In the history of Australia's industrial development South Australia occupies a special place. Not only was the state a centre of the nation's mineral exploitation and heavy industry, it also occupied a leading place in its shipping industry. Port Adelaide contains some of the oldest stone buildings related to the merchant trade, and the grain mill operation known as Hart's Mill is unique in the nation's history in employing Aboriginal workers at full pay as early as in the 1860s. I believe that South Australia deserves a museum to document Australia's industrial history, particularly in relation to mining and shipping. The industrial history of Hart's Mill and its associated buildings, as well as the historical significance of its construction, make the buildings an ideal site for a technology and industrial history museum. A new museum in the Hart's Mill precinct will also make a significant contribution to the revitalization of the Port. Why a museum? A country is not mature and educated unless it understands its own history. The 19th century was a time of tremendous change, propelled by advances in science and technology that allowed industrialization on an ever larger scale. All major industrialized countries honour their industrial history through magnificent museums. Some outstanding examples are In Britain • the National Museum of Science and Industry, a collection of technology museums in London, York, Bradford and Shildon, with the Science Museum in London as its heart. • the Cambridge Museum of Technology, based in the Old Pumping Station; it still contains the original pumps and boilers with many other engines. • the Museum of Science and Inudstry in Manchester, an Anchor Point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage; it is devoted to Manchester's contribution to the development of science, technology, and industry. • In Germany • the Deutsches Museum (German Museum), founded in Munich in 1903, the world's largest museum of technology and science, with approximately 1.5 million visitors per year and about 28,000 exhibited objects from 50 fields of science and technology. • the Museum of Technology, established in 1982 in Berlin; it exhibits a large collection of historical technical artifacts and industrial technology and includes a science center. • In Canada • the National Museum of Science and Technology, established in 1967 as a Centennial project by the Canadian Government; it was the first museum to employ interactive exhibits related to the ongoing relationships between science, technology and Canadian society. • In the USA • the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, established in 1933; its diverse and expansive exhibits include a working coal mine and is the second largest cultural attraction in the city. In Australia the only museum of comparable objective is the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, housed in a converted electric tram power station. (Australia's National Science and Technology Centre "Questacon", which opened in 1988, focuses on current day science and technology. It is appropriately housed in a modern new building and serves a different purpose. South Australia's Investigator Science and Technology Centre, located in the Adelaide Showgrounds, was downscaled and transferred to Regency TAFE before being abandoned altogether.) I believe that South Australia's industrial history deserves a place in public education, that a Museum of Technology and Industrial History is sorely lacking in this state and that a properly designed museum could spread its influence beyond South Australia become a centre of national significance. Why in Port Adelaide? Port Adelaide is the birthplace of South Australia's industrial history. Despite many changes that led to the loss of significant buildings and industrial sites it still maintains a character of its own with a strong historical flair. Several museums related to industry and technology are already located in Port Adelaide: • the South Australian Maritime Museum, one of the best of its kind; • the National Railway Museum • the Aviation Museum The three museums already cover many aspects of the history of technology. By focusing on mining, commercial shipping and shipbuilding the new Museum of Technology and Industrial History in Harts Mill would complement the exhibits of the existing museums and close an existing gap in the coverage of all aspects of the history of technology. To make a museum viable and keep it alive it has to be located near the major agglomeration of people. Port Adelaide is in easy reach for the population of Greater Adelaide, which constitutes the greater part of South Australia's population. Why Harts Mill? The Harts Mill complex is ideal for a Museum of Technology and Industrial History. Its history as part of Australia's industrial development makes it unique in its own right. In addition, its location on the waterfront, with unused but available berthing space, offers plenty of scope to develop it into a Museum of national significance that will attract visitors from interstate and overseas. Port Adelaide's historic ship Falie could dock in front of the buildings, the two historic cranes of the dock area could be relocated to the Museum, and other items of maritime technological interest could easily be added. With an array of historic waterside items the museum would quickly develop a reputation of Australia's premier Museum of Industrial History, enough to make it financially self-supporting in the long term. I would be happy to assist in any way to retain Harts Mill as a focus of Australia's industrial and maritime history.
Here's something that Cath Duncan, a passionate supporter of the Hart's Mill Project, sent out to inspire and inform her friends, clients and colleagues. Cath has kindly allowed us to add it to our blog.
"I’m contacting you as one of a concerned group of people calling for the state government, council and New Port Quays developers to re-think the waterfront development of the Port of Adelaide. The global financial crisis and recent EPA assessments have effectively stalled development for the time being and it’s in this hiatus that I’m hoping you might find the time to become more informed and to support the call for a development re-think.
