Explore the State Library's unique treasures and collections representing different aspects of Queensland's social history and contemporary stories.

Margaret Lawrie collection of the Torres Strait Islands 1964-1998

Margaret Lawrie (1917 – 2003) travelled to the Torres Strait Islands during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. During her visits to seventeen Torres Strait Islander communities she recorded and documented the history, languages, lifestyle, and culture of the people living in the Torres Strait. This significant collection informed two publications: Myths and Legends of Torres Strait (1970) and Tales from Torres Strait (1972). The Margaret Lawrie collection was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian Register in 2008. Acc TR 1791

(I’m) Stranded / No Time, The Saints, 1976

Brisbane band The Saints were catapulted to instant notoriety with the release of their self-funded, self-produced debut single (I’m) Stranded in 1976. Despite decamping to London, the band was never comfortable as part of the punk establishment, recording only three albums before the group imploded. Regardless, this seminal single is often cited as one of the most influential songs in rock and roll history, inspiring generations of bands around the world.

Mary Watson Diaries, January - October 1881

Mary Beatrice Watson was born in 1860 in Cornwall, England. She migrated to Queensland in 1877 settling first in Maryborough. She met Robert E. Watson in Cooktown, aged 20, and joined him on Lizard Island following their marriage in May 1880. Due to changed circumstances Mary fled from Lizard Island with her small son and house boy, Ah Sam. Mary’s diary and a loose - leaf account recount her experience. 

John Watts Necklace ca. 1866 - 1869

This 18-carat gold swag necklace with five hinged carved pendants was made by Christian Ludwig Qwist for gentleman squatter John Watts. Each pendant is decorated with emblems thought to be of significance to John Watts including the unofficial “Advance Australia Arms” which gained popularity in the late 1880s, a horse, cattle, sheep and a ship under sail. Inside are hand-coloured portraits of John Watts and members of his family.

Real Estate map collection of the John Oxley Library

State Library of Queensland holds a unique and sometimes colourful collection of original estate maps and plans created by various real estate firms between the 1850s to the mid-1900s. The maps often showcase the various subdivisions by estate title, the number of blocks for sale and their proposed size, auctioneering details, and other interesting features in graphic detail.  The maps are especially useful for investigating the history of urban settlement and development in South-East Queensland.

Predominantly Brisbane based, several feature estate sales on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast regions of Queensland.

Portrait of an Australian, an artists’ book / Jonathan Tse, 1998

When Jonathon Tse’s mother gave him a box of old photographs taken by his father, he decided to make an artist’s book to honour the images and his family’s experience of immigrating to Australia from Hong Kong. The work, Portrait of an Australian, is a powerful meditation on migration viewed through the eyes of a child and what it means to identify as an Australian in the 1970s using the form of a passport to convey the message.

Archibald Meston Papers, 1867-1960

During his life’s work Archibald Meston was recognized as a journalist, politician, explorer, amateur ethnologist, and linguist. He was best known for his role as Chief Protector of Aborigines Southern Queensland from 1897 to 1904. During visits to Aboriginal communities and camps across Queensland, he recorded aspects of Aboriginal culture. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander words and wordlists he collated in notebooks provide valuable evidence for researchers and community language workers today.

Central Queensland Separation League Petition 1892-1893

Separation is a recurring theme in Queensland’s history. This petition was the result of the determined work of the Women’s Central Queensland Territorial Separation League, a movement formed in Rockhampton in 1892. Putting forth their grievances and with support demonstrated by lists showing the names of around 4,000 women, the petitioners requested Queen Victoria create a separate, independent, and self-governing colony for Central Queensland.