Chapter 4: A museum of the future… 2000 to present | QMN History

Heading into the new century, the future is bright for Queensland Museum, with the new location at South Bank proving to be popular with visitors and cementing its place as a cultural icon in Brisbane.

In 2002, The Workshops Rail Museum was opened on 30 August and joined Cobb+Co Museum in Toowoomba and Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville. At South Bank, the Molecular Identities Laboratory was established, which resulted in a significant expansion of the museum’s scientific capacity and infrastructure.

The following year, saw the closure of Sciencentre in George Street and it reopened at Queensland Museum in 2004, alongside the new entrance at South Bank, which led to a 50 per cent increase in visitation to the site.

In 2005, Dandiri Maiwar opened, providing a unique exploration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences and perspectives.

Between 2006 and 2010, the museums in the regions were flourishing with The Workshops Rail Museum awarded an Australian Tourism Award for Cultural and Heritage Tourism and a massive community appeal happened in Toowoomba with $1.8 million raised for the National Carriage Factory at Cobb+Co Museum. The $8 million National Carriage Factory was completed in 2010, effectively doubling the size of Cobb+Co Museum.

In 2009, three new species of dinosaur were formally scientifically named from Winton: Australovenator wintonensis, Australia’s most complete meat-eating dinosaur. Diamantinasaurus matildae, a huge long-necked stocky plant-eating dinosaur. Wintonotitan wattsi, a long-necked gracile plant-eating dinosaur. Joining them in 2021, was Australia’s largest dinosaur, a sauropod, Australotitan Cooperensis, found in Eromanga, Queensland.

Floods in January 2011 closed three campuses – Cobb+Co Museum and The Workshops Rail Museum were closed for one week, while South Bank was closed for one month as water entered part of the building. The following month saw Museum of Tropical Queensland closed for three days due to Cyclone Yasi.

Flooding at South Bank saw the removal of iconic A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank, Mephisto from the Dinosaur Garden for refurbishment. During this time, the tank moved five times, travelling more than 2,600 kilometres before moving back to Queensland Museum in Anzac Legacy Gallery in 2018.

The museum’s 150th Anniversary was in 2012 and celebrations kicked off with the re-opening of the refurbished South Bank campus and the opening of Mummy Secrets of the Tomb, which attracted 207,399 visitors, making it at the time, the most visited exhibition in the history of the museum.

In a serendipitous moment, visiting curators from the British Museum stumbled across more than 100 fragments from a significant Book of the Dead held by British Museum was discovered in Queensland Museum’s collection in 2012. The owner is named as the Chief Builder of the temple of Amun: Amenhotep. This man is believed to have held office in the reign of King Amenhotep II (the great-great grandfather of Tutankhamun)

That year also saw more than one million visitors to Queensland Museum Network.

In 2016, Queensland Museum obtained exclusive rights to host the only extension of New York’s World Science Festival and launched World Science Festival Brisbane with a visit from Hollywood great Alan Alda. Since then the festival has welcomed more than 800,000 visitors, as well as hatching 385 baby loggerhead turtles during the event. The following year saw the biggest single visitation day on 25 March 2017 (during World Science Festival Brisbane) with 29,099 visitors.

Since the refurbishment, a number of new permanent galleries have been refurbished or opened including Lost Creatures (2013), Wild State (2016), SparkLab, Sciencentre (2018), Anzac Legacy Gallery (2018), Discovery Centre (2019) and the opening a newly refurbished gallery 1000sq metre gallery space in 2019.

In that year, NASA – A Human Adventure blasted into the museum and broke records as the most visited exhibition with 240,061 visitors.

2019 was also the year Queensland Museum Network launched its first Reflect Reconciliation Plan (RAP) marking a major milestone for the network as it joins thousands of organisations on the journey towards reconciliation for all Australians. The RAP has the aim of representing and respectfully showcasing the contributions and stories of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders through research, exhibitions and programming.  

The emergence of the global pandemic COVID-19 saw Queensland Museum close for 95 days throughout 2020 and 2021 with reduced visitor capacity and other challenges. But, as history shows, Queensland Museum Network is well placed to thrive now and into the future.

Read more about Queensland Museum Network’s History:

Chapter 1: 1862 – 1918 (56 Years) A Fledgling Natural History Museum

Chapter 2: 1918 – 1968 (50 Years) A museum that is developing

Chapter 3: 1969 – 1999 (30 years) Out with the old and in with the new