MAJOR works to Sovereign Hill’s Gold Museum are under way.
The $5 million project is expected to be ready for visitors around Easter next year, with construction due to be finished by Christmas.
The development will bring the museum’s storage and exhibition space from about 240 square metres to 350 square metres, and includes improved online access.
“It’s a once-in-a-generation investment to do something like this,” Sovereign Hill Museums Association director Tim Sullivan said.
“We’ve been very anxious about it for quite some time, knowing that we would need some increased capacity to manage our collection but also to do things we’ve always wanted to do. It’s very exciting.
“We’ve got a collection of around 100,000 items which makes it one of the biggest in any museum in regional Australia, so it’s very important. And it’s not just about gold but about the heritage of our whole region, and particularly the city of Ballarat.”
The project is funded largely by the state government, which put in $3 million, while the City of Ballarat contributed $500,000, Sovereign Hill $1.4 million and philanthropic sources $100,000.
Major features of the new centre will include a new mezzanine floor, greater storage capacity, new work areas, a secure library of reference material and improved security.
City of Ballarat mayor Mark Harris said that although the developments would help attract more visitors to the region, tourism was not the main reason for the project going ahead.
“I want to be able to take my kids here, I want to be able to enjoy it myself. You are interested in other people’s history, but I think the City of Ballarat’s input into it is around something that’s for us,” he said.
Cr Harris said the project would enable more local heritage items to be displayed.
“The part we haven’t seen enough of is our own collection of heritage objects, of which there are many.”