Museum

Reporter: Mark Gibson

You might've noticed the Welshpool warehouse, but I bet you don't know what's inside. A treasure trove of the weird and wonderful.. pretty much Western Australia's entire history, but sadly it's all stored away from public view. W.A. Museum chief Alec Coles took us on a warehouse tour... he's campaigning for a new museum, to show off some of the four million items that are stored here."We've been not building the new museum for the last 15 years, we've really got to take hold of it now and we really need to build commitment."

Everywhere you look, so many stories. An old cash register from Boans in the city, this was the top of the range colour TV back in 1975, horses from a merry-go-round down in Fremantle in the 1920s and imagine doing your washing in this, well this is how they did it in the early 1960s.And that's just the beginning, there is the bike cycling legend Hubert Opperman rode from Perth to Sydney in 1937. A home made canoe, built 100 years ago, was paddled on the Swan River at Guidford and there's the country's biggest collection of childhood history.

Stephen Anstey says "This is a fantastic home made rocking horse made by Warrant Officer Ray Fraser during the second world war for his 4 year old daughter." It was made out of wood from U.S. Navy packing crates. "A fantastic example of making do in times of shortage." Well welcome to the Anthropology department's Aboriginal Cultures collections."This collection dates back to 1830 a vital part of our indigenous culture valuable artwork drawers of boab nuts wooden sandals worn across the desert a hundred years ago.

Then, there are living things. "Jane what on earth is this? It's a spicule which is a glass rod made by a deep sea sponge." Found by a West Australian oil rig worker deep beneath the South China sea and carefully brought to the surface. "This is a bit of the sponge body here and it's secreted over hundreds of years this anchoring rod." No-one quite knows how, or why. "The biggest one in the world has been reported at one metre long.. -Well that's got to be about 2 metres because it's taller than me. Yeah."

There's the world's biggest conch shell.. and a new species of sea star, found off Broome. Alec Coles says "We've got an incredible number of species here that are actually the first ones ever named of their kind." These cupboards alone are filled with rare and exotic bees.. eight hundred different species in all. "Terry, why the fascination with bees? -Because they're such busy animals leading such complex lives and they're just so intriguing and so full of surprises." Surprises like this rare fella. "This is the only specimen known of this particular native bee." Found on Rottnest Island in 1938. "And it hasn't been seen since."

"We have some beautiful green specimens from south western Australia, some lovely yellow banded ones from our desert regions and just about every other colour in the spectrum." Inside the plastic bags is probably the biggest reason Perth's crying out for a new museum. Alec Coles says "It's not inappropriate that we're standing here next to the blue whale skull which is surely the most iconic object from the old museum site." Here's what the the 24 metre skeleton used to look like in all its glory. But, like the football stadium and the foreshore development, don't expect things to move quickly.. the museum boss says a new building is still 7 years away. "And I know for those people who have been waiting for the last 15 years that's very frustrating, but I think that's where we are and that's what we have to deal with."

Many of these treasures will find a home in the new Western Australian Museum when it's built. The Museum is submitting its business case in the next few months and is hopeful of securing government support.Of course it could take several years for the completion of the new Museum, so in the meantime many of these items may well be seen in the Museum's temporary exhibition program and on the Museum's new dynamic website www.museum.wa.gov.au