Blog Archives

Cyclone Season and Preparation

With the first low developing in the Coral Sea it is a good time to enact your cyclone preparedness plans.

Usually this should involve:

  • checking that all volunteers and local council staff are aware and have read the cyclone preparedness plan, and understand what need to be done if a cyclone watch is declared;
  • checking your disaster response bin and ensuring that it is up to date with the list enclosed in the bin (see below for list);
  • ensuring a recent backup of all computer files has been carried out, or check that routine automatic backup systems are working and up to date;
  • ensuring the museum curator and office holders have updated personal contact details for each other stored in their personal mobile phones;
  • checking the list of phone contacts for volunteers, local council contacts and emergency services;
  • checking local council cyclone plans;
  • checking that any procedures dealing with post disaster event are located in a safe place and that volunteers and staff  are aware of these;
  • locating all keys to display cabinets, testing that all locks work and access is available to remove objects. Storing the keys in the key safe and ensuring volunteers and staff know how to access;
  • ensuring collection items and display images have been updated and that volunteers and staff are aware;
  • ensuring any loaned objects are assessed and that they are returned if practical. Contacting lenders and make them aware that cyclone season is approaching;
  • cleaning all gutters, down pipes and removing overhead branches

Your disaster bin should be located in an area that is readily accessible and should have a list, kept with the bin, stating what the contents are.  It is important to replace things like batteries and review its contents on a regular basis.


  • 1 torch
  • 1 head torch
  • 1 spare battery
  • 10 metres plastic sheeting
  • 2 rolls waterproof tape
  • 1 pair scissors
  • 1 stanley knife
  • 4 packets paper towelling
  • 40 Chucks wipes
  • 1 sponge mop
  • 1 spare mop sponge
  • 1 hand sponge
  • 1 plastic bucket
  • 1 brush & pan
  • 8 garbage bags
  • 2 boxes nitrile gloves
  • 1 large & 1 medium rubber gloves
  • 2 dust masks
  • 2 waterproof pens
  • 30 tyvek labels & ties
  • 1 roll cotton tape
  • 1 notebook
  • 2 pens
  • 30 ziplock bags


Example of disaster supply bin - cable tie shut and cut when needed.  This will mean that supplies aren't used for general cleaning purposes

Example of disaster supply bin – cable tie shut and cut when needed. This will mean that supplies aren’t used for general cleaning purposes


For more information about cyclone and disasters preparation, visit some of the Museum Development Officer previous blog posts or contact us.



Follow up from Cyclone Nathan, FNQ

Preparation for Cyclone Nathan at James Cook Museum, Cooktown, March 2015.  Image: Jacqui Collins-Herrmann, Manager, James Cook Museum.

Preparation for Cyclone Nathan at James Cook Museum, Cooktown, March 2015.
Image: Jacqui Collins-Herrmann, Manager, James Cook Museum.

After two weeks of watching and waiting as Cyclone Nathan carved an erratic path back and forth across the Coral Sea, it finally passed over the FNQ coast on Friday/Saturday between Cape Flattery and Cape Melville. This more northerly crossing meant that the museums in Cooktown were spared the worst of the severe winds, and the museum at Coen did not experience adverse weather.  A number of these organisations are housed in heritage buildings. During cyclone season, we always reflect on the vulnerability of these buildings to heavy rain and cyclonic weather, particularly if they have sustained damage from previous weather events.

As usual, MDOs worked with groups in the immediate vicinity pre and post cyclone to discuss their preparations and contingencies, and to offer advice and support. We are pleased to advise that none of the organisations sustained significant damage or impact. Staff and volunteers at James Cook Museum, Nature’s Powerhouse, Cooktown History Centre and Cape York Heritage House all did a fantastic job during the lead up phase to ensure that collections, data and buildings were as prepared and protected as they could be.

Cyclone preparation and clean up can be an exhausting process – at work and at home. And it always disrupts work on other projects.   For Cooktown History Centre, Cyclone Nathan meant putting on hold their research and preparations for the new exhibition they plan to open for Anzac Day.  Spare a thought for these groups now as they clean up, reopen and get back to the business (and pleasure) of running museums.


Museums and Marcia

Yeppoon two weeks after Cyclone Marcia passed through the area.

Yeppoon two weeks after Cyclone Marcia passed through the area.

While communities in the Livingstone and Rockhampton Regional Council areas are still recovering from the effects of Tropical Cyclone Marcia, Lydia (MDO for Southern Inland Queensland) and I have been visiting museums in affected communities to offer collections care advice and assistance.

The rapid increase of Marcia from a relatively weak cyclone to a severe category 5 is a timely reminder that preparation is a museum’s best defence against severe weather events.  The potential for severe damage from Marcia was very real, and in the days leading up to the cyclone I had been in touch with as many groups as possible to talk over their preparations.  Although Marcia was still at that stage a relatively weak system, groups were taking the threat seriously and preparing well, ensuring the best possible outcomes for their collections and allowing themselves sufficient time to also prepare their own homes and families.

Roof damage in Rockhampton.

Roof damage in Rockhampton.

A well thought out Disaster Plan is invaluable in situations such as these.  Having a plan of action to follow, and a system for obtaining assistance should it be necessary, makes a very stressful situation considerably easier to manage.  But a Disaster Plan is only as good as your preparation – revise it, practice it, and make sure everyone knows what to do!  If you are interested in learning more about disaster preparation and response, visit the Disaster Recovery section in the Resources page on our blog.

In the aftermath of Marcia, no significant collection losses have been reported, and most groups seem to have escaped with relatively minor damage.  The museums were well aware, however, that the days following a cyclone are no time for complacency, and were carefully monitoring their collections for hidden leaks and mould growth, which can occur easily in the hot, humid and still conditions which inevitably follow.

