When Jan Nowell first met with the Winton historical society to discuss the design of the new Waltzing Matilda Centre in Queensland, she knew she had her work cut out for her.
The director of Melbourne-based company Arterial Design, which has won the $680,000 contract to design and install the Courthouse Kelly Trials exhibition at Beechworth, said the members, all in their 80s, were a tough audience to crack.
"They were fixated on a billabong, plastic moulded horses and scrunched up blue paper for the water," she recalls.
Destroyed by fire in 2015, the original centre was a cultural beacon of the community with thousands of stories and artefacts that not only showcased the song but the people themselves.
Over two years Arterial's creative team patiently researched the many and varied stories and experiences surrounding the famous song penned by Banjo Paterson on the town's outskirts.
In the end, with a cutting-edge billabong art installation as the central storytelling space (and not a plastic horse to be seen), the team created an award-winning visitor experience "layered with content and perspectives from diverse sources in the community".
That centre has been lauded as a stunning multi-sensory experience, "told through the richness of film, animation, interaction with artefacts, sounds and audio clips".
It's that "wow" factor Arterial plans to design and deliver for the Beechworth Historic Precinct - Courthouse Kelly Trials exhibition, which is set to become a word-class heritage tourism experience based on the 40 trials associated with Ned Kelly and his family.
Ms Nowell, who doesn't yet consider herself a Kelly expert, said the team was excited by the scope of the project and the potential to "push what is possible in terms of special effects".
"The challenge is to tell a story everyone knows about in a way that is memorable, visually captivating and that combines elements of conventional exhibition archives with an immersive experience," she said.
"You want people to go away and think about the different elements for hours and days afterwards ... and to want to come back again."
Ms Nowell is excited by the digital projection potential of Ned's committal hearing: "different voices and disparate information have the potential to be turned into something spectacular".
"As we meet with people the ideas will get richer and richer," she said.
Arterial will visit the Beechworth site later this month before embarking on a series of stakeholder meetings around the project.
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