Charters Towers Archivist Michael Brumby retires

Left to Right - Mayor of Charters Towers Regional Council, Frank Beveridge; archivist Michael Brumby and Charters Towers Regional Council Chief Executive Officer, Aaron Johansson.  Source: Charter Towers Regional Council Facebook

In late 2021 and after 25 years researching the history of Charters Towers, former archivist and published author Michael Brumby decided it was time to retire his position with Charters Towers Regional Council.

When I learnt that Michael had retired from his long-standing role, I asked if he would share a little of his work history with John Oxley Library blog audiences and tell us about any highlights associated with his accumulated knowledge and research of Charters Towers – a regional town that was once described as ‘The World’, due to the discovery of gold in the 1870s.

Michael tells us...

“Charters Towers Archives was formed by a small group of history enthusiasts in 1996. We concentrated on collecting and arranging paper-based materials about Charters Towers to foster member interests and the curiosity of others, especially visitors to the town.

In 2003, I was asked by the former Charters Towers City Council to lead the group’s activities in a dedicated archival space in the newly renovated Excelsior Library. This was a big step forward for the group and the Archive has thrived ever since. One challenge was overcoming the growing opinion by clients that everything was ‘found’ on the internet. Even COVID-19 and the pandemic failed to slow down the number of enquiries in the past two years.

Today, the collection is extensive with a number of databases enabling officers to find information quickly and efficiently. If it is a question dealing with the town or surrounds, we can answer it in 97.6% of cases.

The collection includes obscure local government petitions, former health inspector reports and water meter inspection reports, all contributing to our knowledge of the people and the places where they lived and worked.”

Favourite item

 Anzac Gathering 25 April 1920. Image Id: 2008162.3278. Image courtesy of the Charters Towers Archive

“My favourite item in the collection was a photograph with the title “Anzac Gathering 25 April 1920”. (Image Id: 2008162.3278).

It was multifaceted in content. In it were men who had returned from the War finally getting together in Lissner Park, Charters Towers for the 5th Anzac Parade earlier that day; several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were interspersed among the group, and most revealing, was the number of men dressed in civilian clothing who were registered as members of the Rejected Volunteers’ Association. It interested me that they were included in the group photo with all those who had served and lived in the district in 1920.

Legacy and contributions

Staff working at the State Library of Queensland have had a long association with Michael.

In 2009 Michael was also involved in a digital story created for the Q150 Storylines project and from 2015 – 2018, he contributed articles about Charters Towers and the experience of the First World War on home soil. They are preserved as part of the Q Anzac 100: Memories for a New Generation project.

Charters Towers and Dalrymple Archives Group (Youtube)

Blogs by Michael Brumby

A farewell

Council presented Michael with a painting of the Excelsior Hotel dating from the 1880’s. The building was converted into the Charters Towers Excelsior Library in 2003 and the climate controlled archival space became part of the Charters Towers Regional Council Library Service at the same time.

Images from the Archives collection can be accessed on the RLQ Aurora Image Gallery collection and catalogue. The images were added to the gallery with funding support received from a State Library of Queensland Strategic Grant. A great collaboration for everyone involved!

Wishing you a great retirement Mr Brumby and all the best in your new life, compliments of State Library of Queensland.

Anne Scheu
Collections Engagement | Queensland Memory
State Library of Queensland

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