By Myles Sinnamon, Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland | 30 July 2021
It is not uncommon for old photographs, slides and home movies donated to our collection to lack a description, leaving us to scratch our collective heads over the who, what, where, and when depicted. To help us in our quest to solve these little mysteries we've sought the wisdom of our knowledgeable Facebook followers, with some tremendous successes. With each mystery solved we've updated the description in our One Search catalogue, making these items more discoverable to researchers. Here are some of our success stories.
The mystery house
An old photograph of a grand house situated on an elevated corner block next to a tramline had us stumped. We believed the image was taken somewhere in Brisbane, but nothing further was known. There were no visible street signs.
Panorama of a large Queenslander house on the corner of Milton Road and Hobbs Street, Auchenflower. Photographer: R. P. Moore. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 5657-0001
So this image was posted to our Facebook page and we received a stream of comments - "It looks like..." Windsor, Chermside, Woolloongabba, The Grange, Milton, Toowong, Greenslopes and Camp Hill were all suggested. Our commenters refused to be beaten, mustering their research skills, using a number of online databases such as Google Street view, Trove Newspapers and QImagery for old aerial photographs of Brisbane suburbs.
It was eventually determined the house, known as Glenville, once existed on the corner of Milton Road and Hobbs Street in Auchenflower. The house was named for pastoralist Glenville Massy, a former resident. One determined sleuth found the house on a 1932 Brisbane sewerage detail plan digitised by the Brisbane City Council, as well as aerial photographs on QImagery, which revealed the house was demolished sometime during the 1960s. With this new evidence we updated the description of our catalogue record.
What the heck is that?
Once again thanks to Facebook users we were able to positively identify the location of this image as well as explain the purpose of the concrete shelter. The location was determined to be on Roma Street, Brisbane, near the intersection of Saul Street (on the left) and Countess Street (on the right). The concrete shelter was identified as a Tramways points cabin, used back when the points were switched manually by a 'points boy' using a lever. The brick building on the left was the State Produce Agency. The railway huts on the right are on what is now the site of the Roma Street Fire and Rescue Station. The roof of the Petrie Terrace Police Barracks can be seen in the distance.
Tramways points cabin on Roma Street, Brisbane, ca.1930. 10189 Queensland Cement & Lime Company Limited Photograph Albums. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 10189-0002-0094
Other mystery images solved
This unidentified image from the Rev. Higlett Photograph Albums 1906-1929 was identified as a view of Myora Mission on North Stradbroke Island, believed to have been taken in 1906.
View of Myora Mission, North Stradbroke Island. 6600 Rev Higlett Photograph Albums 1906-1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 48205
Two images from the Brier Photographs collection were identified as the Lake Manchester Dam. Another vintage image entitled 'View over school buildings across an unidentified town' from the Sunshine Coast Local History Photographs ca. 1880-1935 collection, was revealed to be a view over the Nambour Rural School in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Lake Manchester Dam. 5692 Brier Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
View overlooking the Nambour Rural School, ca. 1920. 30135 Sunshine Coast Local History Photographs ca. 1880-1935. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 30135-0001-0050
Not just still images
It's not just photographs that occasionally need detective work. We've also asked for assistance in identifying the locations featured in old home movies in our collection. This distinguished looking bowls club from the Don Finlay motion picture collection was identified by Facebook users as the old East Brisbane Bowls Club building.
Another still from the same collection was successfully identified as the Greenmount Guest House at Coolangatta.
East Brisbane Bowls Club, 1962. Still from 31886/13 Don Finlay motion picture collection. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Greenmount Guest House Greenmount Hill, Coolangatta. Still from 31886/13 Don Finlay motion picture collection. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Mysteries still unsolved
Sadly the Facebook brains trust is not infallible. Here are a few examples of mystery images too hard to crack. Let us know in the comments if you recognise these locations. Stay tuned to our blog for more solved mysteries coming soon.
View of a town on a hillside. 27868, Brisbane and Regional Queensland Gelatin Glass Plate Negatives. Image number: 27868-0001-0024
Bridge spanning an unidentified river in Queensland, 1880s-1900s. 30865 Barnard, Lawrence and Loane Family glass slides. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 30865-0001-0017
Myles Sinnamon - Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland
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