Bankrolling Bendigo : Building a city

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Bankrolling Bendigo: building a city, a new exhibition opening on Friday 11 May at Bendigo's Post Office Gallery, traces the financial systems and structures that grew quickly and necessarily out of the gold-struck town and ultimately enabled the founding of a permanent city.

From the moment the first nugget was discovered at Golden Square, two intertwining societies emerged: those involved in gold mining, and those who provided miners with the things they needed. Systems for transporting and processing the precious raw material were established while campaigns for retaining wealth in Bendigo were forged. Central to this story is that of the Bendigo Bank, established in 1858 by a group of community-minded local residents who pooled their resources with the view to financing permanent homes and businesses.

Bankrolling Bendigo: building a city will explore the impact of Bendigo’s economic rise on Melbourne, the troubled times of the Australian banking system crisis in the 1890s and the Great Depression of the 1930s ahead of the new era of decimal currency, rolled out in 1966.

A major feature of the exhibition is a recreated 19th century bank window.  During the gold rush it was common for banks and brokers to display spectacular cakes of gold in their windows.  This one will feature bank gold scales and replicas of some of the great nugget finds in the Bendigo area, including The Platypus and The Beauty, on loan from the Museum Victoria alongside some real local nuggets.

Other highlights include:

• An iron strong box (mid 1850s) and miner's pistols used for securely transporting gold during the gold rush.

• The Bendigo and Eaglehawk Star Building Society mortgage ballot barrel, c. 1903. Cedar. Based on an alternative financial model, mortgages were allocated to subscribing members via a ballot system. The Starr-Bowkett Society model offered all subscribing members the opportunity to take out a loan, but this ballot process could take many years before a loan was granted.

• A full set of early Queen Victoria coinage, including farthing, half-penny, penny, three pence, four pence (groat), sixpence, shilling, florin, half-crown, crown, half-sovereign and sovereign 1847-1887, and used in Australia before the Federation.

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