Liza Dale-Hallett and bricklayers referring to photographs of the chimney to ensure accurate reconstruction.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
A chimney from a 19th century homestead destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires is being reconstructed in the Forest Gallery.
The chimney was collected in June from a property on Whittlesea-Kinglake Road. It was one of very few damaged structures remaining, since most were demolished in the first weeks after Black Saturday for safety. With support from the homestead’s owner, Major Singh Gill, the chimney was dismantled one brick at a time by Kinglake Grocon and bricklayer George Firczak. The handmade bricks are being re-laid at the museum as a permanent memorial to the lives and properties lost in the fires.
Liza Dale-Hallett, Senior Curator of Sustainable Futures, is leading the Victorian Bushfires Collection project. The chimney is the largest and most complex item of this collection which also includes fences, signs, Country Fire Authority pamphlets predating the fire, tourism brochures from Marysville and Kinglake, plus items from destroyed houses and bushland. The collection also includes video footage, interviews and personal accounts.
The collection started when affected communities across the state contacted the museum with offers of donations in the days after Black Saturday. “Looking at the museum’s existing collection, it was clear that there was little documentation of past bushfire disasters,” said Liza, who responded immediately to collect the objects, to record the experiences of Victorians and the impact of the fires.
Liza feels the chimney’s natural home is in the Forest Gallery, which provides a broader context of the role of fire for regeneration and how we must adapt to live with fire.
“It will be a hearth, a meeting place, that people can visit for reflection,” she said. “Fire has been a constant in our landscape for millennia. Since white settlement, lone chimneys are a powerful symbol of fire. So we’re connecting immediately to the recent fires, but also to fires across time and place.”
It is hoped that the chimney installation will be completed in the next week.