Blackall's innovative sustainable Woolscour lives on

Guest blogger: Chris Peckham, Digital Stories Producer, Blackhall Woolscour Association; with contributions by C. Cottle, Digital Collections Curator, State Library of Queensland

I first went to Blackall Woolscour on my way to record a series of digital stories for the nearby Tambo Telegraph Museum.

At first I had no idea what a Woolscour was nor how significant Queensland's Blackall Woolscour has become. Established in 1908, it’s the only steam powered wool washing shed in the world and has the last steam engine of its kind. The only other engine of the same manufacturer operates London’s Tower Bridge and it’s been converted to electric.

But the thing that gets you the most when you walk through the beautifully restored buildings and fully operational machinery is the quiet. No industrial deafness issues here. The steam engine chugs along peacefully driven by the boiler and Artesian bore water. A testament to Australian ingenuity and an early sustainable industry in action.

I was contacted by the Blackall Woolscour Association to produce two films for their interpretive centre. Our aim was to bring alive the stories and history of this iconic place to share with visitors and online viewers.  The Blackall Woolscour is a stunning piece of heritage that has already been brought to life by volunteers and various generous heritage and council grants. The challenge was to find the early photographic resources to tell its story over more the than 100 years of life it has seen.

We sourced many photographs from the Blackall Woolscour archive but needed more. After searching the Trove website we found many great images held at the John Oxley Library that covered the early years of the scour's history. The JOL supplied high resolution copies of the photographs of the site during its opening and operation.

Using these historic images we are creating two videos that provide context for the Woolscour tours to explain how wool is grown, shorn and scoured; and to tell the role of the Blackall wool scour in the context of the wider wool industry. We have also explored the changes to the fortune of the wool industry over two centuries which led to the closure of the Blackall Woolscour and the subsequent fight for its survival and restoration.

Edited together with HD footage of the Woolscour in its restored glory and interspersed with interview segments from those close to the scour, the stories have truly come alive.

We look forward to sharing the two videos very soon at the Blackall Woolscour and online.

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