Category Archives: Queensland Museum Foundation

Queensland Museum: Then and now

We’re taking it way back to celebrate International Museum Day this 18 May and revisiting the Museum’s rich location history. 

As we approach International Museum Day on 18 May, we reflect on the history behind the various locations of Queensland Museum and its 157 years of monumental displays, exhibitions and encompassment of history.

The Windmill 1862, where it all began, the first housing for the newly conceived ‘nucleus of a Museum of Natural Science’, where by the Moreton Bay Council granted temporary use of a ‘large room in the windmill’. The windmill continues to stand tall in Spring Hill and has since been heritage listed. It is also one of only two buildings that remain from the penal settlement. Built in 1827 under Commandant Patrick Logan, it was initially designed to grind corn and wheat for the colony. However, faults often arose and as a result, convicts constructed a treadmill beside it.

The Windmill
The Windmill on Wickham Terrace, Brisbane. This was the first housing for the fledgling Queensland Museum from 1862 to 1869

During a Philosophical Society meeting in 1866 it was reported that the Windmill suffered considerable damage due to heavy rains. It was then decided in October 1868, the room formerly occupied by the parliamentary library in the Parliament Building would be the new host of the society’s entities. In June 1871 it was established that an additional room be made available for the purpose of creating a mineralogical museum initially intended to boost the mining boom. The Parliamentary building, located on the north-western side of Queen Street, had been erected as a convict’s barracks in 1826. Although the location was central and accessible, the space the museum occupied was far too small. It was recommended by a colonial architect that a building on Ann Street be purchased and restored. This idea was soon rejected and a temporary home further up Queen Street was selected.

The Post Office building, standing between the site now occupied by the Lennons Hotel and George Street, originally consisted of six apartments. In 1873, rooms for an office, laboratory and a larger one for a mineral display were obtained. It was recognised not long after moving into the space that the old Post Office was not an ideal location.

The Post Office Building
The General Post Office and the new Brisbane City Hall about 1864. Photograph by courtesy of John Oxley Library.

In 1879 the construction of the First New Museum Building was completed. The building costing £10,706, was designed in the Colonial Architect’s department under architect F.D.G Stanley and still stands today as the State Library. The main entrance floor was one of three used for display and the basement contained a large room used as both a library and meeting place.

First purpose-built Queensland Museum building in William Street, 1879 to 1899.

As a result of the collecting programs the building proved to be too small, and due to the depression and financial difficulties plans were again put on hold. The Exhibition Building became home to Queensland Museum for the next 86 years after its completion in 1891 and was a combination of Romanesque, Byzantine and Baroque influence in polychromatic brick work. The building was built after the original timber exhibition building was destroyed by fire. 300 men of all trades worked on the brickwork at one time.

A Museum worthy of the city and the State

One of the first tasks undertaken by the museum’s board of trustees following its re-establishment in 1970, was to encourage the Queensland  Government to provide provisions for adequate housing for its museum. It was the state government’s decision to eventually develop on the south bank of the Brisbane River, a cultural complex that would include a museum, theatres, state library and an art gallery. Robin Gibson of Brisbane was chosen to design the cultural centre, which was then opened in 1985 and has since remained. The building consists of 5,000 square metres across three display floors and an external geological garden.

Queensland Museum
Queensland Museum

Mather, P et al. (1986). A Time For A Museum. (Volume 24 ed.). Brisbane: Queensland Museum.

Meet the Curator – David Parkhill

DavidParkhill-portrait-474px-wide
Photography by Michelle Legg

Queensland Museum Assistant Collection Manager David Parkhill writes about his personal journey, from being captivated by Museums as a young boy growing up in England to arriving in Australia to peruse a livelihood as a jackaroo to finally finding his calling… a journey he describes as “a long strange trip”.
Continue reading Meet the Curator – David Parkhill

Collection manager shares her favourite items

Queensland Museum Collection Manager (Mammals and Birds), Heather Janetzki, talks about some of her favourite items within the Queensland DNA campaign that you have the opportunity to look after.

Continue reading Collection manager shares her favourite items

Anniversary of when QANTAS took flight

The Queensland Museum is calling on the public to become involved in preserving the stories within the State Collection. Through the Become a Part of Queensland’s DNA Campaign, people have the opportunity to link their name to an item from the Collection and in essence preserve that story. Queensland Museum, Senior Curator, Mark Clayton has written about his favourite item, an Airmail Bag.

The notion of a regular public airline service would have seemed fanciful in the nineteenth century. For Scottish-born Alexander Kennedy however, born in 1837 – just a few months after Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne – this notion was to be become much more than just a reality.

It was ninety-two years ago – this week -that Kennedy (then aged eighty-four) became the first passenger on Queensland’s first scheduled airline service – from Longreach to Cloncurry.

Kennedy’s enthusiasm for a local air service had been fuelled two years earlier following a chance meeting in Cloncurry with one of the fledgling airline’s founding Directors. A successful grazier, farmer, councillor, mine owner and company director, Kennedy had agreed to also become a provisional Director and guarantor, in consideration for a seat on the inaugural service.

Both pilot and plane were ex-military, the latter being particularly unsuited for the purpose. Attracted both by the occasion’s novelty and potential momentousness, a small crowd of Longreach’s citizens and dignitaries had gathered in the pre-dawn gloom that Thursday, 2nd November 1922 to bear witness as pilot, mechanic and passenger filled all available seats aboard the hulking Armstrong Whitworth AW8. As they readied for take-off, Kennedy in cap and goggles with wind tossing his beard is alleged to have shouted…”be damned to the doubters”.1

After an uneventful 498km flight with enroute stops for fuel (McKinley) and morning tea (Winton), Queensland’s first airliner landed at 11.30 that same morning, greeted by an equally enthusiastic gathering of Cloncurry citizenry. Kennedy’s first journey there, fifty-three years beforehand, had taken eight months to complete.

That airline is still operating, albeit, better known these days for its international services and by its acronym, QANTAS.

This mail bag was used by QANTAS to transport mail on the very first airmail service between Australia and England in 1931.
This mail bag was used by QANTAS to transport mail on the very first airmail service between Australia and England in 1931.

The airmail bag shown here relates to the following decade, a time when Q.A.N.T.A.S. (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Pty Ltd), as it was then known, was manoeuvring – desperately – to become something more than just a local air service. All the world’s airlines were dependent then on government mail subsidies, and the Q.A.N.T.A.S. Board was quick to recognise the strategic, financial and prestige advantage of extending its network to include Brisbane and Darwin. The former was the conduit to Sydney and Melbourne, while the latter was the gateway linking Australia with the rest of the world.

The Queensland-airline’s opportunity for metamorphosis came on April Fool’s Day 1932 when the British Post Office announced that it would be undertaking an experimental round-trip airmail service from London to Sydney, as an extension of Imperial Airways’ existing London to Delhi service. Although at that time Q.A.N.T.A.S.’s fleet of single-engined aircraft were incapable of providing over-water international services, the company was engaged to fly the trans-continental return sector from Brisbane to Darwin. This is one of the mail bags carried aboard the DH61 Apollo on that successful north-bound proving flight, pilot Russell Tapp’s four-day return flight covering 6,437kms.

It was this experiment which led – in part – to the formation two years later of a new international carrier known as Qantas Empire Airways Ltd.

This item part of the Queensland DNA campaign and is available for you to take care of. To take care of this part of Queensland’s DNA click here.

  1. Hudson Fysh, Qantas Rising (1965), p.92.