Stories of central Victorian soldiers went back on display in one of Bendigo’s most iconic buildings on Thursday morning.
The restored and renovated Bendigo Soldiers’ Memorial Institute and Military Museum was officially opened with a ceremony in Lansell Gardens.
With the ribbons cut and the doors open, many people were eager to take a look at the new look institute.
Bendigo and District RSL president Peter Swandale said the $5.1 million project had been a two-year process of revitalisation with support from local, state and federal branches of government as well as the RSL.
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“Buildings like this get old and we have to spend money on them. It was identified in 2013 that this building needed an update,” he said.
“There was lots of works included (in the project)... but it's about modernisation and enabling us to redo the museum and bring it to 21st century.
“I might be biased but believe it is one of the best (military museums) in Victoria.”
Mr Swandale said the museum would continue to fundraise and apply for grants to help maintain the building and curate new displays.
“There will be ongoing exhibitions, meaning (the display) is going to change. We have a lot of artifacts and we want to show those artifacts over time,” he said.
“It’s about honouring those who served. It's exciting but it's also a very sombre moment to look through the history of it. Some of it is quite sad but it's important to tell our stories.”
Museum curator Kirsten McKay said she was thrilled that the curating team could finally welcome visitors into the new-look institute.
“It’s been a long process over many years not only with the building works but also the collection,” she said.
“I came in during the pack-up stage and worked with the volunteer curators to curate and research the collection to develop the displays.
“The last few weeks of putting the display together, seeing it evolve and to have it presented makes us very proud.
Ms McKay said the artifacts and pieces in the collection would number in the thousands and that not all of them could be on display at once.
“The most challenging part has been having to really undertake a lot in a short period of time,” she said.
“I'm told we're the third largest memorial museum in public hands in Australia, so we feel there is a lot to offer and to profile for central Victoria.”
City of Greater Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke said the preservation of heritage and history set Bendigo apart from other cities.
“We do look after our heritage buildings and (the institute) was in quite bad repair for various reasons. To see it come back the way it has is beautiful,” she said.
“To see the boards of remembrance up again brings (a lot of emotion) back especially after Remembrance Day at the weekend.”
Major Craig Montgomery, who manages the Australian Army Tank Museum in Puckapunyal, said the quick glimpses of displays he had seen inside the Bendigo Soliders’ Memorial Institute were magnificent.
“It looks spectacular, they have done an amazing job. The presentation and interpretation is fantastic,” he said.
“The displays in there are fascinating and, at the same time, there is so much information. It's magnificent.
“The public and visitors that come to museum will benefit from it.”
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