“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.
For the ultimate immersion, visitors themselves can don costumes for the Night in the Museum experience. “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” says Erin. The experience includes dinner with some of the Goldfields’ most intriguing characters, a private lamp-lit tour of the township and overnight accommodation in historic quarters. “Visitors meet the town’s undertaker and a spiritualist who helps them talk to people beyond the veil of death,” says Erin. “It’s a magical place at night, but it can be creepy too; learning about the darker side of life at Sovereign Hill and how dangerous it was.”
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 whilst their doors are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.