Buy royal collection? 'I'd rather eat glass'

Janet Williams with her collection of royal memorabilia. Picture: ROBERT PEET
Janet Williams with her collection of royal memorabilia. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Wollongong City Councillors have poured cold water on a proposal to buy what is believed to be the world's largest privately owned collection of British royal memorabilia.

Woonona resident Janet Williams wrote to Wollongong City Council last month, offering the council the "first right of refusal" to purchase her 10,000-piece memorabilia collection, which spans six generations of the Windsor family.

Mrs Williams said though she had received offers from across the world, her preference was for the collection to remain in the Illawarra, and wanted Wollongong City Council to take it on as part of its tourism offering.

At Monday night's council meeting, Councillor Greg Petty urged the council to "seize the moment" and investigate ways to keep the collection in the Illawarra, which he estimated could bring 83,000 visitors a year to Wollongong.

"Put it in the Town Hall, put it in Gleniffer Brae ... I don't know where we should put it, but we have an opportunity and should seize that," he said.

However, Cr David Brown successfully moved that the issue be referred to Destination Wollongong for the tourism body to liaise with Mrs Williams and its members about finding a potential operator willing to house the collection.

Cr Brown said he "would rather eat glass and gouge my eyes out with a fork" than visit such a "kitsch" collection that celebrated "the House of Battenberg".

"While I recognise it is not to my taste, it is to others'.

However, I don't think council should go near this," Cr Brown said.

Cr Leigh Colacino said Wollongong was made up of many different nationalities and religions and didn't think the royal family was where the council should be putting its effort towards establishing a museum.

"Wollongong has a much broader base than that," he said.

"This city was put together not just by English, but Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs and Turks, we could go on and on ... this is not the right way to go.

"I think what she has done is put together a great collection; it is a great idea, but it is not a great idea for the council to take it on.

"A figure of $350,000 has been quoted, but then there are curatorial costs and there would be ongoing maintenance on top of that."

However, Cr Petty's motion did have some support, including from Cr Vicki Curran, who said the least the council could do was assess Mrs Williams's proposal.

"This is not a proprietor saying 'I'm desperate to make a few quid here'. This is someone saying 'I no longer have the capacity, I want to retire and I don't want the region to lose this drawcard'," she said.

Council resolved on a vote of 8-4 to refer the matter to Destination Wollongong.