From showcase to online gallery

How we can use virtual displays to learn about our collections

Written by Sophie Price, Assistant Curator, Anthropology

Stone tools in the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre (TATSICC) collection. Image: Queensland Museum Network 

Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre (TATSICC)  

For many years, if you strolled past Museum of Tropical Queensland to the end of Flinders Street in Gurrambilbarra (Townsville), you’d reach the cultural hub that was the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre. The centre was a fascinating showcase celebrating the history and continuing culture of the First Nations groups in the region, with collections and artworks on display and for sale.  

When the centre closed its doors in 2018, a new home for the cultural objects that were on display was needed. At the request of the centre, the items were loaned to Museum of Tropical Queensland and will remain there until a new cultural centre opens in the region, or we can identify the Traditional Owners of the objects and the items can be returned to them.  

Looking back – or forwards?  

Reconnecting items with their stories is not always easy. As best as we try when working in cultural institutions, years and years of documenting objects and knowledge means that occasionally pieces of recorded history are misplaced or misinterpreted. Sometimes, these histories aren’t written down at all. Much of the information about who made, owned, or donated this collection of items to the Cultural Centre was similarly lost over the years.  

To try and find out more about these items, and hopefully reconnect artists, cultural practitioners, or communities with their objects, we’ve created an online gallery which features the entire collection from the Cultural Centre. The virtual gallery of the TATSICC Collection features over 100 items, from shields, to stone tools, paintings, and cane knives used in the sugar cane fields of North Queensland.

Where to now?  

By uploading these items to a virtual gallery, we’re making the collection more accessible, and being more transparent about what we do and don’t know.  

View the collection online, and if you recognise an item and know of its origin or traditional Country, or who might have made or donated it to the Cultural Centre, get in touch with the First Nations Cultures team.  

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