Gun museum is unique in the world

2 August 2007
Len Ashworth

Firearms collector and author Ian Skennerton said at the weekend that the Lithgow SAF Museum was absolutely unique as the only historic armaments museum in the world to remain standing on the site where many of the weapons were made.

Mr Skennerton is the author of a new book targeting firearms enthusiasts dealing with the history of the Lee Enfield and Lee Metford rifles over the past century.

The Lee Enfield was largely the reason for existence of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory for much of the factory's early life, supplying the Australian and New Zealand armed forces and even helping supply the British Army.

Mr Skennerton chose the SAF Museum for his book launch on Sunday.

The occasion was also the launch of the 'Hayes Handgun Omnibus' dealing with the Ron Hayes collection that has now been donated to the museum.

There was a steady demand for signed copies of both books among the enthusiasts at the launch.

Speaking at the function, Mr Skennerton said the Lithgow facility was unique in the world as the only museum on the site of the original factory run by volunteers.

He said that small arms factories in Britain and America - including the famous Birmingham plant - had been 'redeveloped' and their collections dispersed to other locations.

In fact, he said, repairs for small arms for the British armed forces these days are carried out in Germany.

Mr Skennerton said his friend Ron Hayes had been investigating a permanent home for his collection since 2005, somewhere where the collection could be kept intact.

"I told him it should come to the home of the finest small arms manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere, the Lithgow SAF," he said.

Mr Skennerton urged people at the launch and the community generally both in and outside the Lithgow district to consider how they could play a part in 'helping this great museum pursue its goals'.

He said all sorts of volunteers were needed with a whole variety of skills - archivists, people with computer skills, armourers, conservation officers, display organisers and museum guides.

"Even a day a month would hep the museum open on more days than at present," he said.

The guests were welcomed by Museum Committee president Donna White and foundation member Graham Dixon.

Ms White spoke of the excitement in gaining another world class exhibit to boost the attractions of the museum.

She thanked everyone who had assisted in preparing for the weekend function and made special mention of the Workmens Club, 'Christine from Allans Cake Shop' and Mark Perkins from the MPAS security company.

This article can be found in the Lithgow Mercury - Thursday, 2 August 2007.

© Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.