Category Archives: Uncategorized

Up close & personal: falling in love… with objects

Sometimes I fall head over heels in love with the objects and collections I work with in far north Queensland. I remember them. I seek them out on site visits to make sure they are still there. I undertake research on them in my spare time, and try to understand their value and why they might be special to others.

So what triggers this attachment? At a recent workshop with the Tableland Heritage Network in Atherton I I returned to museum basics and linked provenance and research to a love of objects. We talked about what inspires us to learn more about particular objects and how this helps us to create engaging interpretation. We discussed the art of looking at objects and how this builds our understanding and commitment to them, and then listened to people talk about some of the items they had brought in to discuss.

I also decided to examine what triggers my own emotional engagement with particular items and found a number of recurring key themes. It’s not just the collections I work with that I admire, it’s those I encounter as a museum visitor myself as well.

Blood ties and birthplace: identity

Where you’re from, who you’re related to, who your mob are. For some, family and place trigger an immediate sense of connection. I was born in a small town called Poole in SW England, a seaside town with a strong tradition of ceramics. I found this 1930s ceramic tile panel depicting Poole High Street and Quay while visiting Poole Museum. I was mesmerized by it. The picture illustrates the high street and waterfront that formed part of my childhood, and shows the area where my family worked as fishermen and ran a local pub. The ceramic tiles were made at Carters Tiles, which went on to become a well known local business called Poole Pottery. You might have seen their tiles lining the walls of the London Underground.

Emotional reaction: compassion

Some objects leave a lasting impression on us. Menmuny Museum at Yarrabah has an embroidered cloth that was made during the 1930s by residents of the girls dormitory at Yarrabah Mission. Individual hand stitched pieces have been combined to create a kind of ‘memory cloth’ or quilt. The panels illustrate the impact of mission life and removals, of government policies and their impact on families.

Embroidered Quilt, Yarrabah Mission, Menmuny Museum 2014.

For me, this object represents a learning point in my career – it is an item that I have thought about many times and which moves me profoundly. Who made it, how and when? Where did they come from and how did they get to be at Yarrabah? When were the pieces joined together and what sort of lives did the makers have living under the Act? It takes me outside of my lived experience and addresses the truth of First Nation’s history – one that was that was never discussed at school.

Physical attraction: aesthetics

‘Papa Dabad’, Nancy Kiwat, 2016.

Some objects sweep you off your feet through their good looks, material and textures. Two, in particular, vie for my attention. Popa Dabad, the award winning ghostnet piece by Erub Arts Centre’s Nancy Kiwat, was made in 2016. The colours, materials and inquiring angle of his head always make stop me in my tracks and spend an extra minute in contemplation.

Equally enchanting, for me, is a 1920s photograph album one of the volunteers uncovered while we were working on the Cairns Museum redevelopment. Each page is a visual delight. Some are decorated with line drawings, quotes and graphic titles, and many of the photos are hand coloured. I cannot resist a visit when I stop into the museum stop and gaze at the facsimile that is part of the museum’s display.

Intrigue and curiosity

Light bath after reconstruction

How does that work? It is a question that people often ask when they see old equipment in museums. When I first visited Millaa Millaa Museum on the Tablelands I became intrigued by the story of migrant Swedish healer, Ernst Kjellberg, and the electric light bath he used that was stashed under the museum. How did it work? Where did the bulbs go? Where did you sit? Lots of questions that the individual pieces struggled to convey. But when the group arranged an exhibition to commemorate 100th anniversary of Kjellbergs arrival in the district, they reassembled the bath. It was fantastic to see it come back to life and to understand how it operated.

Becoming friends: understanding

Objects and collections can be like good friends – the more you get to know them, the more you admire them. When I started to work on the Reef Productions collection for Cairns Museum last year, I had no idea how much detail we would be able to uncover. Slowly, with the help of colleagues and community, we started to piece together a history of owners, an organization and a community through a collection of objects.

Attracted to the diversity and style of the artwork, I was inspired to get to know the different artists who created them, the different subjects they depicted and the motivations behind their work. In doing so, a whole new understanding about the tourism history and community Cairns emerged. I have learned about the burgeoning arts scene in Cairns during the 1970s and 1980s, and been able to explore the different works of art more deeply. And although my work on the collection and exhibition is now finished, I remain interested in the works and what they tell us.

