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What’s New is Old and What is Old is New Again! - An Update from our CEO

I am very excited to be able to say that the Museum is now open!

What a year it has been! After such a tumultuous 2020 we never expected to face a more challenging 2021. This year the lockdown lasted much longer than the previous year and we were forced to stand down all of our staff either completely or partially (including myself and the senior management team).

When the Museum closed its doors in June 2021, we were experiencing a high having come off our busiest year for visitation yet! To suddenly have to close our doors right at our peak time with school holidays approaching was devastating to both moral our momentum and financially.

Rather than dwell on what we had lost our team got busy transitioning to online engagement with increased digital activities, social media posts and offerings. We also took the closure as an opportunity to take out many outdated displays and to upgrade our museum lighting and electrical systems.

Today when you visit the Museum, you’ll see some major changes. The Museum now has “museum lighting” which creates a great mood in the exhibition space, and we have created more interactive areas for children to engage with while parents have more historical content to view.

So what has changed?

  • The old burns exhibit has been removed (public feedback constantly stated how outdated the exhibit was so we decided to bite the bullet and remove it). This has been replaced with a temporary children’s area. This is partially in response to COVID-19 restrictions which has meant that we need to spread visitors more evenly across the Museum spaces. (Pictured below is a before and after of this space).

  • The theatre is currently being updated. To date new videos supplied by FRNSW Media team have replaced the films from the 1980s and puzzles for children have been introduced to the space to keep them busy whilst parents watch the videos. The lighting and two new displays have also been enhanced or added to the space. This is an ongoing project.

  • In the children’s area two of the half-cab fire engines have received interactive upgrades which means that children can feel like they are in a real fire engine (check out the video on our social media).

From a staffing perspective we have also welcomed some new team members and I look forward to introducing them more in the coming months. October has also brought with it three staff anniversaries. Pictured here with me are Monika and Star. This month Monika celebrates 10 years with the Museum as a staff member (even longer as a volunteer) while Star brings up 3 years with us. Star began at the Museum as a Junior front of house assistant and today while she works as a senior in this role, she also has developed her skills to become a member of our heritage team as one of the research assistants.

This month also marks six years since I first came to the Museum in the role of Senior Heritage and Research Officer. Since then, a lot has changed!

Pictured here is Star, Belinda and Monika (October 2021)

Throwback to 1971 and 2001 Speaking of looking back I took a quick dive into the Museum’s library this month to see what was happening back in 1971 (50 years ago) and 2001 (20 years ago).

The first thing that jumped out to me from 2001 was the constant conversation about the new “HR” that is the introduction of human resources to the popular vernacular. Across the three editions of Fire News from 2001 there is a lot of talk about this new directorate and the role HR will play going forward.

Also across the 2001 editions of Fire News are reflections on the 20001 Sydney Olympic Games, the 2000 Narrabri floods (keep an eye out for another blog coming soon where we will discuss this) and there is a big focus on the community engagement undertaken by the NSWFB across the state.

In addition to the February and Winter editions of Fire News there is also a special issue dedicated to the Thredbo Landslide that had occurred three years earlier.

When it comes to 1971 there were two issues produced. The cover of the Autumn edition features a famous photograph from the Fairfax fire that we featured in a blog earlier this year. Click here to read the story behind the photo.

The Summer issue presents a photograph of a fire that took place in Wagga Wagga on 4 April 1971. Pictured on the cover are firefighters Gutherie and Turner. This fire is remembered as one of the biggest to occur in Wagga as it took place in the centre of the business district. At around 3pm the fire began in Bayliss Street and very quickly engulphed a warehouse, motorcycle shop, furniture shop and two other premises. The crew from Wagga Wagga Fire Station were soon on the scene and their focus was on stopping the fire spreading to a nearby stack of tyres.

The fire spread quickly, and the buildings began to collapse around the firefighters, but they managed to contain it to these buildings. This was one of the few times (thankfully) that the residents of Wagga Wagga got to see the brigade in action at such a large-scale incident.

Across both of the 1971 Fire News issues it is interesting to note that the growth of major shopping centres is a constant topic for discussion as firefighters try to understand the challenges faced for firefighting operations in these new buildings and the increased fire risk that they pose.

Throughout 2021 we’ve been bringing you stories of the different fire stations that were opened in 1971. Some of these stations housed brand new brigades while others welcomed existing brigades. We posted this photograph back in January on our social media and asked who could identify the stations. How many can you name? Scroll to the end of this article for the answers!

What was the Museum up to in 1971 and 2001?

Fifty years ago, in 1971 the pre-curser to the Museum, the Historic Fire Engine Association of Australia (HFEAA) purchased the first fire engines for preservation purposes. These were the American La France and the Diamond T, both that we’ve shared blogs on previously. To check them out click these links: American La France and the Diamond-T.

In 2001 the Museum received a number of new appliances into the collection but two of note are the 1979 International Skyjet and a 1929 Ariel motorcycle. Keep an eye on this blog and our social media for more stories from the Museum about these acquisitions from 20 years ago!

Also in 2001 the Museum's Shand Mason took part in the Centenary of Federation parade (pictured here).

-Blog by Museum of Fire CEO, Belinda McMartin


Answers to the 1971 Station picture above:

A. Trangie NSW Fire & Rescue 465 Station (Opened February 1971 + new brigade established)

B. Fire and Rescue NSW Station 286 Eden (Opened September 1971 + new brigade established, new station 2019)

C. Fire and Rescue NSW Station 032 Mt Druitt (Opened January 1971 + new brigade established, new station 2018)

D. Fire and Rescue NSW Station 251 Cardiff (Opened April-May 1971 + first permanent fire brigade, new station 1971)

E. Fire & Rescue NSW Station 245 Budgewoi (Opened May 1971 + new brigade established)

F. Fire and Rescue NSW Station 470 Toukley (Opened June 1971 + new brigade established)

G. Fire and Rescue NSW Station 316 Goonellabah (Opened September 1971 with staff transferred from Lismore Fire Station)

J. Fire and Rescue NSW Station 063 Blacktown (opened June-July 1971, new station 1997)


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