Ben Prior’s Open Air Museum is located in Bayley Street, Coolgardie, in the heart of the the goldfields district of Western Australia. Coolgardie was the site of an initial gold rush in the early 1890s, prior to the Kalgoorlie-Boulder gold rush. This collection was started by Prior in 1961 and is perhaps one of the most unusual museums in Australia. Dedicated to Western Australia’s early explorers and the pioneers of their goldfields; it features the machinery, boilers and mining equipment that was used in the region at the turn of the Century; as well as an assortment of relics from Coolgardie’s boom years. Amongst the collection are the large wagons which were used to transport wealthy prospectors from the Southern Cross mine.
Prior’s unusual collection of relics in his backyard were originally seen to be a rather eclectic and unusual collection by the local Shire Council; but after much interest by tourists and goldfield memorabilia enthusiasts; the Council soon realized that it could be onto a good thing. As a result; the Council, not only supports the existence of Prior’s Museum, but has put historical notices up in Bayley Street and some of the other nearby streets of Coolgardie; to give tourists a guide to the places and buildings of interest, from the past.
Have a wander around, such as I did; and learn about such places as the old Denver City Hotel, or take a short distance drive out to Fly Flat and look at the spot where the first gold nugget was found.
Another reference to Coolgardie you might be familiar with, relates to the “Coolgardie Safe“. This refersto an early refrigeration unit used by old gold prospectors to help keep foodstuffs cool and the terminology is still used by many Australians, in relation to reference of early refrigeration methods. To find out more about this topic, here is a link to a Wikipedia article.