As many museum followers know, Cairns is home to a nationally significant collection of Chinese artefacts known as the Lit Sung Goong temple collection. Cared for by the Heritage Group at Cairns and District Chinese Association Inc. (CADCAI), this collection tells the story of early migration and settlement, of business connections and acumen, religious practices and artistic skill and craftsmanship.
What many do not know, however, is that CADCAI is seeking support to build a new Chinese Cultural Centre. A new facility would support CADCAI’s vast array of activities, and be a place to preserve and display the Lit Sung Goong collection and explore Chinese-Australian history. Development plans and concepts are already underway, but there is still much to do before their vision can be realised.
Over the past two months, CADCAI volunteers have been working with Dr Jo Wills, MDO in Cairns, to develop display panels and banners that can be used in both temporary exhibitions and to promote CADCAI’s activities throughout the year. Following a successful RADF application to Cairns Regional Council, the group has undertaken exhibition concept development training with the MDO, text writing activities and worked with a local graphic designer. They are grateful to Cairns Historical Society and Museum for lending them showcases to display some of the collection.
Using the history of the temple, the Chinese history of Cairns and the preservation of the collection as a starting point, the banners, panels and object cases illustrate the exquisite beauty of this collection, and highlight the role played by Chinese settlers to the region. They also highlight the work that has already gone into preserving these items, and the passion of those involved. This background research and work with the collection has been so important for developing these exhibition materials. Follow this link to see a few of CADCAI’s short videos that feature the collection and volunteers.
For those based in Cairns, make sure you visit the updated CADCAI display on Grafton Street this Saturday as part of the Chinese New Year street festival and visit the festival website to find out what else is on. 恭喜發財 – Gong Xi Fa Cai – Happy Chinese New Year. 2017 is the Year of the Rooster!
At the recent Q ANZAC 100 Heritage Leaders Workshop held at the State Library in Brisbane, I was asked to participate in a forum about community involvement in First World War Projects with three other speakers. This gave me the opportunity to discuss a few of the projects I have worked on as the MDO for far north Queensland:
Portraits of the North (Mareeba Historical Society)
Cooktown at War (James Cook Museum, Cooktown)
HistoryPin Project (Australian Sugar Industry Museum, Mourilyan)
Re-Honouring Cardwell (Cardwell and District Historical Society)
But as we sat and discussed the projects and their merits, I wish, in hindsight, that I had reflected a little more on what aspects of the projects didn’t go to plan or experienced hiccups. I am the first confess that the delivery of some of my projects encountered speed humps and that we had to make changes and deviations along the way. It’s rare that we speak publically about mistakes or hiccups – but I find these are the very things that provide invaluable learning. If we shared these experiences more readily with some of the other groups undertaking projects we might help them avoid some of the issues we have encountered.
I was also aware that the projects I discussed are but a few of those that have been produced locally, and that one of the legacies of this extraordinarily busy period of history making was the skills and contributions of museum and historical society volunteers. In far north Queensland, Cairns Historical Society, Mareeba Historical Society, Mareeba Shire Council, Cairns Regional Council, Douglas Shire Historical Society, Loudoun House Museum, Mount Garnet Visitor Information centre, Cooktown History Centre, to name just a few, have all delivered a range of exhibitions and events that provide a distinctive far north Queensland take on the First World War and involved people in undertaking historical and museum based work.
Fortunately, the Heritage Leaders Workshop gave participants an opportunity to see projects from across the region, and also appreciate the different sort of people involved. Far north Queensland was represented by volunteers from Mareeba Heritage Centre, Douglas Shire Historical Society, Atherton Library and Mulgrave Settlers Museum. Ken Keith spoke about the Douglas Shire Historical Society’s Douglas Diggers WWI Project. During one of the workshops, Don Lawrie from the Mulgrave Settlers Museum took the stage and entertained the audience with his storytelling and object based remembrances. I think it is this personal involvement, and the satisfaction that people glean from it, that lies at the heart of these projects’ success.
Like many museums across Queensland, James Cook Museum received funding from the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program. Designed to showcase the museum’s First World War collections, the grant also included time for Ewen and I to provide onsite advice, reconfigure the gallery space and install the exhibition.
