Despite having increased its visitor attendances each year and returning a surplus each year, the entity once known as The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, or MADE, is in its final throes.
Bank accounts for the entity were closed on Friday, and council employees were engaged in removing the last signage referring to the former museum during the week.
Interim CEO Rebecca MacFarling says the past weeks have been extremely stressful for the few staff who are staying on at whatever the former museum becomes, and the 20 who were made redundant during the closure.
She said one former staff member came in every day for the last month and wept each time.
MADE was defunded by a vote of the City of Ballarat in February 2018. The museum’s annual turnover was approximately $2 million, and visitation numbers reached 68,000 each year, short of the 125,000 expected by council.
Ms MacFarling told The Courier that MADE was always going to struggle, given positions held by sections of the community.
“From the start there were disagreements about the purpose of the site and the nature of the exhibitions. Even the building’s design and construction was controversial.
“It was the victim of long-held and bitter disputes held by people who had entrenched themselves in ideas of what MADE and the building should be.”
Angelique Lush, City of Ballarat director of development and planning, issued the following statement regarding the closure of MADE..
"The transition of the centre to the City of Ballarat has been smooth, aided by the care and attention that the MADE team put into managing the collection throughout the handover period. We've started looking at options for a community consultation group to help us decide how we best tell the Eureka story into the future.
“We'll also be putting out an expression of interest for the operation of the cafe at the centre in the not to distant future. We're working with library staff to bring in research capability, and continue to operate the gift shop, cafe, theatrette, mobile library service, and satellite visitor information kiosk.
“Council takes its responsibility as the custodian of the Eureka story - including the Eureka Flag - very seriously, and will continue to work towards making this the best possible facility for locals and tourists alike.
“We again would like to thank Rebecca Macfarling, the board and former staff of MADE for their contribution to this important part of our history. The centre is still open seven days a week and visitor numbers have been on par with previous years. We encourage people to come out and experience all the centre has to offer, and support us as this new direction unfolds."