11 April 2024

Thieves target Batemans Bay heritage museum - twice in as many days

| Sally Hopman
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Man standing in front of wall of photographs damaged by vandals

Honorary president of the Batemans Bay Heritage Museum, Ewan Morrison, said the volunteers and the community at large were devastated by the losses and damage caused by the break-ins. Photo: Supplied.

Priceless artefacts from the Boer War and World War I have been stolen from the Batemans Bay Heritage Museum in two separate break-ins, causing thousands of dollars damage and great distress at the volunteer-run centre.

A volunteer, who had gone into the museum on Easter Monday to collect something, noticed broken glass and that items were missing.

Honorary president of the museum, Ewan Morrison, said after being alerted to the break-in, volunteers worked tirelessly to clean up the broken glass and damage left on Monday and re-secure the site.

“But they came back on the Wednesday,” Mr Morrison said, “and did more damage.”

It is not the first time the museum, which opened in 1982, has allegedly been broken into.

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During the 2019-2020 bushfires, a thief allegedly broke into the museum and loaded up artefacts, taking them away in the museum’s trailer. Later, there was another alleged theft, with the museum’s replacement trailer loaded up and even more items stolen. A man is scheduled to appear in court later this month in relation to those alleged thefts.

Because the museum is housed in an old wooden building, insurance is too expensive for the volunteer-run group, as it is for its contents because they are so diverse. The collection includes more than 4000 photographs and about 12,000 items all up, most of which have been donated.

“This is what is so distressing,” Mr Morrison said. “Many of these items were given to us, they were entrusted to us to take care of and our volunteers take their role very seriously. These incidents have left us devastated.”

In the Easter weekend theft, the museum’s collections were targeted, with the offender bypassing security measures by cutting padlocks and fences and smashing glass to gain entry.

Mr Morrison said the museum would remain closed this week while repairs were carried out. The damage bill is likely to reach about $2000, funds the museum will have to pay itself – money that was destined to pay its ongoing bills.

“The money we have in the kitty which will have to pay for this is raised from barbecues we hold at Bunnings and from the $7 entry to the museum, things like that,” he said.

“So now we need 400 people to come into the museum, at $7 a head, to help pay for the repairs.

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“Our ordinary running costs for a year are about $20,000 – that’s just to keep the museum running in these heritage-listed buildings.”

Mr Morrison said the museum had more than 20 volunteers who came in weekly to do a variety of jobs, from gardening to admin and maintenance.

“It’s a great outlet for many people just to come in, do a bit of work, meet up with others. But this has upset so many people.”

Mr Morrison, who is in his 10th and final year as honorary president, said he expected the museum to reopen next week after repairs had been carried out.

“The museum remains steadfast in its mission to preserve and celebrate the rich history of the region, despite the setbacks caused by these unfortunate events,” he said. “The museum extends its gratitude to the community for their continued support during this challenging time.

He said police were investigating the break-ins with an investigation underway, including the examination of security camera footage, and urged anyone with information to call Batemans Bay police.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on About Regional.

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