Darryl Cooper loves his job as curator of the Historic Village Herberton, from reaching back in time to solving mysteries to meeting the thousands of people who come through its well-worn doors.
You are the Curator at the Historic Village Herberton, tell me more about this role? What does it entail? The main responsibility is the setting up and maintenance of the village displays. I work closely with our building team in creating infrastructure to house our exhibits. I set up displays in a way that I feel will be attractive to visitors and write interpretation material for each display area. This entails a lot of research.
Would you describe the work that you do as “art”? That is, making sure things are staged and appealing for people to view and enjoy? Not sure if you would call it art, but it is necessary that the displays appeal to the senses. It’s nice for people to get up close to see our exhibits and we don’t like to have everything locked away behind wire and glass. The information boards allow people a learning experience, but you need to strike a balance between not enough information and too much technical detail. We have to cater for a wide range of interests.
Do you have a favourite item in the collection, and if so why?
Not any particular item, but I do like the blacksmith shop. I like the tools that were used by craftsmen of a hundred years ago. The anvils and forges are things of beauty and function, and they remind me of a simpler time, when things were made with quality in mind. I think about the people, no longer with us, who made those tools.
I also like our second-hand shop where visitors can admire items from the not too distant past and explain to their children the part those things played in their lives. Then there is the toyshop, it’s interesting for visitors to see the things that kept children amused before the advent of the X-box and computer games.
Are there any items that need more care and attention than others?
Yes. The reading room must be popular because I have to constantly put the books back where they belong. We allow people to read the old Women’s Weekly and motoring magazines, some over 100 years old. But it would be nice if they were put back in their correct place! The schoolroom also needs attention, as visitors like to sit in the desks and pretend to do the work on the blackboards. It can get a little untidy at times.
Does the climate in Herberton work in your favour for the preservation of older / fragile objects? Generally, yes. We do not have the same humidity as the coastal areas and some of the wetter Tableland towns. We have the toyshop fitted with climate control to protect the fragile nature of celluloid dolls.
What is it you love most about your job?
I like the immersion in historical things. I get to appreciate items from years gone by when things were made to last. It is sometimes a challenge to find out about exhibits that are something of a mystery. Internet forums are a great help in that regard. I also like the contact with visitors, especially in my other role as Village Blacksmith. It is nice to be keeping a traditional craft alive.