Rare postcard collection donated to Sovereign Hill's Gold Museum

A COLLECTION of more than 50,000 historic postcards and travel ephemera has been donated to Sovereign Hill’s Gold Museum.

In one of the largest acquisitions in the museum’s history, the collection was handed over by renowned Ballarat-born academic and lifelong collector Doctor John Besemeres at Charlie Napier Hotel on Wednesday. 

The extensive collection is the result of Dr Besemeres’ decades of travel. 

Dr Besemeres said he could still remember when he began to collect the historic postcards.

It was 1987 and he was standing in Dupont Circle, in Washington, when a greeting card caught his eye.

Encased in the card was a historic image of the exact spot where he was standing.

“I tore the image out of the card and stared at it for some time,” he said. 

“It was then I realised how important and unique these snapshots of history were. From that moment, I began to see them everywhere.”

Dr John Besemeres with part of the postcard collection. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Dr John Besemeres with part of the postcard collection. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

He said while some were bought during work trips abroad – including in the United Kingdom, Europe and America – most of the collection was from Australia. 

“It becomes art when it is poignant, nostalgic, bittersweet and something that surpasses the every day,” Dr Besemeres said. 

More than 100 boxes filled with postcards, guidebooks and travel booklets have already been dropped at the museum, with more to come. 

At the core of the collection is the largest range of Ballarat and district postcards held by any museum or archive in Australia, including never before seen cards which date back more than 100 years.

Nestled among the rare treasures are hundreds of images from World War I, the wider goldfields region, a series featuring well-known film and theatre personalities from the 1940s and collection of rare cards painted by English watercolour artist Alfred Robert Quinton. 

Gold Museum manager and curator Roger Trudgeon estimates cataloguing and documentation the collection will take years, but the aim is to make the collection available to the public as it is recorded.

Mr Trudgeon has spent more than 13 years collaborating with Dr Besemeres on the best way to showcase the collection.

It is also hoped the collection will be also be exhibited online. 

“This collection provides a rare opportunity for a regional museum to acquire material of a national significance,” Mr Trudgeon said. 

“It presents unique opportunities for preserving the images of the region and beyond for future generations.

“John’s family connection to Ballarat goes back generations and we are delighted that he has seen fit to entrust his magnificent collection to the museum.”

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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