It is off the high street and up a little hill and it is a must see in this small but fascinating town. There was a time when Cooktown was not small at all, and it was the Centre for the goldfields found nearby, with as many as 65 hotels and 3000 inhabitants. It came to prominence in the 1880s.
The Museum is significant for the history it houses and for once being an important educational establishment in Northern Queensland. It was build in the 1880's and it soon came to be the home of the sisters of Mercy, who arrived from Ireland and set up this Convent school in this magnificent building with views overlooking the river and beyond. The Convent school operated from about 1912 until the Second World War. The building was then abandoned until the National Trust rescued it from demolition.
The current house, which is open to the public, has informative displays of the medicines used at the time, the clothes worn and the daily necessities of those times. The teaching methods and the Religious aspects of the Convent are there on display as well. You can also see the Chinese influx to the area and what they contributed. Most of the ground floor is dedicated to the history of area including Cook's arrival and encounters with aboriginal tribes. The culture and traditions of the aboriginal tribes are also on display. Last but by no means least the anchor from Captains Cook's " Endeavour " which ran aground when it struck an outcrop of the Great Barrier Reef. It took a gigantic effort to save the ship and a long time before it was sea worthy again.
In that time Cook had the opportunity to meet some of the local aboriginal tribes and tentative efforts were made to exchange gifts and communications. I remember being fascinated by a story I read in the Museum about the Aboriginal people feeling very affronted when Cook did not share some of the turtle meat they had. In their culture, and I have actually heard this from aboriginals since, if you have too much, you always look to share with your people, or as in this case, new people. They could not understand why Cook did not behave in the same way and this lead to some disquiet among them though they were eventually appeased.
The Museum is a beautiful exposition of the important role that the Irish Sisters of Mercy had in educating the children of the area as well as the explaining the history of the town itself and its fate, which at the time was so dependent on the gold mines nearby.
MON—FRI 9AM TO 4PM SAT—SUN 9AM TO 12.30PM AND 1PM TO 4PM