Memories recalled from residents in the Shire of West Arthur have been preserved in an oral history project that captures the unwritten stories of the district. The Shire undertook an oral history project to include audio recordings in the Betty Brown Historical Centre to make it accessible for all visitors. The museum, which opened in March 2020, houses a collection of historic items which tells the stories of women in the district and their contributions to the community of West Arthur. Project officer Kerryn Chia travelled around the district to record interviews with longstanding residents to capture their stories. “We used these oral histories throughout the centre and during that process we recorded quite a bit of history associated with the area,” she said. “I knew a few people who had quite a bit of knowledge regarding the history of the Shire or people who had lived in the area or their families were longstanding families from the district.” Ms Chia said she interviewed residents from Darkan, Moodiarrup, Arthur River and Dardadine. “Some of the people involved with the project are the grandchildren of the very first people who settled in the district,” she said. “So they are the last people who actually knew the settlers and can tell us a little bit about the actual people, not just about the dates or the common stories. “I really wanted the centre to be a little bit more personal than just the standard museum, I wanted the people of the district to shine through.” Ms Chia said she particularly wanted to record histories from the perspective of women in the district. “A lot of the history that is written about the district was written from a man’s perspective even though women contributed to the community as well,” she said. “We heard stories about their day-to-day life because those types of stories are not written anywhere.” One of the residents interviewed for the project was Thelma Strickland who moved to Darkan from Queensland in 1946 and married local resident Ray Strickland. Mrs Strickland became one of the first businesswomen in the district after taking over the drapery shop and ran the business for 22 years selling clothes, manchester and school supplies. “I said to my husband that I wanted to run it by myself and in my own way, which I did,” she said. “It was a great challenge because I was getting to know everyone and really getting the run of the place as well as getting to know what people wanted and needed in the district. “People used to say if you need anything go to Mrs Strickland, she’ll have it no matter what.” Mrs Strickland said running the shop was a great challenge, especially while looking after four children. “There were hard times in the farming area, if people didn’t have the money they wouldn’t buy,” she said. “It wasn’t like I was stocking essential things like your everyday items such as bread and milk. “You just have to always make the most and the best with what you have and with the work that you put into it.” Ms Chia said she had recorded fascinating stories which otherwise would have been lost over time. “We interviewed one lady and her brother, whose grandmother was known as Mrs ‘17’ Johnson because she had 17 children,” she said. “Every time she had or looked after another child she would build an extra room onto her house. “She would actually physically build it herself because her husband was a fencing contractor and was away for quite a bit of the time. “So she would build this extra room on the house and you can still see the ruins which can still be seen from Cape Cut North Road.” The Shire is also building its collection of written history at the Darkan Town Library. “Quite a few people record their family history and write it into a book and then that book sits on that family’s shelf and gets lost over time,” Ms Chia said. “So we have also instigated a collection in the library of historical books or books about families in the district and surrounds. “We are slowly building that collection and if anyone does have a family history that has been written in this area we would love to include it in the library.” The oral history recordings can be accessed at the Betty Brown Historical Centre or through the Collections WA website.