The Queensland Maritime Museum was founded in 1971 and is run by a self-funded voluntary Association. It is situated on the banks of the Brisbane River at the southern end of South Bank Parklands. The Museum contains extensive collections of historical maritime artifacts, books, documents and photographs. The collection is displayed to the public in the galleries and grounds of the Museum under the broad headings of Navigation, Lighthouses, Ship Models, Marine Engines, Vessels, and the Dry Dock.
On behalf of members of the public the Queensland Maritime Museum carries out research on all aspects of Queensland’s and Australia’s maritime history as well as on maritime matters generally.
The Museum is staffed by volunteers, a Chief Executive Officer and an Operations Supervisor. Our members include a high percentage of retired persons, many still using the skills of their trade or profession. There are retired ship masters, marine engineers, and ex naval personnel. There are persons skilled in carpentry, painting, boilermakers, fitters and turners, motor mechanics, printers – using presses over 100 years old – bookbinders, boat builders and people from management and other fields all working to restore and maintain the museum’s collection. Others are learning skills in preservation of historic artifacts and how to display them. In the library we have volunteers cataloging books, photographs and drawings as well as doing research into maritime history. In addition, there are those who look after the entrance, selling tickets and souvenirs, and those who guide tour groups and aged persons, as well as the very many school excursions that come to the museum to learn a little of our maritime history.
In 1969 a Queensland branch of the World Ship Society was formed. Those who joined had an interest in both shipping and maritime history. The members were asked to assist in showing maritime historical artifacts as part of Navy week.
As a result of the interest shown in the display, and realising the scope of historic artifacts in Brisbane, it was decided to form a steering committee to investigate the possibility of establishing a maritime museum in Brisbane. The Queensland Museum advised that it was responsible for all government museums under the Museums Act, but had no plans for establishing a maritime museum.
It was decided to call a meeting of interested persons and as a result of this meeting a decision was made to form an organization to establish a maritime museum with agreed Memorandum of Association stating that it shall be run by volunteers for the preservation and display of historical artifacts for the benefit of the public.
An approach was made to the Queensland Tug Company for the retired steam tug Forceful. In time, approval was given by the tug company and on 10 June 1971, the tug was handed over to the Association.
The Queensland Government was approached for the disused South Brisbane Graving Dock for use as a site for a maritime museum, the request was granted and the Brisbane City Council offered support. As a result of the press, radio and TV publicity there were applications received from 50 persons wishing to be members.
After taking possession of the South Brisbane Graving Dock on 1 April 1973, work commenced to clear the grounds as well as refurbish Forceful. In 1974, Brisbane had the biggest flood for many years, which flooded the area and destroyed that had been done. The flood covered the dock grounds to a depth of over 1 metre and flooded most buildings, leaving silt and rubbish everywhere.. The members set to and in December 1979 the old diesel workshop was opened as a museum display hall by the then Governor Sir James Ramsay.
The next highlight was when the Royal Australian Navy was persuaded to make the recently decommissioned World War 2 frigate Diamantina available as an exhibit in South Brisbane dock. The dock had been flooded for years and there was a lot of work, mainly by volunteers, making the dock ready for the ship. This included the removal of over 3 metres of silt from the dock floor.
A crew of our members, with the help of 12 Naval technicians, sailed the Diamantina from Sydney to Brisbane. In 1981, at last, all was ready and the ship placed in the dock and work commenced to restore her to her original configuration as a frigate. The restoration is still continuing. The ship is open to the public with mess decks and other spaces now housing displays of Naval historic artifacts which date from Queensland Colonial Naval Defence Force to today’s Navy.
Following Expo ’88, the building then used for the “Pavilion of Promise” display was given to the Queensland Maritime Museum Association as a museum hall. After a lot of hard work, the building was, and still is, open to the public each day with displays of classic ship models, marine engines, photographs, paintings and lighthouse equipment and many other historic items. It also houses a valuable library. The Queensland State Government funded an extension to the building in 2001/2, making it one of biggest maritime museums in Australia.
The Museum collection and displays continue to increase steadily each year. The work by the dedicated group of volunteers and members in restoring items goes on, with new items coming on display regularly.
The museum is run by the Queensland Maritime Museum Association, which is governed by an elected Board consisting of a Chairman and eight Directors (5 Internal and 4 Invited). The Queensland Maritime Museum is a self-funded organization.