Connected Cultural Experiences

Improving access to Wyndham’s cultural history

Wyndham’s Historical Society, established in 1987, helps collect, preserve and maintain materials and artefacts relevant to the diverse history of the area. The Society engages with the local community through the local history museum, which is operated by volunteers.

Through this grant, Wyndham Historical Society was able to improve the local history museum’s facilities, increasing community access to the collection.

Grant Goal

Towards building works to increase community access to the diverse cultural history of the Wyndham area.


Wyndham Historical Society (Incorporated)

Year Funded


Total project cost




Funder Contribution




  • Eight new, and six expanded displays created space to provide a more comprehensive and cohesive interpretation around local Indigenous history.
  • Improved visitor experience, with the additional space providing ease of access and interpretation.
  • Increased disability access to the venue, with doorways previously too narrow for wheelchair access widened.
  • New capacity to host touring exhibitions.
What worked?
  • The project was a catalyst for the Museum Committee and wider community to explore ideas for existing materials in the Museum’s collection. This resulted in new ideas for future displays being generated.
  • The creation of video content to engage with school students outside of attendance at the Museum.
  • Widening of doorways to increased accessibility for community members and enable restoration of materials that previously didn’t fit through the doors.
Key challenges
  • The extension had impacts on building drainage which became blocked during wet season downpours and required additional fixes.
  • Natural light was lost from internal sections of the museum, requiring the addition of a sky light.
  • Construction delays due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Underestimation of the time that planning and consultation would take.


Grassroots community initiatives play an important role in recording and exploring local heritage, and responding to the interest and priorities of its members [1]. A shared and identifiable history, culture or landscape are essential in the development of characteristics that lay the foundation for a sense of community identity [2]. Local community archives are often organised by volunteers, and document stories and narratives that do not form part of traditional institutional archives [3]. In rural areas, these collections can play a key role in shaping community identity and resilience while helping to maintain a connection to historical regional events [3].

The local history museum, operated by the Wyndham Historical Society, had been highly valued by the local community for many years, as the only publicly available archive in the area. However, the museum was not large enough to display all the items in its collection, which limited the possibilities for public engagement.



To improve community engagement with the region’s local history, Wyndham Historical Society sought to increase the space available for exhibits and provide an opportunity for visitors to engage with film and video archives.

With the Lotterywest grant, funding from the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, in addition to their own resources, the Society was able to expand the museum’s floor space by 28 percent by enclosing the back veranda of the existing building.

With the additional space, the organisation was able to enhance the display of its photographic collection, provide meaningful interpretation of Indigenous heritage and culture, showcase film and video archives, and expand the library/reference area to improve access for the public.

These changes were made to improve the visitor experience and enhance the delivery of the Society’s program for school.


8. New Chinese Stores Display
5. New Display Photos Arrive
7. New Boab Nut Carving Display

Impacts and outcomes

The museum has added eight new displays and expanded six other displays. The Society’s work also helped the museum to display around 15 percent more of its photographic collection.

Prior to this expansion, few of the museums’ displays depicted Wyndham history from 1960 onwards. With the additional space available, the Society has begun to address this by developing displays on the impacts of weather, Wyndham Port, and Wyndham in the movies including four filmed between 2011 - 2021.

The museum has been able to provide a more comprehensive and cohesive interpretation around local Indigenous history using the additional space available. This included displaying examples of local Indigenous art from carved boab nuts to paintings, as well as initiating the development of interpretive displays that focus on Indigenous history and culture from 1950 to present.


“Prior to the expansion we really only had room to display an interpretation of post-colonial history from 1886-1940.”

Chris McLachlan, Secretary Wyndham Historical Society

Following the completion of the remodel, the Wyndham Historical Society is continuing to work with local Balanggarra people to develop their stories as part of a contemporary interpretation.

The expanded museum provided an opportunity to host visiting and temporary exhibitions, including the ‘3 Well Known Australians’ exhibition in 2021.

The Society’s expansion of the museum has also improved visitor experience, with the additional space providing ease of access and interpretation. The grant enabled the museum to provide disability access to the venue, widening doorways previously too narrow for wheelchair access.


“All the doorways into the museum were less than 800mm wide so, as well as the problems this caused for disabled patrons, we had been unable to fit any wide display cases or artefacts through the door!”

Chris McLachlan, Secretary Wyndham Historical Society

As a result of the grant, the Society has been able to provide school groups with video resources on various topics. On a recent visit investigating ‘Survival in adversity’, students had an opportunity to view footage pertaining to the 1932 survivors of the lost ‘Atlantis’ seaplane.


What worked

Project allowed the community to reflect on their shared history
The Society’s project provided an opportunity for the museum committee and the wider community to explore and discuss ideas for displays and interpretation. As part of the process, some ideas emerged for completely new displays like natural history. However, they most often involved expanded interpretation of an existing display, which was the case with displays around local Indigenous contemporary history.


“Rather than seeing this project solely as a physical improvement of the museum, the Wyndham Historical Society views its main importance as the opportunity it affords us for long-term interaction with the Wyndham community.”

Chris McLachlan, Secretary Wyndham Historical Society

Key challenges

Building modifications caused unanticipated flow-on effects
Wyndham Historical Society noted that there were a range of unanticipated problems associated with modifications to the building. Enclosing the veranda resulted in a lack of appropriate natural light in the toilets located on the opposite side. A skylight was added to improve visibility, which then led to a leak that also required fixing. The organisation hadn’t realised that the wet season downpours, which had previously run straight through the veranda, became blocked by the new extension, resulting in additional drainage fixes.

COVID-19 restrictions affected volunteer availability
The fit-out of the building took significantly longer than planned because COVID-19 restrictions took a toll on the availability of volunteers, which was restricted for 6 months. The Society underestimated the time that planning and consultation would take.


  1. Flinn, A. (2007). Community Histories, Community Archives: Some Opportunities and Challenges1. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 28(2), 151–176.

  2. Crooke, E. M. (2007). Museums and community: Ideas, issues and challenges. Routledge.

  3. Matusiak, K. K., Schierburg, M., & Bedard, R. (2019). Preserving Cultural Heritage in Rural Areas: The Case of the Park County Local History Archives. IFLA World Library and Information Congress, Belgrade.



Additional links and resources

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  • Wyndham Museum Facebook page

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Western Australian Community Impact Hub acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are based, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation and extends that respect to all the Traditional Owners and Elders of this country. We recognise the significant importance of their cultural heritage, values and beliefs and how these contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of the whole community.