Interpreting the Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins

Posted by barbara on February 13, 2013


The ruins of the Reefer Battery on Adelong Creek, Adelong, southern NSW


Making sense of a complex heritage site

The historic ruins of one of the most efficient gold crushing and saving 'factory' of its day, Adelong's Reefer Battery, lie open to the elements, including the periodic ravages of flood events. 

For a cultural heritage interpreter, trying to make sense of what was happening at this site during the 1800s and early 1900s is complicated by the complexity of the gold ore crushing and saving process in the first instance.

As with any factory complex, ongoing upgrades to both the superstructure of the crushing mill and the equipment it sheltered were an added obstacle to unlocking the significance of the stone foundations. Just to give one example, the Reefer Battery was powered by one water wheel when it opened for business in 1870 but in 1882 a second upper water wheel was installed, requiring modification to the site and the addition of a second water race.

Throughout the prolonged operation of the crushing mill, its owners were constantly on the lookout for new and improved ways of extracting every last speck of gold from the gold bearing quartz ore carted to its or chutes.

Interpreting what happened and where

The easiest way to interpret such a convoluted and fluid heritage ruin is to rely on a mix of images and wording to 'put the meat on the bone' so to speak of the surviving stonework.

In the lead up to the design process, interpretive tasks included assessing the available pictorial record of photos and paintings of the Adelong goldfields, specifically locating 'then and now' images where possible, and drafting captions to accompany the imageses.

The final stage pre design was to sketch up the relationships between the images and interpretive captions to serve as a preliminary guide for the design process. 


The example sketch layout above harnesses the pictorial record and suggests what content might best go where to help visitors understand the workings of the ore crushing ruins.  




Establishing the design elements

Critical components of the design process included sorting out a look for the proposed suite of signs, including establishing a design grid, a colour palette, selection of fonts and so on.

The fully designed sign product is a considerably more sophisticated end product than the preliminary sketch.

To help visitors get an overview of the extent and diversity of gold mining and working operations in the Adelong district, a series of signs were designed to interpret a different aspect of an industry that put Adelong on the map.



Keeping memories alive

As the years pass since the demise of the gold mining and crushing industry, mother nature covers up and obscures the once highly visible scars of the gold mining and crushing industry. That's where the 'living memory' of families with long connections to the Adelong district can become critical to understanding the industry, especially during its final days.


The interpretive sign above explores the era of alluvial gold mining along Adelong Creek between the township of Adelong and the Reefer Battery as well as the hillside mining of the Great Victoria Mine underground lode or reef. 


The interpretive sign above explores gold 'saving' activities downstream of the Reefer Battery, including large scale dredging and sluicing of Adelong Creek, an activity that extended towards the township of Tumblong on the Hume Highway.

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