Beechworth Courthouse Kelly Trials Project (completed 2024)

  • Project typeExhibition Development
  • Project value$1M ($500K Vic Govt grant)
  • Project scheduleComplete
Beechworth Courthouse1.png

About this project?

Located at the centre of the Beechworth Historic Precinct, the Courthouse is a significant site in Australia’s legal history. The Courthouse played a key role during the Kelly outbreak of 1878-1880, as the location of more than 40 trials and hearings for the Kelly Gang and its sympathisers.

Most significantly, the Courthouse was the site of Ned Kelly’s committal hearing after his arrest at Glenrowan, and the project explores this key event in Australian history. 

It interprets the stories of this period, focussing on the events that took place in the Courthouse and the people who worked there. It also tells the subsequent history of the Courthouse, including its transformation into a heritage site in the late 20th Century. It utilises a combination of traditional museum displays, original artefacts, museum signage and modern projection technologies to allow visitors to step back in time and experience these significant events.

Why was this project undertaken?

This project is a major investment in cultural heritage interpretation and tourism. It is jointly funded by Indigo Shire and the Victorian State Government’s Regional Infrastructure Fund, and is intended to increase cultural heritage tourism to the region. 

The project recognises the significance of the Courthouse within the Historic Precinct and seeks to raise the level of interpretation, ensuring an immersive, authentic and educative experience for all visitors.

The Courthouse is listed on the Victorian State Heritage Register, and the project will work within all relevant heritage protections. Projection technology has been selected for its minimal impact, non-invasive nature. 

The project is the first funded project from the Beechworth Historic Precinct Masterplan Phase 2 – Experience Plan 2022. 

April 2024 Update

We’re excited to announce that the Beechworth Courthouse Kelly Trials Exhibition is set to open on Monday 29 April 2024. 

Following an official invite-only opening in the morning, the exhibition will be open to the public from approximately 2:00pm onwards.

March 2024 Update

Asbestos removal works were successfully completed in December 2023. 

Contractors have been re-engaged to complete the exhibition installation, which is expected to be completed in early April. 

A Ministerial Launch will take place in late April, with an exact date yet to be set.

Kelly Trials Exhibition installation progress cropped square.png

December 2023 Update

Asbestos removal works commenced on Tuesday 12 December and are expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Scaffold set up in interior of historic courthouse

November 2023 Update

Unfortunately, the much-anticipated launch of this exhibition has been delayed due to the discovery of asbestos in the historic building’s ceiling cavity.

A small piece of hazardous material was found in early November, covered by insulation, and Council is currently following all necessary protocols. 

A further update will be provided when further information on the remediation works and a revised date can be identified.

June 2023 Update - Installation Dates set

The historic courthouse will close from the beginning of August to allow for the installation of this exciting exhibition.

The installation will take approximately three months to complete, with the courthouse scheduled to re-open at the end of October.

While the Courthouse is closed, staff and volunteers will be assisting visitors from the Telegraph Station from 10am-4:30pm 7 days a week.

May 2023 Update - Heritage Permit approved

We've now been granted a Heritage Permit for installation of this exhibition. 

The permit application was based on rigorous professional conservation and heritage assessments, with a commitment to minimising any building impact and to ensure all exhibition installations were reversable.  The use of projector technology was deliberate as it delivers a rich, immersive experience, while requiring the least possible level of building impact.

Between August and October 2023 the project team will install the exhibition with strict adherence to Heritage Victoria requirements.

Part of the project includes essential conservation works to building fittings, including some carpets, paint and aging electrical work.  To ensure efficient exhibition installation and conservation works, the Beechworth Courthouse will be temporarily closed to the public during this time. We will advise of the exact dates once confirmed.

The project delivery team

The project involved a multi-faceted professional exhibition development process with both curatorial and collections work delivered by museum sector professionals with significant expertise and an impressive track record.

Council engaged heritage architects NBRS & PARTNERS to prepare the Beechworth Courthouse Heritage Overview – a conservation needs assessment that was project-specific and referenced existing Courthouse Heritage Conservation assessments.

The exhibition/project team engaged Hirst Projects to facilitate consultation and engagement with key stakeholders. Dr Robin Hirst held the position of Director Collections, Research and Exhibitions for Museums Victoria for almost two decades. He was responsible for the development of, and stewardship of, the State Collection of 17 million items and a highly successful research program involving major universities. 

Dr Jonathan Sweet is managing the project delivery and is a highly credentialled museum professional, with more than 20 years as a senior lecturer in museum studies and cultural heritage at Deakin University and consults to UNESCO World Heritage.

Convergence Design was first engaged to deliver the curatorial component of the project. Dr Deborah Rechter headed up the in-depth historical analysis and research, which has been peer reviewed by the Burke Museum professional staff. Dr Deborah Rechter is a highly credentialled industry specialist and has headed up the complex curatorial work that underpins the exhibition. Deborah’s track record includes exhibition work for the Jewish Museum of Australia amongst many other exhibitions and clients of similar calibre.

Consultation has also occurred with descendants of the Kelly/Quinn/Lloyd families as well as Police Museum representatives and legal professionals.

National Heritage Listing

Indigo Shire has lodged a National Heritage Listing nomination, currently under consideration.  Nominations are subject to considerable review and research by the national team, prior to any outcome and this may take a number of years. 

The nomination is based on substantial and complex research and work conducted by Dr Jacqueline Durrant (historian) and Deb Kemp (architectural historian).  Ms Kemp is also Council’s Heritage Advisor and has been very involved in the project from a building perspective and with the Heritage Victoria permit requirements. 

Members of the national team have visited Beechworth and expressed a strong interest in the Precinct.