A quirky museum in a tiny New England town, where gems both literal and figurative await.
Once a thriving mining town following the discovery of tin in the 1870s, Emmaville is today a tiny high country hamlet of merely 250-odd people. But the town’s fascination with precious natural materials remains, typified by the quirky and fascinating Emmaville Mining Museum.
The museum started as the dream of Mr and Mrs Jack Curnow, owners of the old Emmaville bakery which closed its doors in 1969. The pair were avid collectors of minerals and historical photographs, and used their newly vacant shop to display their bounty to the townsfolk. The collection was eventually donated to the community of Emmaville, and the local council plus a band of volunteers set about restoring the old Foley General Store into a museum.
Still in that historic location, today the museum houses a vast collection of minerals; they twinkle and glisten under the lights of the glass cabinets that occupy the large front room of the museum. In addition to the precious rocks and minerals, the museum is home to more than 200 historic photos dating as far back as 1893, plus both mining and household relics from the town’s turn of the century boom period. Archaic tools are located alongside old tins and kitchen scales, cameras, furniture and even wedding dresses. More than a mining museum, the site serves as a comprehensive snapshot of early 20th Century life in a tin mining town.
It is thought that of the town’s then-7000 residents, 2000 were Chinese, and that is reflected in the museum’s collection which includes pottery and cooking implements left behind by those early migrants seeking their fortune Down Under. A common tale in historic mining towns right across Australia.
There is a room in the museum dedicated to town records – newspaper articles and documents of note. History buffs could while away an hour in there; I personally was drawn into the mysterious tale of the Emmaville Panther, a big, black cat whose existence divided the town back in the 1950s and ‘60s. Basically, a number of people reported sightings of a large panther-like cat roaming the countryside, and pretty much everyone else thought they were mad. It is thought perhaps the cat escaped from a travelling circus, although neither its origin nor existence was ever confirmed.
An eclectic, charmingly ramshackle collection of “stuff” pertaining to turn-of-the-century life in a frontier mining town – plus a dazzling array of gems and minerals – it’s worth calling into the Emmaville Mining Museum to fossick for treasures and relics of bygone days.
Emmaville Mining Museum is located at 80 Moore St, Emmaville, NSW. Click here for more information.