The National Wool Museum launches a virtual collection celebrating Geelong’s heritage. 

Broad. Diverse. Interesting. Virtual. 

The Geelong Heritage Collections encapsulates these words with grace as fifty pieces of the extensive collection are launched onto a digital platform. The project accelerated by the pandemic is a key pillar to the City of Greater Geelong’s 2018-2023 creative strategy. 

A virtual experience of Geelong Heritage Collections was officially launched on April 25th 2020, in line with commemorating the heritage of the ANZACs within Geelong. This experience was to encourage people to pay their respects through learning more about the war monuments and memorials scattered throughout the area whilst also following Victoria’s Stay-At-Home restrictions.

Luke Keogh, a senior curator at the National Wool Museum, was the lead on this project and called it “exciting”. 

“It’s an evolving approach,” Luke says, “the website we did was a great way to showcase our collection in a different way and engage our audiences.”

“People are able to experience the Geelong Heritage Collection in a way they have never been able to before,

We chose 50 items that would showcase the diversity of our heritage and get people interested in it.” 

Geelong Heritage Collection currently features the three integral themes; Wool, War and Work which help showcase Geelong’s important place throughout Australian history. It highlights Geelong as a city of collectors and with over 12,000 pieces of rich and diverse heritage, the digital collection only captures a small part of it.    

The exhibition features new pieces such as the Ceremonial Hunting Grounds in the You Yangs by Stanley Couzens which was only acquired in the last year and special pieces such as the Navy Postcard of Charles Tugg Wilson. This collection has allowed these heritage pieces to be documented and get unprecedented exposure from audiences across the globe.

“The space and (our) way of thinking will rapidly change as you start to unfold the possibilities,” Luke says. 

“Museum audiences worldwide have jumped into this digital space, and the digital collections will become an important and ongoing part of the museum’s business.”

The National Wool Museum and Geelong Heritage Collection stands on a stage with the likes of the National Gallery Victoria and Melbourne Museum where it thrives in grabbing the attention of dedicated fans, tourists and residents of Geelong and Regional Victoria. 

With a bigger reach in audience the National Wool Museum hopes to help residents engage with the deep and rich history of Geelong in their own way. Users of the site are able to steer in their own direction, guided by interests and not restricted by physical walls. In essence, you can explore as you like and learn what you wish about Geelong’s heritage. 

“In regional and smaller cities, we have closer interactions with our history and closer interactions with our museum,” Luke says, “the website allows for greater engagement with the audience but the audience also becomes a part of the curatorial side.”

As more people engage with the Geelong Heritage Collection online, it provides curators such as Luke Keogh with insight into what the community wants to see, where they want to see it and how they want to be able to access it. The digital aspect of the National Wool Museum allows for the curators to create changing and dynamic spaces, and explore other themes driven by audience interactions. Geelong residents have already expressed their gratitude for a new way to view the museum and are hoping to see more content in the future.  

“The Geelong Heritage Collection website has changed my way of thinking about the possibilities of what we could,” Luke says, “when developing a digital collection, you are still curating an exhibition but some of the boundaries you have get suspended and you can do different things.” 

Since the launch of the collection, many residents have used the site and have called it a beautiful and educational experience of Geelong’s rich history.  The National Wool Museum also launched a digital exhibition of the We The Makers biannual festival in June due to the current foot traffic restrictions. 

The City of Greater Geelong hopes to continue the addition of virtual and digital experiences to their creative outlets in the coming years. The National Wool Museum invites you to visit the Geelong Heritage Collections and drop them an email about what you would like to see next.