In understanding my own motivation better, I feel I am better placed to help volunteers and museum workers in the region sustain their interest in their history and collections. That’s my hope, anyway.

Maritime Museum of Townsville

A new permanent exhibition has opened at the Maritime Museum of TownsvilleRise of the Port City.

The exhibition showcases the Port’s contribution to the development of North Queensland through a series of interpretive panels detailing events by using a timeline approach.

timeline panels

There are also a series of virtual reality experiences that were developed especially for the exhibition that tell the story of how the Port operates.

Egg chairs for virtual reality experience
virtual reality headsets

The exhibition also has a large touch and play table, a ship simulator that allows users to navigate ships around the world, a live vessel tracker providing information about ships arriving at the port, videos and model ships, artefacts, and objects.

The MDO for North Queensland, Ewen McPhee, worked with the Museum and the Port of Townsville to plan, develop and install the new exhibition. The Seafarer Gallery was repainted by volunteers and the original exhibition was moved to other galleries and exhibition furniture put into storage.

The Maritime Museum has had record visitation last financial year and continues to break all records in the second half of 2021. The Museum has a strong link to local schools and the exhibition has been popular with both primary and secondary schools.

Port diver Barry Goldsworthy collection
Port diver Barry Goldsworthy collection
Model ships
ship simulators

150ZK: Truth Telling and the Coming of the Light

Two new exhibitions at Gab Titui Cultural Centre, THURSDAY ISLAND

Nancy Kiwat’s artwork ‘Papa Dabad’, 2016.

On June 17, Gab Titui Cultural Centre opened two new exhibitions to commemorate 150 Years of Coming of the Light. One explores the history and impact of Christianity on the community through an historic timeline. In the other, artists from three Torres Strait Art Centres have created works that represent truth telling: their understanding and response to this particular topic.

EXHIBITION PLANNING

MDOs Jo Wills and Ewen Mcphee worked with staff in March and then again in June to ensure the project was ready for opening. Exhibition training workshops in March included research, object analysis, interpretation and conservation, and ensured that new staff understood and contributed to the exhibition development process. There are multiple perspectives within the TSI community about what ‘Coming of the Light’ has meant, and continues to mean. By using the topic as the basis for the workshop, we were able to deliver applied training and help shape an exhibition plan.

Prior to the MDO workshops, lead curator, Leitha Assan, had already run engagement workshops with the three participating art centre communities (Erub Ewer Meta – Erub Arts; Moa Arts – Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Torres Strait Islander Corporation; Badu Art Centre | Torres Strait Islander Art from Badu Island). Her challenge was to bring all the components together and curate displays that creatively honored diverse viewpoints. Not an easy task, or in such a compressed time frame.

Between March and June, Gab Titui staff were busy with research, planning, community engagement, and content preparation. This included liaising with AIATIS, travelling to the islands to record interviews and collect items from the community for the displays. Staff also had to coordinate the transportation of artworks and production and printing of all material (labels, text panels, decals) back to Thursday Island – no mean feat when you’re living a remote community! MDOs assisted with ongoing advice and purchasing of materials and equipment.

Hands on installation training

When Ewen and Jo returned in June to assist with the installation, they were joined by freelance photographer and exhibition designer, Michael Marzik. Leitha was also keen for artists Jimmy K Thaiday (Erub), Fiona Mosby and Paula Savage (Moa) and Matilda Nona (Badu) to get some exhibition installation experience. With two large projects to install, it was all hands on deck, and wonderful to have additional people working across the two galleries.

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Each artist bought their own skills, understanding of materials and expertise to the process, and oversaw the installation of their own works, their colleagues’ works as well as other exhibition components. It was all hands on deck for the installation of decal signage, mannequin dressing and one of the large charcoal pieces from Erub Island.

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Opening night at Gab Titui

Exhibition openings at Gab Titui are a special, community event. This year was the first opening for a few years, and people from around the region, and state, were in attendance. This included QM’s Head of Cultures and Histories, Christopher Salter. Openings comprise a curated outdoor program of prayer, speaches, dance and song. After that, the galleries are opened to the community. This year, the Saibai Island Dancers performed took the stage, accompanied by a choir.

