A delegation from the National Museum in Canberra visited Goulburn Weir in June to gather inspiration and ideas for an exciting new display set to open at the museum in 2020.
The museum has one of the weir’s original gates, two pier supports and a complete set of lifting gears dating from 1891. These were removed in the 1980s when the dam was rebuilt to modern standards and transported to Canberra by truck about five years ago.
The weir is widely considered an engineering marvel of its time, and even featured on the reverse of Australian half sovereign and ten shilling banknotes from 1913 until 1933. The weir is Australia’s oldest major irrigation structure.
The weir’s historical pieces will form part of the new display, which will run for 15 years once open as part of a ‘water gallery’ area.
The delegation was led by Gallery Development Project Curator George Main who said the visitors were keen to see the features of the weir first-hand, both historical and modern.
“We’ll be looking at how human life has intersected with our waterways, and how they are significant culturally and ecologically.
“And we'd be grateful for the opportunity to talk with a GMW staff member about the different sorts of allocations - irrigation and environmental - and the management issues around all that.
“It’s an exciting stage of the project where we start of visualise the experience in the gallery, so being able to introduce the designers to the weir itself to think about how the infrastructure is still working effectively and working within our changing contexts and demands,” he said.
The museum will try to give future visitors a sense of what the weir is like and was like when it was first built. Mr Main said museum engineers had been assessing the floor loadings and weight of the new display so that it could be installed safely. It is set to be the largest object in the exhibition.
Managing Director Pat Lennon thanked the GMW staff involved in hosting the visitors – namely Paul Borbely, Jason Shaw, Scott Wikman and Board Member Pat McNamara.
The delegation also visited Barmah Forest while in the region to consider the same infrastructure working to deliver environmental flows.
The interest from Canberra is not the first time the weir has made headlines in recent months. In late 2017 the weir was awarded international heritage status. It was recognised at a conference in Mexico City, where delegates to the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) gathered for a triennial meeting.
The recognition placed the weir alongside structures as famous as the Aswan Dam in Egypt – bigger than anything the word had ever seen when initially completed in 1901 – and next to the weirs and canals in China that have served civilisations for a thousand years or more.