The Community Heritage Grant program supports local groups to access professional cultural heritage expertise. It provides funding for community organisations to understand the meaning and value of their collections and undertake conservation activities.

In 2021, the volunteers of the ACT Fire Brigade Historical Society were thrilled to receive a Community Heritage Grant to undertake a significance assessment of the Canberra Fire Museum collection.

The 15,000 item-strong collection is the product of extensive volunteer work since 1978 to collect and preserve the organisation’s history. The collection includes a fleet of 22 fire appliances, extensive archives, firefighting equipment, trophies, ephemera, oral histories and uniforms.

A red firefighting vehicle is parked in an indoor parking bay
Merryweather Ladders in the engine bay at Forrest Fire Station, courtesy of the ACT Fire Brigade Historical Society (2021 Community Heritage Grant recipient)

Social history curator Dr Kimberley Webber worked closely with volunteers to unravel the considerable historical, social and technological significance of this complex collection. Society President Wayne Berry was excited at this chance to ‘enlist a museum expert to help us better understand the true value of the collection and work to secure its future’.

Long-time volunteer Ron Hourigan reflected on the opportunities afforded by the Community Heritage Grant program.

‘We know about restoring trucks and we personally know many of the histories but, thanks to this grant, Kimberley’s report allows us to set priorities for caring for the whole collection in the context of the nationally important stories it can tell.'

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Image: Turnout gear in the engine bay, courtesy of the ACT Fire Brigade Historical Society (2021 Community Heritage Grant recipient)