When Kate Eastick took over the reins as the museums new curator, however, she decided to refocus the exhibition to tell stories from the home front and the local community, and identified a different space for the exhibition. This change responded, in part, to some of the stories and objects Kate uncovered during her research. An unexpected find, for example, was a hand crocheted square (pictured below). She was also keenly aware of Cooktown History Centre’s Behind the Lines Exhibition, which provides detailed biographies of Cooktown’s soldiers and their wartime experiences.
Cooktown’s War creates an additional narrative layer to Cooktown’s war stories and reveals the impact of the First World War on Cooktown residents. And by working with members of the History Centre, the exhibition demonstrates the benefits of two of Cooktown’s premier collecting organisations pooling resources and knowledge. Shared photos and research have meant that details about rifle clubs, and Chinese business owners and war loans have been placed on display. Difficulties surrounding Indigenous enlistment are explored through archives and portraits of Charles and Norman Baird, brothers who were among Queensland’s Indigenous soldiers from the region. Stories of Red Cross fundraising initiatives and women’s patriotic activities have been woven into the exhibition framework through evocative photographs (see below). Kate also included a contemporary story using a uniform and images from the 100 years commemorative march held in Cooktown this year.
Changes to the project meant that Ewen and I also had to make adjustments. The alternative gallery space meant Ewen had to install a new hanging system and different types of framing mounts and matts were required. By coincidence, Cooktown’s timber honour board, already on the display, is located outside the gallery. This, and a poster created to promote the exhibition, created a nice entry to the gallery. I had to remove some photos and posters from damaged frames for conservation and display purposes. I also made a range of different mounts and object supports, and generally extended my sewing skills! Of course, label making is always a feature for this type of project, but I can advise that the degree of difficulty definitely increases as the temperature and humidity rises!
MDOs have to be fairly versatile and responsive whilst in the field. As James Cook Museum had recently had a serious pest issue in its Indigenous display cabinets, we took time out from the exhibition to reline the cases with unbleached calico and then reinstall all the objects that had been treated prior to our arrival.
The ANZAC Centenary has provided a stimulus to reflect on impact of war on communities. The emotional distance created by the passage of 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War has resulted in an interesting dynamic for the exploration of the past. Generationally, it has distanced many from the raw and deeply upsetting immediate personal impacts of the war. In turn, it also appears to have created an environment where the highly political, patriotic and emotionally charged rhetoric of yesterday has decayed, allowing the reconsideration of our current perspectives on the past. This setting has been conducive to the acknowledgement of previously untold or marginalized aspects of our war history.
The remembrance of Aboriginal Soldiers is one such “forgotten” story and the focus of the new exhibition “Black Diggers”. Produced by the Museum Development Office of South East Queensland for the Scenic Rim Council, it focuses on Aboriginal service people connected with the Scenic Rim region throughout a range of conflicts.
The exhibition takes the form of a compilation of stories and images shared by community members about serving family members and their own experiences at home during the war years. The decision by community members to share their stories with the broader community in remembrance of their soldiers has been a moving and humbling experience, and one that will be greatly appreciated by all.
The historical component of the exhibition shares the gallery space with a range of artworks inspired by the topic created by the Munanjali Artist group and Kim Williams.
As a whole, the evocative and powerful nature of these first person recollections, images and artworks certainly makes for interesting viewing. However it is hoped that the exhibition provides a conceptual space or starting point for future remembrance, storytelling and sharing within its communities that endures beyond July.
“Black Diggers” will be on display at The Centre, Beaudesert from the 5th of June to the 15th of July 2015.
For more information, visit
With the Anzac Centenary Commemorations well under way, many organisations are working towards projects remembering their community’s contributions and experiences of the Great War. One such project
is the exhibition ANZAC: a day in the life of…The exhibition is a collaborative work by the Museum Development Office of South East Queensland, in partnership with the Scenic Rim Regional Council and Museums of the Scenic Rim Heritage Network. It is also part of a year-long program of exhibitions and activities focused on the War years in the Scenic Rim.
The exhibition aims to explore some of the stories of local identities associated with the Great War. With phenomenal enlistment and casualty figures for the region, it could only
ever examine a small cross section of some of the regions soldiers, pilots and nurses who served during the period. Amongst those featured were Corporal Bernard “Barney” Gordon VC MM, Corporal John “Jack” Evan Bartle MM DCM, Major Bertram Charles Bell DSO DSC, Private Charles Chesworth Burgess, Private Michael James Enright, Nurse Nita Selwyn-Smith, and Pastor Christian Seybold. It also provided a challenging look at some of the less prominent aspects and personalities of the regions WW1 history, such as
residents of German heritage, and those injured or incapacitated by their experiences at war.
