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Extraordinary stories

Murray Islanders in national dress 1960

Free showcase

Extraordinary stories

Now showing
Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery, level 4

Stories worth telling. Stories worth hearing. Stories worth collecting.

These extraordinary stories draw upon State Library's collection to tell us more about Queensland and the lives lived here.

Currently on display

A color photograph of the Expo City Marching band performing in the Expo 88 Piazza

Douglas Isaac & The Expo City Marching Band

Californian percussionist Douglas Isaac was selected to lead the percussion section of the All Australian Expo City Marching Band following a casual conversation with an old college friend, who also happened to be World Expo ‘88’s Music Director. By the time he left Brisbane, Douglas had almost single–handedly introduced American–style marching bands to Australia.

Arriving in 1987, Douglas travelled all over Australia to audition percussionists for the 65-member marching band that performed twice–daily in the South Bank Piazza and in parades through the Southbank site. He introduced four new bass drum types never previously used in Australia, composed and arranged music scores and designed the marching drills for the band’s performances.

Douglas was a dedicated son and brother, as seen in the personal memorabilia and postcards in this collection. His family travelled to Brisbane to visit Douglas, his mother and father’s only trip outside the United States.

Watch a performance · Read more  ·  View in the catalogue

A frame from a home movie, in colour, where a family cleans and polishes a car while the father looks on

Paul Ruckert

Paul Ruckert (1913–2006) was a Brisbane based film producer and cinematographer. From a young age he had a fascination with film and photography, purchasing his first cameras when he was a teenager. In 1942, Paul married Iris and they built their home in Norman Park featuring a 32–seat theatrette downstairs and various studio areas for film production. Across five decades, Paul produced films and documentaries under the business name ‘Invincible Pictures’.

Read more  ·  View in the catalogue

A still from a video showing the back of a person wearing a number 20 "Aunt Pam" jersey.

Because of she, we can: Aunty Pamela Mam 2021

This digital story explores the inspirational role of Aunty Pamela Mam (1938–2020) as a co-founder of the Brisbane Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) in 1973. As one of the first Aboriginal nurses in Queensland Aunty Pam was vital in encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access health care. To honour Aunty Pam, the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health created the pink Pam Mam shirt.

View in the catalogue


Black and white photograph of a young woman looking out the window of a brick building

Arthur McLeod Photographs 

Arthur McLeod worked as an optometrist and lived in Camp Hill in the first half of the 20th century. He was a keen amateur photographer, documenting domestic scenes, recreational outings and visits to popular tourist spots such as Currumbin and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. 

This selection of photographs, covering a period of time between 1935 and 1955 come from a broader collection of 800 acetate negatives that Arthur’s family donated to State Library.

 View in the catalogue



An excerpt from a letter by George White, painted in ink on foolscap paper

George White

George Arthur White was a South Australia–born poster artist, sign painter, cartoonist, showman, buckjumper, roughrider, musician, ventriloquist, and inventor. He was every bit the wanderer, travelling Australia and New Zealand with his ‘Broncho George’ show and taking on whatever other work he could.

 View in the catalogue




A black of white photogroph of a group of women in a car.

Queensland Country Women’s Association

For 100 years the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) has enhanced the lives of women and made a significant contribution to rural and regional communities throughout the state.

Formed in 1922, the organisation was supported by then Governor Sir Matthew Nathan who likened the ‘pleasures of country women’ to a chapter on ‘Snakes in Ireland’ – meaning none existed. Isolation, unsuitable housing, and lack of transport, communication, and medical services were just some of the difficulties faced. The formation of local branches enabled women to come together and connect through social and advocacy activities.

Read more  ·  View in the catalogue

Postcard of a Hyth flying boat landing or taking off from water. Colour illustration

Dilys Mary Birbeck

In 1948, travelling by flying boat, Dilys Mary Birbeck, her husband, Wilfred, and their two small daughters, Joyce and Susan emigrated from England to Sydney. The trip took 10 days, instead of 40 days by sea, and involved 9 overnight stops in hotels and specially built accommodation. The route, as outlined by Dilys in her hand–written itinerary, started at Southhampton and then proceeded to Port Augusta in Sicily, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, Burma, Singapore, Sourabaya in Indonesia, Darwin, and Bowen in Queensland to refuel.

Read more  ·  View in the catalogue

Murray Islanders in national dress 1960

Dr Wilhelm Rechnitz

From 1949 to 1973 Dr Wilhelm Rechnitz spent most of his time living and working in the Torres Strait on various islands, including Thursday Island, Erub, Badu, and Saibai as a language expert. During this time, he recorded Torres Strait languages, including Meriam Mir and Kala Lagaw Ya and translated church texts into these languages.

These songs, manuscripts and records have significant meaning for Torres Strait Islander communities, providing a valuable resource to understand and connect with culture. Thousands of photographs from the Rechnitz collection can be explored online.

View in the catalogue

A black and white photograph of a young soldier.

William Baden Unwin

William (Billy) Baden Unwin (1901–1969) emigrated to Brisbane from America in 1914. Bill’s family was from a circus background, his mother performing as a ‘tattooed lady’ across the US. Travelling between circuses and Native American reservations, Billy and his younger brother Earnie learnt to box.

Billy, Earnie and their father enlisted with the Australian Army during WWI in 1917. Billy was discharged from the army as he was deemed ‘medically unfit for further service.’ It was thought he was too scrawny for war; too small and too light. A month later in August 1917 he won the Queensland Amateur Boxing and Wrestling Association’s ‘Champion of Champions’ trophy.

Read more · View in the catalogue