Kununurra, 3,300 km from Perth (by road), was gazetted a town in February 1961 as the new town for the Ord River Irrigation Project. The Kununurra Historical Society was inaugurated on June 5th 1986, while the Kununurra Museum was first started during the early 1990s in one of the first few houses built in Kununurra. Originally the home of Resident Engineer for the Public Works Department during construction of the Ord River Diversion Dam (1960-1963), the late Mr Roy A. Hamilton. Roy was a founding member of the Society. Ironically he was Honorary Secretary when the original museum building was destroyed by fire in in 1999, then helped oversee construction of our current purpose-built archive and museum facility (pictured above) on the same site.
In 1996 the Society received a National Library of Australia (NLA) Community Heritage Grant, with a preservation short course at the NLA in Canberra, where the writer was shown ‘the Rolls Royce Method’ (expensive Mylar) and ‘the Volkswagen Method’ (inexpensive oven bags made of ‘archive safe’ polypropylene) for paper preservation. Once back in Kununurra the KHS archivist at the time, Margaret Lawson, ran with the idea, placing most of our paper archival collection items in oven bags then boxes.
When an electrical fire hit the building in 1999 a combination of ‘the Volkswagen Method’ and pure luck meant very little of the collection was damaged. With a centenary of Federation grant and other grant funding, as well as support from the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley (SWEK), a new purpose-built archive and museum facility was opened in 2001 and has become a vibrant hub for tourists and the local community. We have around 2,000 images online and 15,000 images in a date-sorted slide-show, which run on multiple (6 to 8) screens in the museum, each on a different year, revolving forward in a loop. We have around 120 members and meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month, and were proud to win the RWAHS Merit Award in 2016.