The work of the Confraternity began to expand from purely agrarian, into educational areas. Plans for a new Museum to house John Ward’s collection culminated in the opening of the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology in June, 1986.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Abbey Museum is the remarkable scope of its collections, spanning the last 500,000 years of humankind. Among its many highlights are prehistoric artefacts, glass, stained glass, ceramics, metalwork, sculpture, wood carvings, lacquer ware, illuminated manuscripts and rare books, Old Masters, water colours, icons and frescos.
The Abbey Museum delivers a variety of educational programs as well as hosting the Medieval Festival at Abbeystowe, a site at St. Michael’s. The Abbey Medieval Festival has become the largest and most authentic medieval living history re-enactment in Australia. Tens of thousands of people come to see exciting spectacles of jousting, armed combats, wrestling, archery, dance and music.
The Museum sets a high standard of performance and costume and uses the event to help foster interest in this rich period of history and the Museum’s own extensive collections. Large numbers of students from primary and secondary schools and colleges throughout Australia use the Museum for their studies in history and art. Many of these take part in one of the very popular mock archaeological digs conducted by museum educators to give young people a ‘hands-on’ experience of archaeology.