Queer history and culture will be part of the new WA Museum

Western Australia’s museum is just days away from its revitalised reopening. After hour years of building works the museum has been transformed into a massive new structure that encompasses the heritage listed buildings on the site, while delivering a state of the art new facility.

Chief Executive Officer Alec Coles explains that the new name for the museum is central to how they will approach what is on display from their collections. The Museum has been given the name Boola Bardip which means ‘many stories’ in Noongar language

“The Western Australian Museum espouses the principle of ‘people first’ and that was central to the development of the new WA Museum Boola Bardip: It is a museum developed by the people, with the people, for the people.” Coles said.

“To live up to that principle, we believe there should be many stories, many opinions and many perspectives, shared by many voices. These voices must include those of people who identify as LGBTQI+.

“There are number of ways LGBTQI+ stories are being shared in the new Museum, particularly in the Reflections gallery which carries the tagline ‘Our people, our stories.’ One of its key stories concerns the Connections night club, the longest running gay nightclub in the southern hemisphere. The photos and costumes featured in this story are quite extraordinary.

“When the WA Museum Boola Bardip opens, you will encounter personal stories from all around this State, supported with collections, photographs, audio and multimedia, and told in the words and the voices of the people who have provided them.”

For Connections Nightclub owner Tim Brown it’s an exciting prospect that some of the costumes, posters and paraphernalia from the club’s long history will be part of the new museum.

Brown notes that in recent years there has been a lot of interest in preserving and documenting the history of the LGBTI community, but often photos and materials from the past have not been kept. So having part of Connections history on display at the new museum is an exciting development.

“One of the key galleries is what people do in their leisure time, and it takes you on a journey through the day and into the night time, and we’re there as the longest running club in Northbridge.”

“There’s half a dozen items but what they wanted in particular was a costume, because that’s the sort of stuff people love.” Brown said.

With several shows on every week at the club most costumes are recycled and few are created to last forever, and picking one to symbolise the longevity of the club was a difficult task.

“We didn’t have a huge amount to offer them, but we had a few choices to sort through, eventually we chose the costume that was worn by Mel Beadle when she performed on the swing at the 40th Birthday celebrations.”

The club’s lavish birthday celebration in 2015 features some big production numbers, but one of the most poignant moments came when Beadle appeared on a swing above the audience while the song Home from the musical The Wiz played.

“It was something that summed up who we are,” Brown said.

Brown said that he’s not great lover of musical theatre, so when the team picked the tune to encapsulate the meaning of connections he was slightly indifferent to the choice, but when it rolled on the night it created quite a moment of magic.

“It’s what Connections is about, it is people’s home. On the night when I saw Mel performing on the swing, and the swing has often been used in Connections, well before my time, it was a moment that encapsulated everything, and everyone was looking up at her. It was beautiful, a magic moment,” Brown said.

Also in the presentation are some of the posters and beer coasters that have promoted events at the club, many which came from the collection of designer Malcolm Hughes who passed away in 2017.

“It’s just a wonderful feeling, an incredible honour, that we would be considered in that light,” Brown said.

“For all the ups and downs, and the ephemeral nature of nightclubbing, to think that our club is worthy of inclusion in this permanent collection gives you pause for thought. It’s about the club and our journey, but also the journey the community has been on, how far we’ve come as a people.”

WA Museum Boola Bardip opens with a nine day festival from Saturday 21st November. Find out more at their website

Graeme Watson, the images in this story have not been published previously. 

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