Curator with gloves holding historic images. "Help Save Queensland's Stories 2024 Appeal" graphic overlay.

Ipswich in a new century: the Roberts Collection

Our 2024 Appeal aims to preserve and share more of our collections through digitisation. All donations over $2 are tax deductible and your donation will help save Queensland’s heritage for future generations.

Brisbane street in Toowoomba, mid 1900s

At Queensland Museum Rail Workshops in Ipswich, the team is working on digitising the Roberts collection. 


Albert Edwin Roberts (1878-1964) was a coachbuilder by trade but a true renaissance man at heart.


Known as Bert, he was born in Birmingham, England, in 1878. He and his parents migrated to Queensland on board the Dunbar Castle in 1880 and later settled in Ipswich, where his father ran a successful coachbuilding business on the corner of Gordon and Brisbane Streets.


When cars became popular, they moved from building horse-drawn vehicles to motorised vehicles. Bert started to build bus bodies and later became a Ford dealer, opening the Fiveways Garage in the late 1920s.


Street parade, mid 1900s

Bert had many interests including geology, music, Aboriginal cultures, nature and the new technologies of the early 20th century. A member of the Ipswich Photographic Society, his broad interests are reflected in his prolific photography. Bert had an eye for capturing all facets of life in a new century, from workers and machinery in the rapidly expanding Railway Workshops to picnics, street parades and social gatherings.


Queensland Museum holds over 1,000 glass plate negatives in the Roberts Collection.

mid 1900s image of Bakers cart and horse

“Bert Roberts’ images show Ipswich as a thriving and productive city embracing transport innovation and social change,” said Jennifer High, Senior Curator Transport and Energy at Queensland Museum Rail Workshops.


“In previous decades, museums would produce physical prints from their glass plate negatives but this can impact the fragile image layer on irreplaceable glass.”


“Digitisation is a detailed process. As well as scanning the material, researchers also create the metadata associated with it to enable users to find, sort and filter content. This is a large collection so we will begin by digitising a curated small selection first. These films serve as a visual link and connection to the history of the Darling Downs and regional Queensland.”


With your support, digital files could preserve the historical images and enable wider access for research and education in future, with minimal need for further handling of the original glass plate negatives.

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