Down the Mall | Let’s court favour for a new museum

WORD PLAY: You have to love a clever ad. This one is outside a Melbourne hotel next to the front door. Someone’s got too much time on their hands.

WORD PLAY: You have to love a clever ad. This one is outside a Melbourne hotel next to the front door. Someone’s got too much time on their hands.

Today, Down The Mall wants to take a new view down the mall.

Pall Mall. In splendid news this week, Courts Services Victoria announced that the Bendigo TAFE CBD site had been picked as (hopefully) the place for a new 10-court development.

This follows many years of lawyers, judges, police and the like pointing out how unsafe and unsuitable the old Bendigo law courts had become.

This opens up a very interesting question for our dear old Mall – what would we do with the old building? It’s beautiful style and grace have acted as a heritage centrepiece for this city for more than a century, and DTM now wants to mention the “unmentionable”.

Reports of the TAFE site plans merely mention that the future of the old courts was being negotiated, but not with whom or to what end.

Here we go. Turn it into that one thing that Bendigo has always lacked, a museum of Bendigo. The building even looks like a grand museum.

The idea has been quietly muttered out of the corners of people’s mouths for at least 15 years that we know of, but every time the subject has reared its ugly head in public, governments of all levels go into cold sweats and change the subject.

Oh, the cost. The cost. And the on-going expenses, and umm, the building probably has root rot or (aha!) people don’t go to museums.

Well, not here, anyway, because we don’t have one!

We have some wonderful museums offering insights into specific elements of Bendigo, such as the Golden Dragon Chinese Museum, the Central Deborah Gold Mine, the Tramways, the Post Office displays but not one where people can drop in and get some feeling about what Bendigo is, what it used to be and WHY it is.

Another supporting argument. The building has a strong Heritage Victoria registration and is described as being in the style of “an Italianate palazzo” or “French Second Empire.” It could never be knocked down or significantly changed.

Bendigo newspaper reports from 1896 show it was built after years of public agitation.