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A slice of sailing history

As Museum Development Officers, significance assessments of community collections are a regular and important part of our work. Responding to a request for an assessment and funded by the Community Heritage Grants programme administered by the National Library of Australia, I recently had the opportunity to undertake an assessment of the Lord Howe Island Museum collection.

The collection at the museum is diverse, and represents the island’s history from its discovery only a few weeks after the arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson, through its days as a provisioning stop for the American whaling fleet, to an idyllic holiday destination and hotspot of biodiversity. The museum documents these events through objects as well as an exceptionally rich collection of photographs, books, and other archival material. But one particular sub-collection struck both a personal and professional chord with me.

Sailing to Lord Howe Island has always presented mariners with a challenge. Surrounded by the notorious Tasman Sea and with the nearest land 600kms away there is nowhere to hide from bad weather. But with an increasing interest in cruising sailing from the 1920s, recreational yachtsmen began setting course for more distant shores. Tourism on Lord Howe Island was also becoming an important industry at the time, with Burns Philp running a small passenger service alongside cargo on their Sydney – Lord Howe Island – Norfolk Island supply run. Assured of an ocean adventure with an hospitable reception on arrival, Lord Howe became an alluring goal for recreational yachtsmen.

Visiting yachts would often present their island hosts with a commemorative photograph of their vessel, and a number of these are held in the museum’s collection. A frequent visitor during the 1930s was the yacht Wanderer. Built in 1928 and owned by Norman Wallis, Wanderer undertook her first voyage to the island within a few months of her launch. The museum collection includes an original scrapbook of the Wanderer, which documents her racing and cruising career through to Norman Wallis’ death in 1965.

Of particular relevance to the Island’s history is the Wanderer’s participation in the search for the missing motor launch Viking.   The Viking was a newly built vessel owned by island resident Gower Wilson. At the beginning of November 1936 she left Port Macquarie bound for Lord Howe Island with Gower Wilson, his son Jack and a crew of four Sydneysiders on board. When the Viking failed to arrive at her destination after ten days the alarm was raised, and Norman Wallis lost no time in setting out on Wanderer to assist in the search. Wallis and Gower Wilson had become firm friends during the former’s island visits. During the search Wanderer herself nearly became a victim of the sea, and limped back to Sydney with a broken rudder after 15 days searching. No trace of the Viking or her crew were ever found. Gower Wilson had been a regular host for many visiting yachts so his loss was keenly felt not only by the tiny population on the island, but also by the wider yachting community.

The museum’s collection documents more modern yachting history as well, with the local postmistress Hazel Payten maintaining a register of visiting yachts from the late 1960s into the 1980s. For those with an eye for yachting history a number of well-known skippers and vessels can be spotted, but perhaps most notable amongst these is the tiny 12ft sloop Acrohc Australis with skipper Serge Testa. Acrohc Australis stopped at the Island in 1987 during her voyage around the world, which had commenced in 1983. Serge and his homemade vessel still hold the record for the smallest sailboat ever to complete a circumnavigation of the world. Acrohc Australis now has a home at the Queensland Museum.

More than just tea towels: the migrants, makers and merchandise of Reef Productions

Reef Productions Exhibition, Cairns Museum, 2021

A new exhibition for Cairns Museum

On Friday 28 May, Cairns Museum opened a new temporary exhibition called Reef Productions: migrants, makers and merchandise.  Timed to coincide with Reconciliation Week, the exhibition explores the story of a Cairns-based screen printing company that began in the 1970s. Running for almost 20 years, the owners hand printed and manufactured souvenirs using licenced designs from established Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. The result is an extraordinary array of works on linen and paper, and a multilayered story that has been a pleasure to explore.

The exhibition showcases only a small selection of works due to the size of the gallery. Featured, however, are items from each era of ownership, and works by as many artists as possible. Also included is a recreated trade stand, based around photographs from the Sydney Trade Fair, and a screen printing interactive based around a previously unseen work by Rosyln Serico (Kemp). The opening was a chance for owners and artists to reconnect.

A chance meeting Leads to ACQUISITION

I first came across the name ‘Reef Productions – Made in Cairns’ on a tea towel in 2015 when I was curating one of the galleries for Cairns Museum’s redevelopment. I can remember being curios but at the time was too busy to delve deeper.

