The Australian Opal Centre began in the late 1990s as Lightning Ridge Opal and Fossil Centre, an economic development project at Lightning Ridge, led by community members seeking to diversify a local economy reliant upon opal mining and agriculture.
A high quality, high profile attraction with education, research and community functions would strengthen tourism, create new opportunities and buffer against the impacts of regional and global economics on demand and prices for opal.
Importantly, the concept also addressed a century of neglect of one of Australia's most feted and spectacular natural treasures: opal. Opal was a national icon, yet there was no place in Australia dedicated to opal science, art, heritage and culture; no centre of opal-related education, training or industry development; no public collection of the country's National Gemstone.
As the project grew, its national significance became evident and in 2007, it was renamed the Australian Opal Centre.
Australian Opal Centre Milestones
- Commenced operations from exhibition space and office in rented premises
- Design brief developed for new building
- Design and engineering team assembled
- Concept design for building developed by architects Murcutt + Lewin
- Deductible Gift Recipient status granted
- First item donated to collection
- Lightning Ridge Opal & Fossil Centre became Australian Opal Centre
- Title secured on 3.1hectare development site
- Development Approval granted for new building
- Showroom refurbished and opened by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW and acting Governor General of Australia
- Scale model and architectural rendering of new AOC building
- Black Opal Heritage Shed constructed
- Reception at Government House, Sydney, for the Australian Opal Centre and for Black Opal, State Gemstone Emblem of NSW
- Site prepared and excavated for new AOC building
- Brilliant Ideas (research project and exhibition about invention and adaptation of opal mining machinery) developed with the Australian Society for the History of Engineering and Technology and Lightning Ridge Historical Society
- Participated in the 1st Changsha Mineral and Gem Show in China
- First annual Lightning Ridge Fossil Dig
- Australian Geographic Society partnered in Lightning Ridge Fossil Dig
- Rented further workshop space
- Ran first AOC opal carving courses
- Commissioned and completed Concept for Complementary and Ancillary Development for the Australian Opal Centre
- Developed SPARK, an outdoor cinematic experience shown 3 nights per week in Lightning Ridge
- Detailed financial projections developed for new AOC
- AOC Founders campaign launched
- Business case and benefit/cost analysis completed for new AOC
- Suite of planning documents (Procurement, Project Management, Asset Management and Risk Management plans) completed for new AOC