Gulgong Holtermann Museum is housed in two State Heritage listed buildings in Mayne Street Gulgong. This quaint and quirky streetscape will transport you back to the 1870s with its unique gold rush history and introduce you to the world of digital detail. Just step through the door of the American Tobacco Warehouse and Fancy Goods Emporium to experience the contemporary design and exhibition within, and immerse yourself in the UNESCO listed Holtermann Collection of photographs.
Wet plate photography, popular in the mid-19th century, is a photographic process where an image is captured on a glass plate coated with a wet collodion solution. This technique, also known as the collodion process, requires the plate to be sensitized, exposed, and developed before the collodion dries, typically within 15 minutes. It was widely used from the 1850s to the 1880s and played a significant role in documenting historical moments.
Turning to Bernhard Otto Holtermann, he was a prominent figure during the Australian gold rush era. Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1838, Holtermann migrated to Australia in the 1850s in search of fortune. He became a successful businessman and politician, but he is most renowned for the large gold specimen unearthed in Hill End in 1872 and his involvement in the Holtermann Collection.
Holtermann, recognizing the historical significance of the gold rush, worked with photographers Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss to capture the thriving scenes on the NSW gold fields. The result was an impressive collection of over 3,500 glass plate negatives, including magnificent panoramas. These images, including images of Sydney and Victoria, showcasing life on the gold fields and in the cities, were later found in a garden shed in Chatswood in 1951 by photographer Keast Burke and donated to the State Library of NSW in 1952 by a member of the Holtermann family.
Bernhard Otto Holtermann’s legacy extends beyond his entrepreneurial and political endeavours; it lives on through the invaluable Holtermann Collection, offering a captivating visual journey into the past through the lens of wet plate photography.