Friday, August 8, 2008
I suppose I've talked here and there about Coal Creek- where I live last year as a caretaker- but I've not really devoted a whole post to it. While I can't say I miss the damp conditions of my little railway masters cottage (it sounds so quaint to call it that!) I certainly do miss being there. Very very much.
To mark the beginning of my selling greeting cards featuring some of the images I took while care taking last year, I have decided to dedicate this post to the unique, the wonderful, the family friend...Coal Creek.
Coal Creek Historical Park was opened in 1974 as a re-creation of a pioneer village deep in the Australian rainforests in the 19th century. The village began as a single heritage building rescued from the township, moved to a 15 hectare spread of blackberries and dried grass, while the small community group who saved it from demolition tried to figure out what to do with it. They decided that a place was needed where unique heritage buildings in the area could be all gathered together -saving them from the wreckers ball and giving future generations a glimpse of the life our pioneers lived.
Over a period of 33 years, Coal Creek grew from a weedy valley of one building to a undulating rainforest and native bush landscape, complete with restored waterways, man-made lake, ancient tree-ferns and towering eucalypt trees. Nestled in the natural beauty are buildings mostly original to the local settlement- a court house, a newspaper printers, a shoe shop, a blacksmith, a pub, a church, a school...
Cared for passionately by small group of dedicated volunteers, the park sadly hit it's profit-peak in 1980, when interest in heritage waned with the paying public. Since then, falls in visitor numbers were just one event that saw the village become what near-enough amounted to a ghost town.
Recent campaigning has finally seen the park receive a considerable local government rescue fund, and the park has begun a transformative emergence from humble, dusty caterpillar to a smartly-pained butterfly. While I cannot deny the restoration is most welcome, there is a part of me that mourns the loss of stillness here. The park is no more a place where time stopped when the clocks did.
During my treasured year as a caretaker I spent many hours wandering the parks grounds long after the newly-beckoned tourist hordes had gone home. Inspired by the time capsule nature of the village's appearance and the aesthetics of the result of funding neglect on old buildings in rainforest climates, I documented some of the more poetically decayed aspects of the park in their last months before their restoration.
With keys to almost every lock I gained access to places most people have never trod- rooms glassed-off like Victorian taxidermy, boxes too-long sleeping in storage and cataloguing rooms with an exclusive 'staff only' guest list. I used this to my advantage as I attempted to capture with my lens what would always be a part of history, but what I knew would never stay the same.
Some day there'll be a book about this place come from my hand. Words and photographs to share the details of my life at Coal Creek, the images I made, the art it inspired and the secrecy of the spiritual experience one must naturally expect from living with what amounts to an entire town of abandoned buildings.
Although life within the curatorial team was never dull, the book will most likely tilt with an emphasis on the 'quiet' times -where the park was closed to the public for renovation, and I lived hours, days and months happily in the company of ghosts.