The Tasmanian Wool Centre showcases the superfine merino wool that the Midlands of Tasmania are renowned for, as well as telling stories of the settlement of Ross and the surrounding area. It combines two exhibition areas with a retail area where visitors can choose from a wide range of quality woollen products.
The Ross district has been a centre for wool growing since the earliest days of settlement, when landholders imported saxon merino sheep and established award-winning sheep studs and exported their wool across the world. The prosperity generated for the area is reflected in the rich built heritage of the district and the long history of the district’s families. The Tasmanian Wool Centre is perfectly placed to tell these stories and engage visitors.
The tradition of fine wool production continues to this day and the calibre of the local product is reflected in the trophies on display in the Centre. The centrepiece of the display is the impressive Ermenegildo Zegna Perpetual Trophy crafted by renowned Tasmanian sculptor Stephen Walker in 1963. Another major artwork, The Canticle tapestry designed by John Coburn, demonstrates the creative use of wool at its vibrant best. At the other end of the production process, samples of the wool clip allow visitors to feel the wool of a range of sheep breeds and marvel at the wool classers’ skill. Video presentations also allow visitors to understand how shearers go about their craft as well as more about the processing of wool.
The development of Ross is closely tied to the convict system and its supply of labour. Ross is graced with many fine Georgian buildings fashioned from the local sandstone. Stone has been important in the history of Ross over a long period, with both the quarrying of stone and the creative tradition of stone-masonry. One of the most iconic structures is the convict-built Ross Bridge, which features intricate carvings on the stones of the bridge arches. The story of the Bridge, and that of the convict stonemason Daniel Herbert, is featured in the museum.
The Female Factory is another important convict site in Ross and the museum display includes artefacts uncovered during archaeological digs at the site.
Another surprising feature in Ross’ early history was its role as the site of an elite boys’ boarding school: Horton College. Visitors can examine artefacts from the College and learn about its benefactors Captain and Mrs Horton of Somercotes. The presence of the military in Ross from the very earliest days has also left a legacy of interesting buildings in Ross and provides a rich vein of stories to be told.
A video presentation provides visitors with a valuable introduction to the history of Ross and allows them to discover hidden treasures around the town.