Fast forward four years, however, and it’s a different story. Whilst viewing the Thancoupie “A Legacy of Cultural Power” exhibition at CIAF in 2019 I was introduced to Andy and Joan Csorba while standing in front of a large screen print on fabric. ‘Have you ever heard of a company called Reef Productions’, I asked? ‘Yes’, grinned Andy, ‘we used to own it.’ And so began my, and Cairns Museum’s, Reef Productions journey.

Jo with Andy Csorba in 2019.

After visiting the Csorba’s farm to view the material, I discussed the collection with Cairns Museum. Museum Manager, Suzanne Gibson, sought funds to undertake a significance assessment and I, along with Indigenous cultural worker, Nerelle Nicol, began a period of detailed research and analysis. As part of the project, I was required to mentor Nerelle and suppport and undertake research. Nerelle worked closely with the Indigenous artists and this was critical to building an understanding of the content, context and personal stories within the artworks and company history. At the same time, I met with former owners and the artists who had worked with them to create designs.

From its beginnings in the front room of a house in Cairns’ northern beaches, Reef Productions produced portable souvenirs that illustrated the tropical charm of Far North Queensland. It also worked on commission, creating items for organisations or special events and anniversaries. When the company changed hands in the mid-1980s, the designs evolved to include Indigenous culture and stories. Andy worked with a range of artists, including Thancoupie, Jenuarrie, Roslyn Serico (Kemp), Connie Rovina (Barker) Heather Walker, Ludij Peden and Joan Boissevain.

Our research uncovered a story and collection with multiple layers and threads. All participants had some sort of migration story to tell – they had all moved to Cairns, be it from areas within Queensland, Australia or from overseas. The Indigenous artists bought a cultural dimension to the business – through their design style, working for Queensland Aboriginal Creations or through their personal experience of mission life an search for identity. Embedded too, were stories of environmental change, tourism and lost heritage places. We found out about the different artists, their work and inspiration, and their relationship with Reef Productions.

Research into other collections showed that some of these works are held by Queensland Museum and many by the State Library of Queensland in the Glenn R. Cooke Souvenir Textiles Collection. Our work contributes detailed provenance knowledge to these collections, and to understandings of souvenir production at this time.

These findings, as well as the extraordinary aesthetics of the collection, are just some of the reasons Cairns Museum decided to acquire it. They then applied for funding to support Nerelle and I to co-curate the Reef Productions Exhibition.

Curating Reef Productions

From the outset we knew we did not have the space to do everything we wanted. We chose to focus on the evolution of the company, in particular the works produced by artists working during the Csorba ownership period. Community engagement continued throughout the production of the exhibition. Artists and owners reviewed all text, and choice of artwork – with the right of veto. 

Generous donations by former owner, Georgie Zeiger, and items by Charters Towers’ artist Jim Arena, and Daintree’s Betty Hinton, were included in the early section of the exhibition. Sadly, we had to leave out one of Jim’s original ‘pencil roughs’ created for his design of Freshwater Station. However, he has generously agree to donate it, and the tea towel, to Cairns Museum.

Staff and volunteers at Cairns Museum worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support the preparation of materials for display. This included doing framing workshops, sewing supports and creating backing boards for the textile works. The exhibition was installed by Michael Marzik.

Although only a small selection of pieces are on show, this project celebrates the work of these artists and entrepreneurs. From a museum perspective, it illustrates the value of contemporary collection, the importance of community engagement, the need for copyright vigilence and the joy of research and discovery. And, as a story, it represents the importance of relationships – for those who were part of Reef Productions and those involved in putting this research and exhibition together.

The exhibition is on at Cairns Museum for three months from 29 May 2021.

 

Djabugay: Nganydji bulmba maminga (we love and care for country)

Bama mara-nyiwul ngurral-na maying Queensland Museum MDO malim.(Six people from the Djabugay region have attended Queensland Museum MDO training in Kuranda to learn more about caring for cultural heritage collections).

“Gloved up” with rain forest sword: Russell Hobbler, Ezekiel Deshong, Jo Wills, Wilma Donahue, Dennis Hunter and Gavin Donahue at the end of the first workshop.
Image: Maria Grauner

Djabugay Aboriginal Corporations have a small collection of cultural objects. In 2019 they contacted the MDO program to find out how to catalogue and store them professionally. After successfully applying for a RADF grant from Mareeba Shire Council, the Corporation engaged Jo to run training sessions and purchase conservation materials.

