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Woods' Farming and Heritage Museum

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by Kat May (subscribe)
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Published January 22nd 2018
A huge collection from farming and childhood days of old
Woods' Farming and Heritage Museum is located in the small town of Rupanyup, east of Horsham in Victoria's Wimmera district. This is prime agriculture land with the district being home to many farms and industries that support agriculture.

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One of the special themed rooms at Woods Museum. Image by Kat May

The privately owned Woods' Museum reflects the rich heritage of farming generations of the past. It festures a huge collection of every item you can imagine from your childhood with some items dating back to more than 100 years ago. I could not begin to list the categories of items that are housed here in the museum. There would be hundreds of categories of antiques and old wares.

Michael Woods was alone and sitting quietly reading a book with a cup of tea. He had been busy all afternoon with a large bus tour and he looked a little weary. He was soon to lock up but kindly gave me quick mini tour.

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Many old spanners and tools are housed here at Woods Museum. Image by Kat May.

The collection began in the 1980s, started by local Rupanyup brothers Michael and John Woods. Michael told me when I visited the museum a little about how it all started. The brothers grew up on the family farm a little out of town. "Our parents never threw anything away", Michael told me. This is common for people who had lived through the depression era, as goods and materials were hard to come by and no-one had the money to buy what was needed so everything was kept in case it was needed again.

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Vintage Kraft vegemite and cheese spread glasses. Image by Kat May.

As the brothers grew older they started going to cleaning sales and added to the growing family collection at the farm. They would seek items they didn't have or similar items but in different colours, patterns or makes.

Eventually the collection was too large to be housed at the farm and they desperately needed a special place to house it all. So the brothers decided to start a museum and put it all on show. They purchased the land where the museum now is located and built the huge shed which is as big as an aircraft hangar. About 10 years ago they slowly started relocating the collection. In the large main shed there are all the smaller items, along with furniture that needs protection from the weather.

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Alarm clocks were on every bedside table back in the old days. Image by Kat May.

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Oh the fights at the breakfast table, when these cereal toys were hidden in the packets. They are now highly collectable and some very rare. Image by Kat May.

Inside this shed you will find some of the building has been made into smaller rooms to look like small village shops and offices. You can enter the small shop and look stand behind a barrier to look at all the items in that theme such as the medical room, or the printing office.

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The medical themed room. Image by Kat May.

A second shed was built to house the large farm machinery, trucks and vehicles. To give you some idea of the size of the collection, I can tell you they now have over 1000 tractors and over 100 stationary engines. They are not all kept in the museum as the machinery shed is now full.

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A row of vintage tractors in the farm machinery shed. Image by Kat May.

But the collecting did not stop there. Now on his own, Michael Woods needed help with the sorting of the goods into museum displays. Hence the Rupanyup Historical Society was born and members help with the running of the museum and making displays. "Now we have an established home people give us things," Mr Woods told me. Many small private collections are donated to the museum as people can no longer take care for them or move to a smaller home. When a collector has spent so much money and time on building their pieces they want it to go to a good home where it will be appreciated and where others can enjoy looking at them. When I visited they had just finished a week of unpacking donations.

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The new donations of vintage clothes in the room full of tins. Image by Kat May.

One was an assortment of vintage clothing such as dresses, nightgowns and bedjackets. They had also unpacked boxes of tins. The museum volunteers had to build a row of shelving up high all around the walls of one room to display the tins.

As I strolled around these huge sheds I was simply amazed at the amount of things here. Being an avid collector myself I stood coveting some of the items with my nose pressed up against the glass cabinets, and a smile on my face when I knew I had something they don't. But even if you are not a collector there is something here to interest everyone of all ages. Older folks will look back with nostalgia and stories will flow of the old days. Children will be interested to see what an old telephone or a typewriter looked like. It is a wonderful intergenerational outing to explore this museum. The only thing I felt the museum needed was some interpretive signs to explain what items were used for and perhaps the era they were in use.

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Yes, this place goes on and on, so leave enough time to look at it all. Image by Kat May.

You cannot simply turn up at this museum and expect it to be open. The main customers are bus and tour groups who book in advance. Bus groups can also book afternoon tea break which will be catered to and there are bathroom facilities here. For private people or families, if you wish to visit the Woods Museum you will need to telephone in advance and make a time which may well be before or after a bus group has been through. I just happened to amble down the highway and saw the sign out on the road.

As I was browsing, someone else popped to in to plan the coming week's work. And so it goes. A huge collection which can overtake your life has now a life of it's own and as become a community project. As I left I was concerned for the future, and asked this man what would become of it all when he is gone. A selfless Mr Woods said he has prepared everything and the whole lot will be a bequest to the Rupanyup Historical Society. So all these items collected mainly from the Wimmera region over the last 80 years, will continue to have a home here in Rupanyup for a long time to come.
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Why? To learn about our heritage.
When: Only open by appointment
Phone: 08-538 550 36
Where: Horsham Road, Rupanyup
Cost: $10 adults
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