Precious treasures

Queensland Museum has been collecting the cultural, natural and geological heritage of Queensland, its surrounding waters and near neighbours since 1862. Each year, the State Collection grows, thanks to donations, bequests, fieldwork, commissions, purchases and exchanges. In the past year, we accessioned 30,755 cultural heritage objects and biological specimens into the State Collection.

Here are a few of our favourites:

Palaeontologists with rare fossil of a plesiosaur

An extraordinary find

In an Australian first, the complete skeleton of a 100-million-year-old Australian elasmosaur was discovered in Western Queensland. Dubbed the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of marine reptile palaeontology, Queensland Museum’s Dr Espen Knutsen led the recovery – the head and body have now been received into the collection for further research into Queensland’s Cretaceous past.

Tom Lamin standing infront of Mephisto holding compass

Mephisto’s compass

A WW1 German military compass believed to have been manufactured in Germany for the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen, known as Mephisto, was donated by Tom Lamin. Mephisto, on display at Queensland Museum Kurilpa, is the only known surviving tank of its kind in the world. Mr Lamin’s grandfather, World War 1 veteran Lieutenant Horace Lynch, brought the compass home from the war. Queensland Museum’s conservators will continue their research to confirm its provenance.

a recreated spencer motorycle The Workshops Rail Museum

New life for spare parts

A collection of spare motorcycle parts donated to Queensland Museum 25 years ago have been painstakingly transformed by members of the Historical Motor Cycle Club of Queensland into a beautiful and rare motorcycle. The Spencer Project pays homage to Queenslander David Spencer who developed the first locally and likely wholly-made and distinctly Australian motorcycle engine at the Ipswich Railway Workshops – now home of Queensland Museum Rail Workshops – in 1903. In 2020, volunteers started building the parts into a working motorcycle. Three years, and many hundreds of hours later, this unique and nationally significant motorcycle forms the centrepiece of The Spencer Project exhibition at Queensland Museum Rail Workshops.
Model of a Gawa Island Canoe on display

Care for collections

With so many treasures in our collections, care and conservation is a continual process requiring expertise and dedication. During the year, our conservation specialists treated 844 items across the collections to protect them for the future.

A significant conservation project featured a model canoe from Gawa Island, Papua New Guinea, showcased in our Connections Across the Coral Sea exhibition (Queensland Museum Kurilpa, 19 August 2022 – 2 July 2023). This six-month project included 125 individual repairs and extensive consultation with maritime experts from the Australian National Maritime Museum and State Library of Queensland to determine how to hoist the sail and secure the rigging.

The Conservation team also continued important preservation work on the Ellis Rowan Collection. Ellis Rowan (1848 – 1922)—acclaimed painter, naturalist, writer and explorer—was an extraordinary Australian woman for her era. For almost 50 years she travelled to remote parts of Australia, India, Europe, America and New Guinea in pursuit of exotic flowers and wildlife to paint. Queensland Museum holds a collection of 125 botanical paintings on paper by Rowan which depict Queensland flora.

A wide view of one part of the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum

A new era in digital discovery

By harnessing digital technology, we can bring collections to life, enhancing visitor experiences and research outcomes. Over the past year, our work has included the digitisation of more than 30,000 photographs, negatives, slides, videos, documents and newspaper clippings about the excavation of the HMS Pandora shipwreck. These records provide valuable context to this historical maritime archaeology project.

A highlight of the year was the launch of the Anzac Legacy Gallery virtual exhibition tour. The first of its kind for Queensland Museum, this free virtual tour enables users to navigate the gallery online to uncover stories and objects that shaped Queensland during the First World War.

There are over 15 million objects, specimens and other materials in the State Collection and so far, over 10,000 items of our cultural collection and over 1 million specimens are now accessible online. With your support, we can continue to make more of our collections available to everyone.

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