Workshops were originally planned for March, but COVID 19 put everything on hold. In the interim, Jo undertook research into other collections to locate Djabugay cultural items. Thanks to Kate Wanchap from JCU and Sophie Price from MTQ for providing me with details. Cairns Museum holds a number of items, and Jo arranged for Djabugay Corporation CEO, Nicolas Mills, and Cultural Officer, Dennis Hunter, to meet Cairns Museum’s Collection Manager, Melanie Sorenson, and Manager, Suzanne Gibson. Melanie pulled out a range of artefacts and explained the process of caring for them in the museum, while Suzanne provided a brief overview of the museum displays.

As restrictions eased, workshop planning began. Two separate days of cataloguing and storage training were delivered at Nywarri Estate, just outside of Kuranda. For the first session, Jo created a cataloguing form, cataloguing kit and register to get started. Training involved object analysis and object identification, and ensuring that language names for objects were integrated into the work. The group also took digital images of objects and ensured items were numbered.

Participants practice cataloguing materials during the first workshop. Image: Jo Wills.

The second session continued with hands on cataloguing but also introduced preventative conservation and storage. The funding allowed us to purchase industry standard conservation materials and begin the process of housing the items appropriately. The group worked together to ensure they understood each of the steps required in cataloguing, including taking measurements and photographing the objects. Djabugay’s language dictionary has been included in the cataloguing kit as an essential reference for the cataloguing work. As they worked on objects, participants taught Jo the specific names and words for certain materials and items.

Cataloguing work will now continue for the rest of the collection. Plans to create a database for the information will also ensure it is accessible and preserved.

Thanks to Dennis Hunter for the Djabugay translation, and Nicolas Mills for the additional images.

“The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and Mareeba Shire Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.”

A tale for our time

On 25 April 1910, Rachel Rose Campbell of Kilburnie Station married James Joseph Daley in Johannesburg, South Africa. The couple had eloped there as the groom’s Catholic faith meant John and Elizabeth Campbell considered him an unsuitable match for their daughter. Ironically, John and Elizabeth had themselves eloped to Australia in 1873.

Over a year later Rachel and James’ first child, John Campbell Daley, was born in Johannesburgh. Sometime between this event and the birth of their second child Elizabeth Brydges in 1913, the family moved to the town of Alsask in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. Alsask was a relatively new settlement, declared a village in 1910, and a town by 1912. By 1916, it had a population of 300.  It seems the Daley’s took up farming land, and two more children – Sheila and Peggy – were born in 1915 and 1917.

In November 1918, tragedy struck when Rachel and James succumbed to the Spanish Flu within days of each other, leaving their four young children alone and orphaned. Family legend maintains that the eldest children, aged only six and seven at the time, kept their infant sister Peggy alive by feeding her powdered milk until concerned neighbours discovered the children’s plight.

The children’s aunt, Beryl Anderson Campbell, was serving in London at the time as a Matron in the Australian Army Nursing Service. On hearing of the death of her sister and brother-in-law, Beryl applied for early discharge from the service, stating “I have been asked to proceed to Canada, to act as guardian to these young children, wind up the estate left by my Brother-in-law, and take the children with me to Australia.” Discharge was granted, and Beryl departed for Canada in September 1919.

The Daley children came to live at Kilburnie Station with a family and in a country they had never known. The youngest child Peggy was adopted by her aunt Alice, while Jack, Elizabeth, and Sheila were raised by their unmarried aunts May and Ruby. The sale of lands which had belonged to their parents in Canada helped to fund private educations for the children. Both Sheila and Jack subsequently served in WWII – Sheila as a nurse, witnessing the fall of Singapore, and Jack as a pilot in the RAAF. He was killed on a mission over the Middle East in August 1942.

More information and images of the Campbell family of Kilburnie Homestead can be found on their website and Facebook page

Reopening Atherton Chinatown

After four months of closure due to COVID 19, the National Trust of Queensland (NTQ) have been preparing to reopen the Hou Wang Temple and museum displays in the Tableland Regional Council’s Old Post Office Gallery in Atherton. Like other cultural venues across the state, reopening is not as simple as just unlocking the doors and welcoming visitors. Facilities need to be prepared in line with strict regulations and COVID plans, and thoroughly cleaned. An opening date is planned for early August.

