Old Museum Building - 125th anniversary

The Old Museum Building situated in the inner-city suburb of Bowen Hills in Brisbane has enjoyed an eventful history since it was built in 1891. It initially served as the Exhibition Building, replacing the previous structure which was destroyed by fire in 1888.

Queensland Museum on Gregory Terrace in Brisbane, ca. 1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 118636

Queensland Museum on Gregory Terrace in Brisbane, ca. 1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 118636

The laying of the foundation stone ceremony took place at the site on April 25, 1891. Acting Governor of Queensland, Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer was given the honour of laying the foundation stone in front of a large crowd. A bottle containing a copy of each of the leading Brisbane journals was placed in the cavity beneath the foundation stone.

Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 68306

Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 68306

State Library of Queensland holds an original souvenir card produced for the ceremony, which features two sketches of the proposed building. The Brisbane Courier mentions the production of the souvenir prior to the ceremony - "A neat illustrated souvenir of the foundation ceremony has been prepared, giving an excellent representation of the finished building".

Souvenir of the laying of the foundation stone of the new Exhibition Building Brisbane by His Excellency Sir A. H. Palmer, K.C.M.G., acting governor, Saturday, 25th April, 1891. (SLQ collection)

Souvenir of the laying of the foundation stone of the new Exhibition Building Brisbane by His Excellency Sir A. H. Palmer, K.C.M.G., acting governor, Saturday, 25th April, 1891. (SLQ collection)

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Construction of the building was completed in August of the same year. Prior to completion a large souvenir linen handkerchief was produced with a sketch of the building. This handkerchief has been digitised by State Library of Queensland and can be viewed online.

Brisbane Exhibition Building Souvenir Handkerchief 1891. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Brisbane Exhibition Building Souvenir Handkerchief 1891. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Early photograph of the Exhibition Building 1895. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 61132

Early photograph of the Exhibition Building 1895. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 61132

Exhibition Hall, Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills 1924. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 21573

Exhibition Hall, Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills 1924. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 21573

The Queensland Museum later occupied the building from 1899 to 1986, before moving to South Bank. Queensland Youth Orchestras currently calls the Old Museum home.

In 1992 the Old Museum Building was heritage-listed. A detailed history of the building is available on the Queensland Heritage Register website.

Further reading:

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