Classic Car Enthusiasts Visit UNE’s Natural History Museum

UNE welcomed members of The Classic & Specialist Car Club of Northern NSW recently when they visited UNE’s Natural History Museum.  Club member, Don Hewitt, recounted their visit in the club’s newsletter “New England Wheels”.

By coincidence, Don worked at UNE from 1957 until 1995. Don fondly remembers his time at UNE and honestly says he enjoyed every day at UNE as he moved up the technical scale from Lab Assistant to Lab Manager in various Science Departments. He was also the first manager of Newholme when it was purchased as a field laboratory in 1973. It was wonderful to have Don return for a visit with the club.

We share the story of their visit below.


Wednesday 5th February 2020 was the day for 25 car clubbers in 15 cars to assemble at the Tourist Information Centre to travel to the University. Our first stop was at Drummond College where we enjoyed morning tea on a grassy lawn while our organiser Denise distributed parking passes. Soon we were guided to the Western Carpark and then to the Natural History Museum.

As we entered the building there were sounds of “wow” and “gosh” as we took first glances at the displays that were before us. Perhaps it was the False Killer Whale skeleton which was found at Seal Rocks or the skeleton of the Testudo turtle that took our attention.

Soon we met with Dr. Jean Holley who guided us to the display cabinets and described the exciting animals, insects, aquatic specimens and reptiles that were preserved in lifelike detail. We were amazed at the skill of the taxidermists, the technicians and those involved in the preparation of the thousands of specimens that are professionally presented to educate students and the public. The work has been undertaken by generations of professionals. The displays bring together the skills of specimen collectors, patient and dedicated scientists who identify and classify species and multi-skilled crafts persons who manufacture framework to appropriately display the lifelike animals.

Dr. Jean then ushered the group to a small lecture theatre where she further explained the purpose of the museum and its value as a place to bring the University’s assets of art, rocks and antiquities into a purpose built building for prosperity.

After a short break, to continue viewing the amazing displays, we took our places in the lecture theatre where we were introduced to Dr. Russell Bicknell. Dr. Russell told us of his PhD work in studying the “Horseshoe Crab”. Many of us were not aware of the tedious work that it takes to describe any given specimen and as Dr. Russell told us of the places in the world as diverse as the North of England and Russia which are inhabited by the Horseshoe Crab, we began to appreciate the cooperative work that occurs between scientists without regard to political and geographic boundaries. Surprisingly many questions were forthcoming from the car clubbers the first of which was “can you eat them”? Dr. Russell showed us the bottom side of his demonstration model and it’s very bony structure which answered the question.

We came away from the UNE Natural Museum with a realisation of how lucky we are in Armidale to have easy access to places such as the museum and people like Dr. Jean and Dr. Russell who are willing to share their time to provide us with knowledge and appreciation of the world we live in.

Thank you to Dr. Jean and Dr. Russell and to Club member Denise for an interesting outing.

We adjourned to the Grand Hotel to recount our experiences.

Don Hewitt

– Photos courtesy of Don Hewitt