The Scenic Rim region has had a large population of German and Prussian settlers, with quite a number of Lutheran followers. With a rise in anti-German sentiment after the outbreak of war, there were a number of incidents involving those of German descent. One such story was that of the arrest of Dugandan Pastor Christian Seybold who was later interned at the Holdsworthy internment camp in NSW and deported back to Germany. Seybold was accused of preaching pro-German sympathies to his congregation, allegedly encouraging them to pray for the success of the German army and decorating his church in black after the success of an allied battle. It is unclear if these claims were ever substantiated officially, or were the effects of overzealous patriotism tinged with xenophobia.
Another fascinating character affected by the war was returned soldier Private Charles Chesworth Burgess. Suffering from shellshock and other undefined physiological trauma caused by a severe gunshot wound to the head, Burgess returned home only to be denied assistance in resettling and treatment. He took up residence in a series of caves on his property, living a simple subsistence lifestyle and growing his own vegetarian food. He prescribed to principles of nonviolence as promoted by The House of David, an American religious movement, and grew his hair and beard long. His experiences at war and on return undoubtedly distanced him from his home community.
At the opening last Friday a fantastic evening of entertainment was held, with two-up games (for matchstick stakes, of course!) and good old fashioned sing song of period tunes, reminiscent of the patriotic balls of the day. Anzac: A day in the life of… will be on display at The Centre, Beaudesert, until the 27th of May 2015. An abbreviated satellite version will also be on display at the Boonah Cultural Centre.
Are you Anzac-ready? Or busy working on an Anzac-related project? As museums and historical societies across the state continue preparations for a suite of Anzac projects for the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, let’s take a sneak preview of a project underway in far north Queensland.
Anzac Treasures from the Tablelands is collaborative exhibition between museums, historical societies, libraries and visitor information centres from the Tablelands Heritage Network. They are working with the FNQ MDO to pull together and curate the exhibition. It is funded through the Federal Government’s Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program in the Kennedy electorate, via the Friends of the Atherton Chinese Temple, and with the support of Tablelands Regional Council.
The exhibition aims to highlight the work volunteers do to protect the districts heritage, as well as commemorate the First World War and its impact in the region. Part of the project has involved the volunteers participating in a series of exhibition workshops which explore the process of putting an exhibition together – from developing a concept and identifying objects to organising space and writing labels. Over the next few weeks, groups will be busy framing images, finalising labels and preparing their contributions prior to installation and the exhibition opening.
This is the first collaborative exhibition the Tablelands Heritage Network have worked on together. It has been a lot of fun, as well as an informative and engaging process. Participants have been sharing resources and ideas, and comparing their own local knowledge of this topic and the region during the war period. At a recent workshop, volunteers presented a range of objects for inclusion in the exhibition, some previews of which are included in this article published in a recent edition of the Tablelander newspaper. Click on the newspaper to read.
Anzac Treasures from the Tablelands opens on 2 April 2015 at the Post Office Gallery at Atherton Chinatown, 86 Herberton Road. It run will run for two months. Inquiries to Atherton Chinatown: 07 4091 6945 or firstname.lastname@example.org
MDOs from North Queensland, Ewen McPhee, and Far North Queensland, Dr Jo Wills, have curated Defending the Pacific, an exhibition that commemorates Australia’s (and North Queensland’s) first action in the First World War.
Using material drawn from collections from the Cairns Historical Society, Zara Clark Museum, Army Museum of North Queensland, Hinchinbrook Library, Townsville City Library, State Library of Queensland and the Australian War Memorial, the exhibition explores the special nature of North Queenslanders involvement in the First World War: of the rifle clubs, the Kennedy Regiment, their journey to Thursday Island and to New Guinea, and their subsequent early return to Australia without having seen active service.
