West Wallsend was a disadvantaged community. Surrounded by bushland, rural landholdings and disused mines Westy was poorly connected to the outside world through both roads and public transport. There was no nearby shopping centre and little local employment. West Wallsend High School struggled with a reputation for being rough. The nearly unchanged rows of miner's cottages, old pubs and shopfronts suggested a place whose moment had passed.
History teacher Brian Hayes founded a small museum at the high school through a course called 'Setting Up A School Museum'. The museum received funding under the Disadvantaged Schools program. It was 1985.
The museum was a collecting institution with a social and educational purpose. Brian enriched his students. He connected people to each other and to their local history. Students set out with tape recorders and asked older locals about the past. They documented and repaired donations and set up displays. Those students still affectionately remember their time working and learning in the museum.
The collection grew, filling two buildings and nearby outside areas. Many local residents contributed to the West Wallsend High School and Community Museum. They volunteered their time and donated items.
In 2018 Lake Macquarie City Council offered to acquire the collection and build it a new home: Sugar Valley Library Museum
We invite you to continue the social and educational purpose of this collection here. We can connect to the past and to each other through these stories. Let's build something enduring together, just like Brian and his students.
This work by Lake Macquarie City Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License