The Robert O’Hara Burke Memorial Museum
Originally Built as the Beechworth Athenaeum in 1857, The Burke Museum is one of Australia’s oldest museums and is considered a ‘Museum of Museums’ with its significant collections from the 1800’s and contemporary internally produced and touring exhibitions. After the death of Beechworth's former Superintendant of Police, Robert O'Hara Burke at Coopers Creek in 1861, the Athenaeum was renamed in his honour as The Robert O’Hara Burke Memorial Museum.
Now more commonly known as the Burke Museum, it combines traditional didactic exhibition settings, combined with modern technology and interpretative techniques to bring the visitor a unique perspective on Beechworth’s place in Australian History.
Highlights of the Burke Museum collections include:
- The R.E. Johns Aboriginal Collection. It is one of the oldest and most comprehensive single collections of its type surviving in the 21st Century. The artifacts are considered to be important early examples of weaponry/objects, some in use prior to European contact showing the great skill of the Aboriginal craftsmen using pre-European technologies and materials.
- The Chinese Collection: Reflecting the history of the Chinese mining community in Beechworth from their arrival in the aftermath of the Buckland Riots in 1857. The collection presents their subsequent settlement in Beechworth and involvement in local community affairs in the first half of the 19th century.
- GOLD! The discovery of gold at Beechworth in 1852 dictated the course of history and the dramatic development of the town and surrounding area. The Gold Collection presents the rushes in the area, including Spring Creek, Pennyweight Flat, Woolshed, Nine Mile and Three Mile.
- Natural History Collection: The Burke Museum was established at the height of the period between 1820 and 1870 when the pursuit of scientific knowledge through the collection of specimens taken from nature was most popular. The main elements of this collection are the bird and mammal items from local and regional areas as well as from overseas. The threatened Regent Honeyeater found locally at the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, is one of the important bird specimens of the collection. A rare example of the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger is another highlight of this collection.
- The Kelly Story: Beechworth and the Ned Kelly story are inextricably linked. All four members of the Kelly Gang spent time in Beechworth Gaol. Ned appeared in the Beechworth Courthouse on August 6 1880 on a charge of murder. Ned's mother Ellen also appeared in the Beechworth Court and was held in the Beechworth Gaol for a short time.
The Burke Museum Ned Kelly Collection housed in the Ned Kelly Vault, the old SubTreasury building includes a full set of all four life-sized replicas of the Kelly Gang’s suits of armour and one of the four death masks taken of Ned after his execution. These objects are presented within their local and regional historical context through copies of original documents and photographs that present the life and times of the Kelly Gang.
- The Street of Shops: This 19th century recreation of a Beechworth streetscape is a unique visitor experience that includes a soundscape and a regular program of temporary exhibitions.