Memories of Millicent explored through placement

PAST REFLECTION: Taking time to reflect on Millicent's history was Madeleine Fewster who has recently completed a two week placement at the Millicent Museum. Picture: CAROLINE HAMMAT

Caroline Hammat

Final year Flinders University student Madeleine Fewster has spent the last two weeks at the Millicent Museum as part of her Creative Writing degree.

When students were tasked with seeking a placement for a core subject of their degree Ms Fewster saw an opportunity to combine this with her minor subjects in history.

“The city museums don’t usually take on placement students but I thought I would try Millicent just in case,” she said.

“Because I am from Millicent I usually come down for the holidays, I thought I would ask the museum and it just worked.

“Everyone in my class was really impressed as many students choose media, marketing or advertising for their placement.”

Initially Ms Fewster spent time following museum volunteers and seeing what jobs need doing in a museum.

“I’ve learned how to use the cataloguing computer to search for things, looked at how things like the costume collection are maintained and learned about how things are displayed” she said.

Originally Ms Fewster planned to write one article inspired by the museum but she soon found her interests were drawn to two different topics.

Introduced to the new Millicent Shell Garden display Ms Fewster started to explore the history of the original site which has been demolished.

Her article about the garden touches on its history and the museum’s efforts to preserve some of that history.

Ms Fewster plans to send the story to the National Trust’s SA Heritage Living magazine to help promote the museum.

“The display is there now and ready to be looked at so I thought it is a good time for people to know about it,” she said.

“It is likely readers, who will have memories of actually going to the Shell Garden, will be pleased to see a little bit of it is still there.”

Ms Fewster also found herself gravitating toward the museum’s collection of 1920s memorabilia which ties in with her interest in Australian history.

“Every time I see something from the ’20s I’m piecing it together in my head and I’m trying to make a bit of an image of what it would have been like to be a person in the 1920s in Millicent.

“What you would have done for fun, where you would have gone shopping or where you would have worked.”

Some of Ms Fewster’s inspiration came from the museum’s Millicent Room and South Eastern Times articles from 100 years ago found on Trove.

“I looked over the front page of the local paper from April 1924 and it had all the train time tables and advertising, it is interesting what that tells us,” she said.

“It tells us a lot about what their life was like and how they had to travel.

“They had motor cars but they also had the horse and cart going on at the same time.

“I’ve been looking at Delzie Mayell’s letters, she was around my age when she was in the 1920s.”

Millicent National Trust Museum committee member Colleen Hammat said the placement was an unusual request for the museum and Madeleine brought in a fresh perspective.

“We had a lamp to try and date that we couldn’t find on the internet, but she would look at it from a different angle.

“She persevered and eventually found the exact lamp online which helped date it to the 1920s.

“Her expertise and the way she approached things showed us what benefit we could get from the internet.

“We were learning at the same time as Madeleine was.”

Ideally Ms Fewster would like to be an author but following the end of her degree she is interested in finding a job which encompasses both her love of writing and history.