About the Museum

The story of Berry Museum begins with the Captain Cook Bicentenary in 1970.

At a Shoalhaven Council meeting, the Berry Chamber of Commerce's representative was asked, "What is Berry going to do to celebrate the Captain Cook Bicentenary?" And so it began.

Local resident, Mary Lidbetter, spoke to the President of the Chamber of Commerce and suggested that it would be fun to dress the shop assistants in long dresses instead of miniskirts (the fashion of the day) and to decorate the shop windows with the type of items that were once sold on that site.

With a home and a shop to run and three children under five, Mary set about the task of coordinating the preparations. The seat outside the newsagent (Waddell's) became Mary's Research Centre. She would watch for an "old entity" and, with a pad and pencil, point to each location in the town and ask what they could remember, getting their reminiscences, along with their parents' and grandparents' stories.

The then locally-produced South Coast Register published the histories Mary had collected, one a week. Later these articles were rewritten and eventually published as a book entitled "Historic Sites of Berry", which has since been updated three times.

When the Bicentenary festival started, the old shop items were borrowed and placed in the appropriate windows. The girls were dressed in long skirts. Hats and gloves were worn in the street. The locals came to see what was happening and, more often than not, would go home and return with some of their own articles for the window displays.

The word spread, the Sydney press arrived in town, together with television cameras. Tour buses arrived from Goulburn full of visitors who wanted to have a look.

At the conclusion of the Bicentenary celebrations, Mary went to return the borrowed items to their owners, but many said, "No, keep them". So now the town needed somewhere to store the items. The Chamber of Commerce called a well-attended meeting to establish a museum, however a representative of Nowra Museum objected, as they were already the Shoalhaven Museum. The rowdy meeting was closed without a resolution.

Another meeting was called by word of mouth – the "Berry Museum" was formed and chemist Lance Sewell came forward with two small rooms at the rear of his shop to be used for the Museum (there was no historical society at this time).

And so the Berry Museum came into being, through the efforts of the residents of Berry who wanted the Museum and who have supported the dedicated group of volunteer members (now the Historical Society) ever since.