Awaken the Dragon Appeal

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As Manager and Senior Curator of the Gold Museum, my chief joy is the extraordinary collection with which I am privileged to work with.  The collection, owned and managed by the Sovereign Hill Museums Association, has so many strengths that it is sometimes hard to know where to start.

Ballarat dragon (Loong), circa 1897

Ballarat dragon (Loong), circa 1897

Most days, since coming to work for the Gold Museum, I pass by a large crate containing the head of the Chinese dragon, our Ballarat Loong.  A stroll through the Gold Museum collection store involves walking past, under, or around, huge multi-hued Chinese temple boards.

A watchful Chinese guardian Lion, perched on a high shelf, has observed many changes in the store; I am sure he was pleased when the organisation employed its first ever Collections Manager three years ago.

Ballarat is now one of only four known sites where a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) dragon survives in whole or part.  The processional assemblage, featuring Loong and the Lion, is designated a priority for conservation treatment. Unfortunately conservation can be a lengthy and expensive process, especially when working with objects as significant and complex as the processional assemblage.

We could have made a decision to seek the necessary funds, undertaken the appropriate conservation work, and then created an exhibition, a process that might have taken years.

Instead we decided that the collection had already been in store too long.  This was an important Ballarat Chinese story, in fact simply an important Ballarat story; and a story that needed to be told sooner rather than later. After all, this was a story 120 years in the making.

And so on 4 October, 2017 the Gold Museum opened Re-Awakening the Dragon, an exhibition focusing on this internationally significant Chinese Processional Assemblage, as well as an array of temple boards and material from the Main Road Chinese temple and its Ballarat predecessors including Golden Point.

Chinese Australian Cultural Society of Ballarat launch 'Re-Awakening the Dragon' at the Gold Museum (Photographer: Leigh McKinnon)

Chinese Australian Cultural Society of Ballarat launch ‘Re-Awakening the Dragon’ at the Gold Museum (Photographer: Leigh McKinnon)

In presenting the exhibition, we hoped that the Ballarat community would be as excited about these objects as we were, providing a launch point for the necessary fund-raising.

With the exhibition now open, the Awaken the Dragon Appeal is now in full swing, emulating the work of the Ballarat Chinese community some 120 years ago when they carried out their own fundraising campaign to purchase the processional assemblage in readiness for Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Dragon scales, circa 1897

Dragon scales, circa 1897

How can you help?

The Sovereign Hill Museums Association’s collection has been greatly enriched by the generosity of donors and supporters since it was founded in 1970. To support this important conservation and preservation work, we are asking you to consider donating to the Awaken the Dragon Appeal.

Every donation over $2.00 is tax deductive and will be placed in a special account created for Awaken the Dragon Appeal.

If you share our passion for history and collections, please consider donating to assist us in caring for these rare and precious objects.

Written by Michelle Smith, Manager/Senior Curator, Gold Museum – Sovereign Hill Museums Association

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