remarked that, “The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot.” Cygnet stories are of the first type. They don’t follow cleverly crafted plots with happy endings. They are genuinely lived stories that wander through joy and sadness, success and failure, death and birth.
In a little country town like Cygnet families can often trace their lineage for generations, and children grow up with a strong sense of who they are and where they come from. Family stories are passed down through many years and are woven into the fabric of community life.
The stories of Cygnet, like those of little towns throughout Australia, tell of Aboriginal people, of discovery and white settlement, of convicts and bushrangers. They tell of farming families persisting through droughts, floods, recessions and hard times. And good times when harvests were big and life was prosperous and optimistic.
They tell of sons sacrificed to wars in foreign lands, and of the return of a generation of damaged men who could not go back to their old lives. They tell of people, some rising to high status, but also of quiet achievers, people who were the backbone of their families and communities, and whose hard work created the solid foundations of this country.
Cygnet stories are also unique. They tell of a large boat building industry, ship transport, coal mining, timber-cutting, bush tramways, apple growing, fishing and even gold-mining. Country fairs, local politics, colourful characters. Discovery by the French geographic expedition and the coming of the hippies.
The Cygnet Living History Museum is run by a group of talented volunteers who maintain the collection and create feature displays that change periodically. The museum was opened in 2000 and was the inspiriation of local historian May Salter together with a group of people interested in collecting local history. Several of the volunteers are trained oral history collectors who conduct interviews and transcribe local stories. May Salter is now deceased but her stories are alive for anyone who would like to delve into them.
The Cygnet Living History Museum welcomes inquiries about recording oral history. New volunteers are always welcome so if you feel you have something to offer, or would like to learn more, just drop in for a chat and browse through the collection or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday – Friday: 10 -3
As it’s staffed by volunteers, there could be unforeseen variations to this.
Box 123 Cygnet, Tasmania 7112
Address: Mary Street, Cygnet. (Opposite Post Office)