For Atherton Chinatown, this has meant addressing the effects of an extended period of rain which had caused mould issues in the gallery and the collection area. To help out, MDOs Ewen McPhee and Dr Jo Wills spent four days helping NTQ workers and volunteers undertake a ‘deep clean’ and refresh of the site. In the process we learnt more about the collection, the temple and Chinese history. We also got to know some of the amazing volunteers who proudly share Atherton Chinatown’s history with visitors throughout the year.

Preparing the Gallery

NTQ representative and archaeologist, Gordon Grimwade, photographed each display section as a reference point for re installation. We then dismantled each display, making sure to link the case, perspex cover and contents by a temporary number. Objects were placed on calico lined trestle tables in their display groupings to avoid any confusion. They were checked for mould or other problems and cleaned with either a dry cloth, a solution of vinegar and water, or lightly vacuumed using a micro attachment. Volunteers removed and cleaned all of the large timber backed images that were mounted on the display (back and front) and the free standing interpretation panels. Ewen and I removed some multimedia items that were no longer working, and cleaned and relined drawers in the display that contained collection items. The empty gallery was then cleaned by professional cleaners.

The installation process involved Ewen rehanging all of the agricultural instruments making sure they were at once secure and accessible. Jo reset each of the display cases and, because of the poor condition of the labels, created new foam core labels for all items (thanks to Tablelands Regional Gallery and Council staff for their help with materials). We also sought opportunities to make the extraordinary portraits in the gallery more accessible for visitors by removing obstacles and creating a clear line of sight. The result is a gallery that looks refreshed and reinvigorated, and that is easy to manage for the volunteers into the future.

Refreshing the Temple

Volunteers cleaning the temple fence.

Atherton’s Hou Wang Temple is an extraordinary and beautiful building made from black bean, red cedar and tin. It is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register and is the only surviving timber and iron temple in Queensland One of the volunteers, Graham, has been taking visitors through it for the past 17 years, and it was a pleasure to listen to him share his knowledge of the history and of Chinese symbolism.

Despite its charms, the temple does present ongoing maintenance challenges, particularly regarding mould and pest control. Gordon, along with volunteers Neil and Graham, spent considerable time cleaning mould and residue from the fence. Ewen worked to bring the interior of the temple back to life – mostly with vacuuming and cleaning the floors. In an attempt to reduce vermin access, he and Graham placed steel wool in gaps that were identified – this will hopefully reduce the damage and mess within the temple this while pest control solutions are explored.

A new collection room

The project also gave Gordon and the volunteers a chance to plan how their collection room, located in one of the back rooms of the post office, would operate. Lucy and Terry spent two days painting boards for the new shelving system. The room will be a dedicated collection space for storage, cataloguing and other collection management activities. Items that had to be moved temporarily into the temple meeting room can now be stored more appropriately.

Our thanks and appreciation for the help and good humour to all the volunteers, and to Gordon and Christine Grimwade who coordinated the weeks work.

Carl Zoeller & Co

While undertaking the significance assessment of the collection at Greycliffe Homestead recently (see here), I came across a small stoneware bottle of a patented cold branding solution. While the story of the branding solution itself is interesting, this little bottle has surprising links to much wider stories in Queensland’s history.

The firm of Carl Zoeller & Co was established in Brisbane in 1895 by German immigrant Carl Zoeller. Zoeller had arrived in Australia from his native Germany ten years before. Initially, the business imported and supplied surgical instruments, but later branched into veterinary supplies and began manufacturing some of their own products. By 1916, the firm employed 35 people and had a prestigious Queen Street address. Zoeller married in Australia, had four children, and was naturalized in 1908.

IMG_4806

The bottle of cold branding solution at Greycliffe Homestead

 

This cold branding solution was patented by New Zealand firm De-Lisle-Luttrell in 1904, and was promoted as a humane alternative to fire branding. The major attraction of chemical branding solutions, however, was that they would leave the skin undamaged for future use as hides. At the time it was estimated that the loss of value in hides damaged by fire branding was £100,000 annually in Queensland. Zoeller became the main Queensland importer of the De-Lisle-Luttrell product, and spent three years and considerable expense in extensive testing before marketing the product.

