June 9, 2022

A very Mullum museum

How does a region best celebrate history? Mullumbimby is a town where contrasts come together in all-sorts of delightful ways.

Back in the 1970s, hippies arrived in a town dominated by farmers. These days, social media influencers are tempered in their extremes by the genuine down-to-earth nature of the town that dubs itself the ‘Biggest Little Town in Australia’.

So, it makes perfect sense that the town’s museum is a melting pot of histories and cultures.

The museum is housed in the town’s old post-office building, moved from its original location to a picturesque spot across the causeway from the Mullum Community Gardens.

The post-office vibe is fun, with mailbags and pigeonholes greeting you inside the front door. I’m told that one of the post-office staff featured in the large photo on display still pops into the museum from time to time to say hello.

There’s a section dedicated to the counterculture hippies who came for the Aquarius Festival in 1973 and stayed for the opportunity to live their communal living ideals.

This is balanced by a strong focus – in the shed next door – on the region’s historical industries of bananas, timber and dairy.

Schooling, medicine, household life and clothing are all covered, as are the Indigenous custodians of the land.

Like all good museums, there is relevance to current day life. The exhibit about the now-closed train line that ran from Casino to Murwillumbah, via Byron Bay and Mullumbimby, until its closure in 2004 is helpful context for the current debate about whether the line should reopen or if the track should be converted to a cycle rail-trail.

You can make up your own mind on the issue but it is certainly enlightening to hear that, even in its heyday, it was dubbed the ‘train from nowhere to nowhere’.

The Mullumbimby Museum is run by the Brunswick Valley Historical Society. Because it is therefore focussed on the valleys surrounding the Brunswick River, the museum doesn’t include the township of Byron Bay. I’m told that comes as a surprise to some visitors but I think it adds to its vibe of being a very Mullum museum.

As the Mullum Museum is volunteer-run (newbies always welcome!), opening hours are: Tuesdays and Fridays 10am-midday and Market Saturdays (3rd Sat of each month) from 8am-2pm. See www.mullumbimbymuseum.org.au

Vivienne Pearson is a freelance writer whose writing lives at viviennepearson.com

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