A new display of old items showcases just how far Parkes water infrastructure has come. The old Water Treatment Plant has been decommissioned, but rather than letting the past be forgotten, some items with heritage value have been retained for a display in the new Water Treatment Plant's lobby.
The heritage items include antique glassware and instruments, old bronze plaques, and the original control panel. A photo series completes the display, providing a window into the past, capturing Parkes' long held challenges with water management and supply.
The photographs date back more than 100 years, the oldest capturing Aldermen D. Geddes and O.J. Howard dressed in suits and hats as they inspect the construction of Beargamil Dam in 1915. Another photograph shows the surprising emergency water measures taken in 1966, where water was literally shipped in. Dubbed "Operation Oasis", the project involved transporting water from Lachlan River via rail tankers to a temporary holding dam on the Southern end of East Street.
The photographic exhibition was curated by local history buffs, June and Lex Weaver, whose passion for the past has seen them collaborate on numerous projects over the years, including co-authoring a book on Sir Henry Parkes.
"We first met when we both worked at the Central West County Council in the 1960s and have been working together ever since," Lex said.
"It took us nearly four months to prepare the display for the Water Treatment Plant as we had to track down better copies of the photos, and then make sure we got the right attribution for each of them," Lex explained.
It was the kind of detective work that they love. "We have always research and collected photographs," June said. "We have a great collection of old photos, we've got a real passion for it, particularly for local photos".
Not only did they source the photos and research the stories behind them, Lex explained that they also framed the photos with bespoke frames they made themselves.
"Since I retired in 1996 I put a lot more time into our hobby. I decided to learn how to frame properly and bought specialist equipment, such as the moulding and matt cutters. We found that a lot of people were interested in what we were doing, and over the years we've made a lot of contacts all around Australia who will contact us if they come across a photo of Parkes."
However, celluloid wasn't the only treasure June and Lex uncovered - they also tracked down the Champion Post's front page story of the old Water Filtration Plant's official opening in 1958. The headline boasts the former treatment plant as "the most modern plant of its kind in the world".
"We had to go to the National Library to get a copy good enough for exhibition," June added, "but it was worth it to have the newspaper story to compliment the photos."
Just shy of 60 years later the official opening of the new Water Treatment Plant claimed the Champion Post's front page, as Parkes Shire Council once again delivered state-of the-art water infrastructure to service its residents.
The original control panel is perhaps the most impressive piece of salvage from the plant. The colossal piece of equipment commands attention, with its imposing size and old fashioned dial gauges a stark contrast to the computer-operated controls for the new plant.
Parkes Shire Council's Technical Manager, Julian Fyfe said: "The control panel speaks of another age, at the very early beginnings of real-time data capture. It's representative of a formative period in Australian water engineering."
"Council is looking to the future with the new water infrastructure, but it's important to value the past and preserve items that show where we have been on the journey."
The heritage display is permanently located at the new Water Treatment Plant on Webb Street. While public access is restricted, interested residents may visit the Water Treatment Plant for the new Recycled Water Scheme Community Information Session on Friday 9 August at 12pm. Light lunch will be provided. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 6861 2305. For more information visit www.parkes.nsw.gov.au