Gold Mining Model

Video Transcript

This is one of ten models depicting scenes on the Victorian goldfields in the late 1850s commissioned from Swedish born miner Carl Nordström by the first director of the museum, Professor Frederick McCoy.

The model shows miners working shallow alluvial deposits at a location called Daisy Hill near Maryborough in central Victoria. The model was made in 1858 with Carl Nordström working in the field from detailed first-hand observations using materials readily to hand on the goldfields such as timber from recycled packing crates, plaster of Paris, candle wax and string.

The model was intended to depict typical mining techniques of the period - in this case miners are seeking gold from a shallow alluvial drift found underlying a layer of white pipe clay just above bedrock. In the model, Nordström shows a white stain around the shafts of miners that have reached the pipe clay.

Nordström used his own practical experience as a miner to capture in great detail a variety of different mining equipment. On the hillside, each shaft is equipped with a subtly different design of windlass - from crude structures made of rough bush saplings to finely carpentered models with iron handles forged by blacksmiths. He also shows whips and sheerlegs used as alternative methods of raising dirt from the shafts.

At the top of the hill he shows two shafts with canvas windsails. The windsail funnelled fresh air down a canvas pipe to miners working at the bottom of each shaft.

In the gully on the left-hand side, he shows a sluicing party of about a dozen miners using a technique known as “paddocking” that involved digging all the wash dirt from the surface down to bedrock and shovelling it into a sluice where water diverted from further upstream was used to wash the dirt and recover the gold.

The closeness of all the shafts reflects Victoria’s early mining laws when miners were only allowed a maximum of 12 feet by 12 feet of ground each.

Here Nordström shows miners saving their gold-bearing washdirt - later it would be carried in a sack down to the nearest stream or waterway to be washed in a pan or cradle and recover the gold.

About this Video

Matthew Churchward talks about a favourite object in the Melbourne Story exhibition, Gold Mining Model
Length: 2:24