Sponsored by the Queensland Anzac Centenary Committee, the MDOs worked with communities throughout north and far north Queensland, and on Cape York and Torres Strait, to secure venues and participation. The exhibition banners are on display at Bowen Museum, Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers, Hinchinbrook Library in Ingham, Atherton Library, Cairns Library, Mareeba Library, Seisa Holiday Park, Torres Strait Heritage Museum on Horn Island, Horn Island Airport, Peddell’s Ferry on Thursday Island and at the Indigenous Knowledge Centre on Poruma. A special photographic exhibition that explores the rifle clubs of North Queensland accompanies the banners at the Army Museum of North Queensland in Townsville, and there is a photographic display at Green Hill Fort, Thursday Island. Ewen and Jo have recently traveled to the Torres Strait to install the exhibitions in different venues and liaise with communities.
Given the strength of the visual material and story, Jo Wills also worked with ABC Open Far North Producer, Gemma Deavin, to create a digital story which is now available online.
Particular thanks to the Army Museum of North Queensland, Hinchinbrook Library, Cairns Historical Society and Tyler Wellenseik from the State Library of Queensland for their assistance in pulling together this exhibition.
MDO Lydia Egunnike began her NAIDOC week by attending the launch of a new exhibition celebrating the extraordinary sporting history of Cherbourg, a small town in the South Burnett region. Cherbourg, or Barambah as it was originally called, was established by Salvation Army member William Thompson in 1899. It became a Government Settlement in 1904. Under the “Aboriginal Protection Act” Aboriginal people from across Queensland and New South Wales were relocated to Cherbourg. From its beginnings, the community produced an exceptional number of local, state and national champions across a wide range of sports. Many of the surrounding communities recruited team members from Cherbourg. The Ration Shed museum celebrates this history in their new exhibition “Play the ball”.
The day began at the Cherbourg cemetery with the poignant unveiling of a new headstone for Frank “Big Shot” Fisher, a Cherbourg legend, and rugby league great.
After a hearty morning tea, the “Play the ball” exhibition was launched with the cutting of the ribbon by former local ruby league player Uncle Cecil Brown. Chris Sarra (on behalf of the Australian Rugby League Commission) presented a presentation plaque celebrating the Cherbourg rugby league “Team of the Century”.
“Play the ball” shares the triumphant and moving stories of Cherbourg’s sporting champions and unsung heroes. The exhibition uses a vibrant mix of photographic, oral history and audio-visual content. A number of original objects such as trophies are also on display.
The audience is encouraged to reflect upon the social, political, and cultural context in which these sporting achievements occurred. They are also reminded of the potential power of sports to instil pride and bring communities together. The exhibition has been developed as “a reconciliation process for Cherbourg and surrounding communities, a display of local pride in achievement, an affirmation of prowess and ability, and a demonstration of what is possible to the community youth.” (http://rationshed.com.au/play-the-ball-the-story-of-sport-in-cherbourg/).
If you would like more information on the exhibition and the Ration Shed Museum, please go to http://rationshed.com.au/
Keen punters from Western Queensland and beyond gathered in Tambo this year for a very special race meet to mark 150 years of horse racing. In the long history of Queensland racing, Tambo lays claim to the earliest organised race day west of the Great Dividing Range.
With horses being the most common form of transport at the time, it is no surprise that the first organised horse races were held in the district on the 20th and 21st of July 1864, barely one year after the gazetting of the township. No doubt fuelled by community spirit and the posturing of both riders and breeders, the first race was hosted by Henry L. Harden, owner of Northampton Downs station. The event was staged under the name of the Great Western Downs Race Meeting and saw 4 races each day, with 21 horses entered by 14 owners. Prizes included a number of silver trophies, silver spurs, and around 54 sovereigns prize money- not a small sum for the time!
To help celebrate the event, the Central Queensland MDO worked with the Tambo & District Race Club to develop and produce Racing on the River, a travelling exhibition exploring the history of racing in the district.
An exciting discovery was made during the exhibition development: the location of the first racing trophy, “The Northampton Downs Cup”. With community assistance, this holy grail of Tambo Racing history was traced back to a private collector in Toowoomba. Mrs Diana Mayall was kind enough to loan the precious piece of history for part of the exhibition.
The exhibition will travel to a number of venues in the Blackall Tambo Region throughout 2014. This project was supported by funding from the Regional Arts Development Fund through Arts Queensland and Blackall Tambo Regional Council partnering to support local arts and culture.
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.
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.