Local military historian Peter Ball (left) hands a cheque for $16,300 to Paul Penno of the Bendigo RSL, as part of a fundraising drive.Related coverage:
Call out to help raise $500,000 for RSLPermit lodged for RSL rejuvenationHAVING dedicated almost two decades to theSoldiers Memorial Institute’s museum, it was fitting that historian Peter Ball was the first person to make a donation to its rejuvenation.
His private donation of $16,300 kicked off a fundraising drive hoping to bring in $500,000 from the Bendigo community.
The rejuvenation project includes a complete refurbishment of the Pall Mall building, and the addition of a two-storey annex to contain pieces of Bendigo’s military history.
Mr Ball was an inaugural member of the RSL’s museum sub-committee, established in 1997.
He said it was always his intention to make a donation when the project looked set to become a reality.
“It was early 2013 when we could see that the project was going to go ahead, so I decided to make a donation,” Mr Ball said.
“It was about 1996 or 1997 when the hall was still being hired out for events like weddings, but that started to go by the wayside.
“We were wondering what to do by that stage, and decided to go down the path of a museum at the memorial.”
An artist’s impression of the upgrade to the Soldiers Memorial Institute on Pall Mall.
When the Passchendaele Barracks Historical Society was relocated from the drill hall on Mollison Street in 1997, it opened up an opportunity for the RSL to trial the Pall Mall building as a museum for their military memorabilia.
The public response was favourable, and the museum was opened in February 1998.
The idea for the $4.2 million upgrade started in 2011 and has now gathered full steam. The City of Greater Bendigo and state government have pledged their financial support for the building.
Mr Ball, a Vietnam War veteran, said the rejuvenation would help to make the RSL’s collections more accessible to the public, while also preserving the original building.
“You only need to look at the original building to see how significant it is for Bendigo –it’s so significant that it needs to be kept in the best condition possible,” he said.
“New technology will be brought in to keep the museum at modern standards.”
His interest in local war history was sparked at a young age, watching his father and uncles participate in World War II.
Mr Ball said interest in Australia’s war history was growing, with an increasing amount of people contacting the RSL to trace their family’s history of service.
The Bendigo District RSL launched its fundraising drive last month, hoping to tap into the community spirit which led to the institute’s construction in the 1920s.
All of the names listed on the structure contributed to its construction.
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