Zoeller’s success began to unravel with the outbreak of war with Germany in 1914. Following an order sent to a Stockholm firm for a small number of German made surgical instruments, Zoeller became the first person to be convicted under the Trading with the Enemy Act 1914. Zoeller, who had always been a staunch supporter and promoter of his adopted land, was fined £100. He remained insistent that his allegiance was to Australia, publishing in The Brisbane Courier in December 1915 that, “Messrs. Carl Zoeller and Co., Ltd., announce that they are a purely Australian house, that every penny of capital is Australian money, and that every penny of the firm’s profits is faithfully spent in this country.”

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Zoeller’s internee identification photograph from Holdsworthy

Zoeller’s naturalization and allegiance to Australia were not enough to save him from the wave of suspicion that permeated Australian society at the time, and in March of 1916 Zoeller was suddenly arrested, together with two other prominent German businessmen in Brisbane, and sent to Holsworthy internment camp. Zoeller remained interned for the duration of the war, and the separation from his family was clearly hard to bear. But worse was yet to come. In 1919 his naturalization was revoked and he was deported to Germany, leaving his family behind in Australia. Zoeller returned to a Germany that had been politically and economically crippled by the past five years of conflict, and the prospects for a man who had not been resident there for over 30 years were not bright.

Zoeller made numerous applications to return to Australia and be reunited with his family, all of which were denied. Applications for citizenship to New Zealand were also unsuccessful. He finally received citizenship in South Africa, where he again set up a business. Continued separation from his family and the anger and resentment he felt for his years of internment overwhelmed him however, and in November of 1926 he took his own life. Zoeller and his family are just some of the many uncounted victims of the fear and prejudice created by war.

This bottle is an interesting example of how a seemingly mundane object can unlock many more powerful stories. Queensland Museum also holds some items relating to both Zoeller’s commercial and private life, including some touching mementos from his time in internment.

 

Back on the road – heading west to Croydon

On the road to Croydon.

Last week, after almost three months working from home, MDOs Jo Wills and Ewen McPhee traveled to Croydon in western Queensland. While it was great to be back on the road, the journey also gave us the chance to see how small towns have been impacted by the COVID 19 upheaval. Lots of hand-washing stations at shops and service stations, and closed businesses and roads. Empty caravan parks really struck a cord – it is unheard of at this time of year in FNQ.

This was the first field trip for MDOs following the COVID 19 travel restrictions. It was organised in accordance with both Council and Queensland Museum risk assessment protocols. Each morning, Ewen and I would meet at the council offices and have our temperatures monitored before we could start work. Social distancing was a given, and we self catered to avoid unnecessary community interaction. Although the caravan sites were empty, the onsite accommodation was full – Croydon relies on contractors coming through to keep things going.

We were in Croydon to continue some of the work I’ve been doing in ‘lockdown’ to help Tourism Officer, Sandrine Gloton. Council is developing new interpretation panels for three goldfields displays in their heritage precinct buildings and while Sandrine has been writing and researching, I have been helping her with the interpretation techniques. As well as improving my knowledge of Croydon’s history, the project gave me a chance to re-engage with images created by one of the town’s (and Queensland’s) notable late 19th century photographers: Alphonse Chargois.

Although I have seen many Chargois photographs from the Gulf region (sample above), I enjoyed discovering a bit more about his life in Croydon. His obituary stated “he resided at Croydon when mining operations were booming and he interested himself in all matters concerning the progress of the district.” (Cairns Post 24 November 1936). This is clearly evident in his images of mines that appeared in many of the Northern Register stories about Croydon’s goldfield.

In addition to running a studio, and undertaking photographic trips around the region, Chargois was also a director of a mining lease, and a prominent member of Croydon’s Salvation Army. The Morning Post from August 1901 listed him as one of four directors of the Golden Gate No.9 South Block Gold Mining Company – I haven’t found out much more about that yet. Tragically, his son Henry, drowned in the Gilbert River in 1906. However Chargois appears to have stayed in Croydon for sometime before moving on to other towns and eventually Cairns.

There are numerous Chargois photographs held at the State Library of Queensland, National Museum of Australia and Cairns Historical Society – no doubt there are many other repositories that hold some of his images.

Gilbert River today – looking towards the single lane bridge.