Gems from the Museum Store
FOR many reasons museums can never display all their objects at once.
Here (at Mt Buller’s National Alpine Museum of Australia) I share some of my favourite objects currently resting in the museum’s store room.
Mt Buller has many legends but one of the earliest was Helmut Kofler.
Kofler migrated to Melbourne from his native Austria with his wife, Maria, in September 1927.
The museum has Kofler’s suitcase in the collection – small, brown and slightly tattered it’s not much to look at, and I often wonder what essential items and prized possessions Helmut chose to bring with him to Australia and what was left behind?
Born in Klagenfurt, Austria in 1900 Kofler was an amateur skiing, diving and rowing champion, but came to Australia to teach swimming and diving at Portsea.
However, his skiing prowess was clearly important to him, as he brought his skiing medals with him.
With the summer season over, Helmut and Maria spent their first Australian winter managing the Hotham Heights Chalet.
The couple then moved to the newly built Mt Buller Chalet for the winter of 1929.
They were the first to bring European style hospitality to the mountain, a tradition which continues to this day.
Kofler regularly returned to Europe to keep up with the latest ski fashions, techniques and ideas and was often quoted in the papers of the day.
Charismatic, always a showman, full of enthusiasm and ideas he led the clearing of several ski runs at Buller, the first being Shakey Knees.
Although it was longer than the Shakey Knees we know today and the alignment was slightly different.
The museum holds a photo of Kofler skiing on Shakey Knees, sliding down the hill in a graceful arabesque dressed only in a singlet and underwear; revealing that his showmanship and pride in his skiing skills weren’t without foundation.
Even today it would take a skilled skier to strike that pose.
Sadly Helmut’s life ended at age 40 in a tragic accident at the Delatite Sawmills along with his new (and pregnant) wife architect and skier Peg Wilks.
Helmut and Maria had divorced in 1939 and she had returned to Austria.
However, Kofler’s legacy lives on in the restaurant named after him, the runs he helped create and the pieces of his life he valued enough to bring to Australia as well as those created here that are now in the museum’s collection.
KOFLER’S BALLET: Helmut Kofler’s famous pose on the ski slopes of Buller was caught on camera - a copy of this photo sits in the National Alpine Museum collection.
KOFLER’S SUITCASE: With all his worldly possessions packed into this small brown suitcase, Helmut Kofler migrated to Australia and forged the way for skiers on Mt Buller. His suitcase, a legacy to his adventurous spirit is also in the museum collection.