The visit was also a reminder that, while some people have had their lives seriously disrupted by Marcia, most local businesses are trying to get back to normal so if you’re considering a visit to these regions, don’t shy away because of cyclone damage – come along and support local businesses and visit a museum or two while you’re there!

Yeppoon - as beautiful as ever.

Yeppoon – as beautiful as ever.

MDO’s in Coen post Cyclone Ita

Traveling along the Peninsula Development Road up to Coen.

Traveling along the Peninsula Development Road up to Coen.

Almost a month after Cyclone Ita threatened communities along the Far North Queensland coast, it is great to see museums in the Cook Shire back in business and getting ready for the tourist season. The museums and collecting groups in the region did a great job with their disaster preparedness – it’s fortunate that the predicted impact did not eventuate for these organisations. After being in close contact with the groups during the lead up to the cyclone, it was great for the MDOs for Far North Queensland and North Queensland to travel to the region and undertake some practical work with communities.

Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Telegraph Station Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Telegraph Station Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Last week, Jo Wills and Ewen McPhee traveled up the Peninsula Development Road to Coen to work with Gail and Peter Clark at Cape York Heritage House. There is always something to see and enjoy while traveling through this magnificent country – this time there was much more water around, and small billabongs and water lilies were evident along the roadside. It was also good to see that heritage places like the Musgrave Telegraph Station were still standing strong. Unfortunately, as the road through Lakeland National Park was closed we couldn’t visit Old Laura Homestead to see how that had fared.

Jo and Ewen have worked at Cape York Heritage House in Coen for the last three years, each time helping the local volunteers to clean, refresh, reinvigorate and reinstall displays. Every year, the volunteers pack down the museum for the wet season and reinstall at the beginning of May. In addition to the usual work, this year the MDO’s helped Gail begin work on a new policing display, put up some information about WWI, cleaned up the mining machinery display and developed plans for future projects in the region.

After three days in Coen, the MDOs headed back to Cooktown to James Cook Museum and Nature’s Powerhouse. Although cyclone damage is a little more evident there, again it is nowhere near the predicted impact.

Stay tuned for more entries about the MDO’s recent activities in Cooktown.


As Cyclone Ita has gathered strength in the Coral Sea, the MDO for Far North Queensland based in Cairns, Dr Jo Wills, has been liaising with groups across the far north region to provide advice and assistance as they prepare for its arrival.

Due to the uncertain path of the cyclone, there has been potential for small museums and historical societies in Cook Shire Council, Tablelands Regional Council, Mareeba Shire Council, Douglas Shire Council, Cairns Regional Council and Yarrabah Shire Council to be affected. This has meant that Jo has been either in direct or email contact with more than 25 groups and representatives from each council to provide collections related disaster information and advice.

Understanding the significant collections, the types of issues they may face due to rain, water damage and wind damage is vital to help the MDO prepare and prioritise any response they may be tasked to undertake.  One of the key tasks Jo has been undertaking is to ascertain any major concerns or issues groups in high risk zones, particularly in Cook Shire, might have. Many groups have collections in heritage buildings and some of these may be vulnerable in this significant storm. Groups in a flood inundation zone, like the Cooktown Historical Centre, for instance, have an important collection of archival documents. The National Trust of Queensland’s James Cook Museum is housed in a Queensland Heritage Register, heritage listed building and holds a significant regional collection of artefacts, photographs and items related to James Cook. Nature’s Powerhouse holds the botanical drawings of Vera Scarth Johnson – water damage to these would impact a significant record of the region’s diverse flora. Coen’s Cape York  Heritage House collections are also housed in an older building – they reflect the districts pastoral heritage, priceless records of interviews with local stockmen and have an association with the Cape’s telecommunications history.

Through contact with the various groups and councils, Jo is keenly aware of the work volunteers do to protect community collections as volunteers devote significant time to collecting and preserving local stories and heritage. Most of the groups Jo works with have experienced and dedicated volunteers who are keenly aware of the risks associated with a cyclone. All are working to secure their collections and buildings to the best of their ability.

The MDO program will keep you updated as we know more and please refer to our disaster recovery page here if you require some general advice.



Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita – Issued at 11:05 am EST Friday 11 April 2014.

Disaster Recovery

As well as seeking advice from your local Museum Development Officer, you can also find useful information from the following organisation’s websites.  Please check this blog regularly as we are updating a few areas that will be useful to you if you need assistance with your collections.

Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM)
AICCM is the professional body for conservators in Australia. Their website provides information on salvaging flood and fire damaged collections.

State Library of Queensland
A series of information guides developed by the State Library of Queensland with advice on how to salvage water damaged collections and how to deal with mould.

Queensland Disaster Information Network (Q-DIS)
Q-Dis is a web based group for sharing information on disaster preparedness for collections in Queensland. It includes links to resources and current happenings related to disaster preparedness response and recovery.

Blue Shield Australia Disaster Recovery Workshop – Townsville

Don’t forget tomorrow is the last day to RSVP for the Blue Shield Australia Disaster Recovery Workshop being held at the Museum of  Tropical Queensland (Qld Museum) in Townsville on May 16.  This is the only workshop being held in Queensland so if you are able to attend please RSVP by tomorrow.  Please see the Blue Shield Australia website for all details including contact for RSVP.

The aim of these interactive workshops is to :

  • provide a formal framework and mechanisms for sharing disaster management expertise and resources between regional cultural organisations
  • enhance community based disaster preparedness and response through the development and promotion of local disaster networks
  • build resilience in regional cultural heritage preservation