Officially opened on 29 April 2001, the museum provides an essential cultural foundation for the Mannum community and an iconic visitor attraction for the Murraylands region.
Its origins began in 1963 when the Paddle Steamer Marion was purchased by the National Trust of South Australia after being approached by members of the Mannum community to retain this vital piece of maritime Murray River history. The vessel was managed by a local branch of the National Trust until 1989 when it was recognised that its conservation required additional expertise. To fulfill this role the Board of the Mannum Dock Museum was established as a controlling authority of the District Council of Mannum (now Mid-Murray Council). Upon the Board assuming responsibility for the vessel, the PS Marion was fully restored and recommissioned in 1994 providing an integral acquisition to develop the current facilities and exhibits offered today at the museum.
Since then a variety of maritime artefacts have been acquired, particularly those related to the history of Murray River navigation. These include:
- Paddle Steamer Marion: built in 1897 and now fully restored and operating, it is one of the world’s last steam-driven, wood-fired, original overnight passenger-carrying side wheeler. Its technical features also represent the evolution and adaptation of river steamers to the river system’s changing conditions
- Paddle Wheeler Mayflower: restored by our volunteers to 1913 era, the PW Mayflower was built in Moama on the Murray River in NSW in 1884 opposite Echuca by Wilson & Burkett for Daniel Alexander and is the oldest original paddle wheeler in South Australia. The Mannum Dock Museum purchased the Mayflower in 2014 through a generous donation by Robert O’Callaghan and Pam O’Donnell. Many identities have owned the Mayflower including the infamous Black Alexander, the Creager fishing family of Renmark, Alby Pointon of Mildura and Bryce Douglas
- Original boiler of the Paddle Steamer Mary Ann: Australia’s first paddle steamer was launched in Mannum in 1853 by William Randell
- Randell Dry Dock: installed in 1876 by William Randell to service his growing fleet of steamers, this heritage-listed graving dock is the only one on the Murray-Darling river system and one of only a few remaining worldwide
- John Key Beam Engine: built in 1855, it was used to pump water from the dock (the only working one of its type in Australia) and before its recommissioning in 2009, was last used in 1927
- Clayton & Shuttleworth Steam Engine: one of the oldest pieces of paddle boat machinery on the River Murray and only 12 years younger than the Mary Ann’s boiler.
In addition, the museum offers:
- Geological display including some rare fossils of the area
- Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal display
- Extensive collection of photographs and documents relating to the Murray River’s rich history, including the John Weaver, Rod Williams and Arnold Collections
- ‘All Steamed Up’ Interactive display
- Collection of small boats, model paddle steamers and woodworking and boat building tools
- The Arnold Gallery offering touring and regional exhibitions
- Shearer Stripper, made by Shearers Agricultural at Mannum in the early 1900s
- Wool press from a local property; and historic milling and baking equipment
- Guided tours (for bus groups, schools and other organisations) upon request
- Touring art exhibitions from eg Country Arts SA and South Australian Living Artists Association (SALA)
- Exhibitions showcasing maritime artefacts and images associated with our permanent Murray River collection
- Operating Black Smith Shop & Key Beam Steam Engine during Mannum Museum Steam Days
- Provision of scheduled Murray River cruises to the general public ranging from short day cruises and a range of overnight cruises incorporating off shore activities providing visitors with a unique River Murray experience
- The nationally acclaimed Women of the River Exhibition produced to highlight the achievements of women from the mid 1800s to today featuring Margaret Court from Albury NSW, Ruby Hunter from Paringa SA, the Chaffey women from Mildura VIC, Elyne Mitchell from Towong and Pearl Wallace the First Women to gain a Master Mariners certificate in Australia to name a few. The exhibition was produced by the Museum group at the Mannum Dock Museum and has been touring across the Murray Darling Basin since 2016 and is currently on show at the Australian Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney
- The biennial ‘All Steamed Up’ event incorporating the ‘Mannum Freshwater Classic’ and Concourse D’Elegance. Held in November, it is a celebration of the largest group of working blacksmiths in South Australia, collection of classic and wooden boats and a display working and static engines
- Mannum Riverside Markets on the first Sunday of the month presented by the Mannum Dock Museum in the Arnold Gallery adjacent to the Mannum Ferry
- Maritime Fun Days: great for conferences and corporate groups – enjoy lunch riverside at the Museum, cruise on the Mayflower or Marion and then let our volunteers take you on a journey of Murray River history and have your delegates and staff participate in knot tying and model boat building workshops
- Replica of the Shearer Steam Carriage: volunteers currently building an operational replica of the Shearer Steam Carriage to be launched at the 2018 ‘All Steamed Up’ event in Mannum.