The Bendigo Historical Society Inc.
A local historical society was formed at a public meeting on 19 June 1935, instigated by George Mackay and George Sanders. The main object of forming the society was for
“The preservation of relics and to chronicle events in the history of Bendigo from the time of its foundation, and to record outstanding events in the history of the State and Commonwealth.” (Bendigo Advertiser n.d. 1935).
A constitution and rules were drawn up. This society functioned until September 1936 but folded after eight meetings. Meetings were held in a committee room in the Town Hall.
An attempt was made to re-form the Society in September 1950. A Constitution and Rules for the Society were re-drafted, with meetings again being held at the Town Hall. Bendigo and District Historical Society functioned for one year from November 1950 until November 1951 before going into recess.
The Society called upon its members and extended an invitation to all citizens to attend a meeting and exhibition of historical items at the Town Hall. There are no other records of this group meeting regularly, and the Art Gallery agreed to house the Society’s exhibits until premises could be secured.
A public meeting in September led to a Bendigo and District Branch of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) being formed in November. Membership was paid to the RHSV as country members. The RHSV charter was received in 1959.
Several years later the Bendigo Branch introduced a ‘Social’ membership for members who objected to paying for membership of RHSV. ‘Social’ members did not have voting rights and could not hold office.
The first meeting of the Bendigo Historical Society of Victoria was held on 6 November 1958.
Various premises were used by the Society including rooms at Charing Cross, Trades Hall in View Street, the Mechanics Institute at Eaglehawk, and the Temperance Hall in View Street between 1958 and 1974.
The BHS moved into the historic 1858 Survey Office ‘Dudley House’ in View Street, a building owned by the Bendigo City Council. Here, the Society operated a historical museum.
The incorporation of the Bendigo Historical Society made it independent of the RHSV from 11 May 1990.
Social members did not have voting rights and could not hold office until this was resolved nine years later in 1999 when the Society adopted the Consumer Affairs Victoria model rules as the Bendigo Historical Society Constitution. This was approved on 4 January 2000.
Prior to the change there were only nine voting members and sixty associate members without voting rights.
The Bendigo City Council requested that the BHS vacate Dudley House while the building was renovated. From 1999 the collection was moved to various storage locations, including sheds at Fortuna Villa, Finn Street Recreation Reserve, two rooms at the Eaglehawk Mechanics Institute and private homes. Some items were stored or displayed by other organisations in Bendigo, such as the Bendigo Art Gallery and the Eaglehawk Court House. After renovations were completed other uses were made of Dudley House. The Society met in a room at the Town Hall and then in a room adjacent to the Library.
Working space for cataloguing was established upstairs in the Goldfields Regional Library, Bendigo. The collection remained in inadequate storage, off-site.
In December 2006, Future Connections Inc. offered the Society space in the Old Bendigo Gaol, The Society’s collection was moved into a secure environment in the de-commissioned Bendigo Gaol. This provided space for sorting and cataloguing work by members and volunteers. In 2007 a Significance Assessment Bendigo Historical Society 2007 was conducted by Lauretta Zilles and in 2008 a Preservation Needs Assessment Bendigo Historical Society 2008 was conducted by Christine and Duncan Rolley.
In May the BHS collection was relocated to a new secure facility in Nolan Street in part of the Bendigo Regional Archive Centre. It provided optimum conditions for storing the historical collection. Large items are stored in four onsite shipping containers.
In May the BHS gained access to Specimen Cottage in Hargreaves Street as a front of house facility. The cottage is owned by the Bendigo Kangan TAFE Institute and is leased through the City of Greater Bendigo. The collection remains in the storage facility at Nolan Street.
The BHS vacated Specimen Cottage during the demolition of the Ted Thompson building on TAFE land behind the Cottages. New Law Courts are to be built on this land. Estimated completion 2022-2023. BHS will not be able to reoccupy the Cottages for several years.