Meet Betty, Ned’s high-calibre friend

NED Kelly was yesterday reunited with his favourite rifle, Betty, for the first time since 1880 — or at least Matt Aldridge, in the guise of Ned, was.

Mr Aldridge took on the role at Beechworth yesterday to announce The Ned Kelly Vault in the sub-treasury building would be open in time for August’s Ned Kelly Weekend.

Robert O’Hara Burke Memorial Museum manager Patrick Watt said it wasn't important whether you saw Ned as a heroic villain or villainous hero.

“We are a museum not a shrine,” he said.

The Kelly vault will house his death mask, original photographs and movie posters from various Kelly films.

“We aim to tell the story with the objects we have,” Mr Watt said.

“They are objective and don’t tell us whether Ned was good or bad.

He said the Kelly story drew people to Beechworth and tourism was about to increase significantly.

“This museum will house the most significant collection of Kelly artefacts anywhere,” Mr Watt said.

“He had more contact with Beechworth than any other place.”

Co-curator and founder of the Kelly vault, Matt Shore, said items that had been hidden under beds, in garages and safety deposit boxes for decades would have the dust blown off them and be placed in a permanent home.

The rifle on display yesterday was stolen by Kelly from Henry Dudley, one of a party of men who had been hunting kangaroos in the Strathbogie Ranges.

This is the first year Mr Aldridge has played the role of Ned Kelly.