The Australian Kelpie Centre is a permanent interpretive exhibition, tracing the origins and history of that most quintessential of Australian dogs, the Kelpie. The impetus for the project came from the local Casterton community and Glenelg Shire Council. Both saw this as not only a valuable opportunity to promote greater awareness of the breed and its 19th century Casterton origins but to also build on Casterton’s popular annual festival, ‘The Australian Kelpie Muster’.
Having completed an earlier scoping study for the project, Thylacine were engaged in October 2017 as exhibition designers. Working with local historians, pastoralists, Kelpie trainers and breeders, Thylacine undertook a program of historical research to develop the 2D, 3D and multimedia content. Mindful of the requirement to address a wide visitor demographic and to provide some initial insight into the history and attractions of the Glenelg Shire, a strategy was employed that would contextualize the story within a broad historical, cultural, geographic and environmental framework. Recognizing that the age demographic would be equally broad, the experience was carefully constructed to include engagement opportunities for even the very youngest of visitors, for example through a ‘sheep mustering’ mechanical interactive.
Beginning with the natural environment and the long history of Indigenous presence in the region, the story traces the expansion of European settlement and the role of the area’s unique geography as catalysts in the breed’s development. Highlighted in this regard is the crucial role of early Scottish colonists in importing the highland dogs from which the Kelpie arose. The exhibition narrative then moves to the present day, exploring the continued importance of the Kelpie to the pastoral industry and the physical characteristics and behavioral traits that makes a good working dog. The final section of the exhibition explores the Kelpie as represented in art, literature and media and its international success as an export, serving in a variety of roles from reindeer herding and sled dog to disaster search and rescue. The exhibition then concludes on a very personal note with a screen based presentation of local kelpie owners of all ages reflecting on their special relationship with their own Kelpie.
The project represents the only permanent exhibition in Australia solely devoted to the Kelpie. Since its opening in July 2018 it has proved to be a popular attraction and promises to be a valuable contributor to the regions tourist infrastructure and economy in the coming years.
Project partners include Glenelg Shire Council, media designers Mental Media and lighting designer Illuminated Design.