“When our visitors put on their outfits, they transform. The clothes unlock their imaginations, and suddenly they are experiencing the museum on a whole other level.”
Drawing on the technical expertise she acquired while working as a fashion designer, Erin Santamaria and her expert costume team dress hundreds of actors in authentic 1850s outfits at Sovereign Hill. This ‘living museum’ in the town of Ballarat, Victoria, is “a multi-sensory experience”, says Erin. “When people visit us, they really do forget about the outside world.”
The sprawling open-air museum tells the story of Ballarat during the Australian gold rush, when thousands of prospectors poured into the area in search of fortune. Sovereign Hill’s 350 staff and 250 volunteers wear period dress – and not just the bare minimum. “A typical upper-class gentleman, for example, will be fully kitted out with braces, a waistcoat and a pocket watch, plus a lovely frock coat, a top hat and a walking stick,” says Erin.
Sovereign Hill provides visitors with meaningful and immersive experiences that tell stories and connect people with our history. It introduces them to all the weird and wonderful characters, events, technologies and fashions from the past.
It’s possible to try your hand at panning for gold or join a mine tour and wind your way through the underground shafts with an expert guide who’ll share stories of innovation, triumph and hardship.
For the ultimate immersion, stay overnight in historically inspired quarters where the excitement and intrigue of the Gold Rush is only meters from your doorstep. Erin says, “It’s a magical place at night, and Aura our 90-minute theatre experience uses hundreds of stunning projections to tell the Wadawurrung creation story and bring the gold rush story to life.”
Cultural Attractions of Australia is pleased to present this series of the stories behind the storytellers who have enriched the experiences of countless visitors to our iconic attractions.
Credit: Gold Panning Lesson