I’m from a Brisbane family and we visited throughout the 1970s. The glass cases stand out in my memory, and also the garden. I’m here with the Ekka—it’s great the gardens survived and weren’t hacked about with all the different uses since the museum left.
A note from the editor: Elizabeth Gillespie told this story to Margie Barram at the Australian Garden History Society display at the Ekka.
I love writing stories, and found it a little hard to pick just one that relates to the museum.
We were always visitors to Brisbane. Each year in the humid school holidays at Xmas we would drive the long dusty highway to visit Gran.
My grandmother lived in a cottage in East Brisbane, and for some reason she would take most of us (four girls in our family and four boy cousins) to the museum for the day. Like going to the pictures, Gran would bring a large bottle of cordial, a packet of bikkies and some sandwiches.
As a small girl it always seemed such a journey—I guess there was the bus from East Brisbane to the Valley, and then another bus up the hill to the door, or maybe it was still a tram.
There were two main memories, the first was being lost in the cavernous halls full of mystery, and the second was lunch out in the elegant gardens. We had nothing like this building in Canberra.
When I returned to Brisbane with my own three children, realising that the museum had moved, I took them all eagerly to South Bank. They didn’t have any expectation, but I apologised to them on the way in. I had built this trip up to be an adventure, a museum of natural history, a place of caverns, stair wells and being lost. It was too clean, too organised. We have become used to it now, but I wish they had the opportunity to know the old museum.
(the photo was from the time, but not from the museum)
My old museum story is from the 1960s, the time of my childhood, when my family—my parents, bother and sister—lived in northwestern Queensland. My father’s family had moved from north Queensland to Brisbane in the 1930s and most years of my growing up we made the long drive down the coast—turn right at Townsville—in the Christmas holidays. We visited members of my mother’s family along the way. From Caloundra we made short trips to Brisbane to my grandparents in New Farm.
I remember visits of the museum, and seeing the diorama about Aboriginal people on the ground floor, and the wide flight of stairs to the next level. The impressiveness of the staircase stayed with me—I had never been in such a large and beautiful building before. I can recall the magnificent display cabinets on this next level, in long rows, just like in the photo. I don’t remember Bert Hinkler’s plane, though it must have been there!
The mezzanine level of the Queensland Museum, with Bert Hinkler’s Avro Avian aeroplane hanging from the roof. John Oxley Library photo
I do remember the lung fish in its tank on the verandah, and the garden beyond. Once, in my memory, my mother and we children walked home from the museum to my grandparents’ house—I recall feeling very tired, and it being a long way. But, in hindsight, I realise that we probably walked to Fortitude Valley and caught the tram from behind McWhirters.