Because the New Port Quays development area is relatively spread out and earmarked to happen in stages over time, the iconic buildings of The Adelaide Milling Co and Harts Mill are seen as a current flash point. Here’s the link to the Harts Mill Project website www.hartsmillproject.org. On it you’ll find lots of information including some pictures showing what could happen if the development proceeds according to the New Port Quays plan. In the galleries you will also see aspirational pictures of similar spaces developed with greater sympathy for urban design and public places.
If you’ve got 5 mins, let me tell you why I care...
Harts Mill and The Adelaide Milling Company buildings stand on ancient shell middens where for centuries people have come to share stories and food. That’s a story I can’t ignore and which I know so little about but which deserves so much more respect than an apartment block! The story I am more familiar with is less significant and is the settler story.
The new colony of South Australia was wholly dependent on Port Adelaide from 1831. Until the 1940s, almost everybody and everything arrived or left South Australia via the Port. Through Port Adelaide, country towns were connected, mining and primary production was enabled, power was supplied, boats were built and repaired, trains were first run and, by 1900, over a thousand ships were visiting the harbour each year and Adelaide’s port was the 3rd largest in Australia. This is a history unique in our state and, luckily for us, many of the architectural artefacts of that history remain – albeit in some disrepair.
The Port’s history, while visible in those buildings, has significant social markers, too. It nurtured the union movement - workers, women’s and Aboriginal rights. (Ironic, isn’t it ,that it’s a Labour government co-authoring the current redevelopment plans). It is the home of the 1st Meals on Wheels in Australia; the 1st female elected to a local council (Anna Rennie in 1950); is the 1st declared state heritage area; and, for the boaties, the first Regatta was held (1838) and the 1st sailing club established. In a connection to Hart’s Mill, Captn John Hart was the 1st President of the Port Magpies Football Club (formed in 1870) and the first match was played on Captn Hart’s land at Glanville.
Whether you are a Port supporter or not, and I don’t just mean football, Port Adelaide has deep significance in the history of Aboriginal people and South Australia as a settled free state. It would be a shame to lose all the artefacts of our story. I reckon, it takes a healthy curiosity to see more than the events of our own comparatively short individual lifetime or immediate family but surely the history our grandchildren will see will be shaped by the actions we take, or don’t take, now.
Hey, if history isn’t your thing maybe economics will have more resonance...
Most of the Port’s waterfront land is owned on your behalf by our state government and much of it has been contaminated due to the Port’s important industrial past. It is now being remediated using your taxes and will then be ‘sold’ to the Consortium... for a song. The redevelopment of our asset is being underwritten by our tax payer dollars and all the profits will go to the New Port Quays development consortium Now there is transaction value to the State in the form of land tax but little multiplier value once the apartments are sold. It makes me wonder how Sydney’s economy would have benefitted if Bennelong Point was fitted out only with apartments (private space) rather than a very costly Opera House (public space)? The same could be asked of Federation Square in Melbourne. Sure the developers would have got great returns on the once only sale of each apartment but they wouldn’t regularly draw thousands of people to the space, would they? Public spaces not only provide public amenity but they support local businesses, generate tourism and build a vibrant, cohesive communities. If you’re a little interested in this idea check out Public Waterfront spaces http://www.pps.org/waterfronts/
Thanks for indulging our friendship and for reading this far. I promise not to bother you again on this matter but I do hope you opt to be involved in the future by posting a comment on www.hartsmillproject.org and bookmarking the page so that you can keep informed. We’re keen to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. And, please, pass this email on to others you think would be interested.
I wish you a very happy Christmas, a safe New Year and all the best for 2011!
MA Soc. Ec. (OD)
Channel7 also sent down a cameraman and followed it up on Sunday with interviews at the Mills
The story was covered by Tim Williams from the Portside Messenger
Last night, at Hart's Mill, about 170 people turned up with their tables, chairs, food, wine, candles, white table cloths, music and good spirit for a guerilla/gorilla/grilla dinner. The dinner was the launch for this website and an opportunity for the community to re-populate the Hart's Mill precinct and to start to engage and think about the mills and their future.
The numbers were all the more impressive as it had been raining off and on all day and, being so close to Christmas, many people couldn't make it. It was also impressive as it was organised as a word of mouth invitation only event - no emails, no invitations - just a reliance on community networks and neighbours talking with neigbours. The night was hugely successful in terms of media coverage with Channel7 turning up to record the event and reporters and photographers from the Advertiser/Sunday Mail and the Portside Messenger taking the time and effort to talk with those gathered about the Hart's Mill Project and their aspirations for the mills.
Well done to all those who could make it and we look forward to our next activity for bringing attention to the plight of the mills. Just imagine the turn out if it was a nice evening, Christmas wasn't just round the corner and we had used the internet to spread the invitations near and wide. If you are interested in being involved and don't want to miss out, leave your details on the "contact us" page.