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150 years ago in Brisbane: the evolution of the Queensland Museum

By JOL Admin | 24 January 2012

On Friday January 20, the Queensland Museum opened its doors again, several weeks after it closed for major renovations.  Just in time to celebrate the Museum’s sesquicentennial anniversary. Once again children and their families can visit the dinosaurs. However, this is not the first time in Brisbane’s history that we have been without a museum.

Once upon a time Brisbane had no museum. The newly created  colony of Queensland had a couple of  newspapers and a  newly created local council in Brisbane, but it was distinctly lacking in many other important things that we take for granted now. Much in the way  of infrastructure, for instance. And there was no museum. 



However, within a relatively short time, the citizens  of Brisbane did have a museum, even if it  was a small one.  On March 1, 1859, even before Queensland  became a separate colony, the Queensland Philosophical Society had been formed for scientific purposes. Prominent in the foundation of the Society were (among others)  Charles Coxen and Silvester Diggles, who remained actively involved in the Society and, subsequently, its Museum. On 20 January, 1862, a room of the Windmill (on Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill) became the home of the museum collection acquired by the Queensland Philosophical Society; the Government also made a grant of 100 pounds by way of financial assistance to the Society.  Karl Theodor Staiger was the first professional curator of the newly created Queensland Museum.

The fledgling Museum moved to the Parliamentary building in Queen Street in 1868, and three years later the Queensland government assumed primary responsibility for it. The Museum  was on the move again in 1873, when it was relocated to the old Post Office building.  By now a permanent, somewhat more adequate, home for the Queensland Museum had become highly desirable, not to mention urgent; in 1879 the permanent home became a reality. It moved into a dedicated building in William Street , which became part of the State Library’s history in 1899; the Public Library of Queensland   inherited the William Street building (then minus the extension and its mural) when the Queensland Museum moved again, this time to the Exhibition building. Where it remained for 86 years.    

The final change of address came in 1986, when Brisbane’s Cultural Centre complex became a reality. The following year the State Library moved out of the Queensland Museum’s old home to join the Museum on the South Bank.

 Trudy Bennett, Librarian - State Library of Queensland


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