Flooding decimated many suburbs, businesses and homes across Brisbane in February 2022. Queensland Museum at South Bank and the Cultural Precinct Centre were closed on Sunday 27 February and will remain closed for 19 days.
The recent rain wasn’t unexpected but it was unpredictable. Queensland Museum staff watched and waited in anticipation. Would the falls be larger than the floods of 2011 that closed the museum at South Bank for five weeks. Would the collections be safe and undamaged? Would the electricity remain connected to keep the airflow around the state’s most precious objects and artefacts stored safely and securely across our campuses.
The water flowed fast down the Brisbane River, rising and filling the car parks at Queensland Cultural Centre and rendering the buildings inaccessible. The water crept up, storm waters rushed along Grey Street, the Dinosaur Garden and Level 0 capturing some of the water rushing along past businesses in South Bank and West End. They’d have a great story to tell, our two dinosaurs standing proudly outside, if they could talk.
Thankfully, the tide and water levels didn’t reach 2011 heights. In 2022, the tide reach 3.85 metres near the museum and the water rose 250mm, the tide about 750mm lower and the water 520mm lower than 2011.
We weren’t spared but we were lucky. The soft fall in the outside Dinosaur Garden is now full of muddy dirt and debris and will need to be pulled up and replaced. Some air conditioning units went underwater, we didn’t lose power but we did have a few leaks and our storage areas were filled with the rage of the Brisbane River torrents.
We did learn a few things after 2011. We changed all our shelving unit inside Level 0 to mobile units with wheels, that saved us this time. So too, did the heroic efforts of our Head of Facilities, Frank Feige, he tirelessly worked to move most of the items from Level 0 to our foyer in Level 2. The welcoming zone for our visitors now looks like a cemetery of lost items, wheelchairs and visitor furniture.
We were devastated to cancel our beloved World Science Festival Brisbane due to run from 9-13 March 2022, the second cancellation after our COVID-19 set back in 2020. We quickly re-imagined some of the program to run online, as we could never have predicted that all our venues and partners along the precinct including QAGOMA, SLQ, QPAC and South Bank Parklands would all too, be closed and inaccessible. It made weeks of bump ins and rehearsals impossible to deliver without people, roads open and equipment that was working.
But, our collections, our most treasured items, and our people, our most valuable assets remained safe at South Bank.