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Chinese history in the district of Harden Murrumburrah

Written by: The Hilltops Phoenix

Harden Murrumburrah Museum

While it may seem that the Harden Murrumburrah Museum has always been part of the landscape this is not the case. The Harden Murrumburrah Historical Society started in 1970 and members used to meet in the Municipal Council Chambers. The move to its current location in the early 1970s, the former School of the Arts building (circa 1912) on 203-204 Albury Street, couldn’t have been more welcome, the Museum has a most impressive collection.

There is literally something for everyone here. Major collections include military, railway, blacksmith, pharmaceutical, and the gold rush. Speaking of the latter, Robyn Atherton, The President of the Historical Society has completed extensive research on the Chinese people in the district. Her book, “They Were More Than Just Gold Diggers: the Chinese of Murrumburrah and Surrounding Districts 1860s - 1960s” (2010 & 2011), was compiled from newspaper reports, oral histories and archived records. The Museum houses copies of marriage and death certificates of Chinese people and Sequestration documents of former Chinese storekeepers that informed Robyn’s research, and are available for all to review.

Chinese people might have arrived in the Hilltops region seeking their fortunes in gold, but their contribution to our communities extended long after gold seams ran dry. The nearby Chinese section of the Harden Murrumburrah Cemetery is the burial site of at least 21 Chinese men aged from 39 – 85, who died between 1881 and 1925. Their occupations included vegetable gardeners, cooks, storekeepers, miners, labourers, skin buyers and vegetable hawkers. Over the past decade the local government has renovated the Chinese Cemetery adding a red pavilion, a red incense burner, a small red arch and decorative fencing. The Murrumburrah Harden Historical Society, with the help of volunteers, was instrumental in securing funding for this enterprise. The society secured the restoration of the headstones as required by local stonemason Matthew Prosser.

It is recommended that you pay a visit to the Harden Murrumburrah Museum to view the small collection of Chinese artifacts, documents and books as well. Include a visit to the Chinese Section of the nearby cemetery. Wandering around the cemetery listening to the call of magpies gives rise to thoughts about the Chinese immigrant experience in Australia and the strength of cultural ties.

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