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Life in Irons at Museum of Brisbane - Free Exhibition

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by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Event: -
Brisbane's convict stories
convict, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, penal, archives, soldiers, may cross
I was surprised how little this Soldier's jacket was (May Cross)


The Museum of Brisbane has done it again - another excellent FREE exhibition about Brisbane's history and culture. Using immersive technology, Life in Irons: Brisbane's Convict Stories "transports" you back to the Moreton Bay Penal Colony. The colony was founded by the British Government in 1824, "To reinstate transportation as an object of real terror to all classes of society". It certainly achieved that aim. During its short 16 years history, it was one of Australia's most brutal and feared prisons.

convict, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, penal, archives, soldiers


Life in convict Brisbane was incredibly harsh for the 3,000 men and women imprisoned there (and 800 soldiers and about three dozen free settlers) from its establishment to its closure in 1839. It also irreversibly changed the life of Aborigines - the Turrbal and Jagera peoples - on whose Country the colony was built.

convict, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, penal, archives, soldiers
Indigenous history is included in the exhibition (photo of art by May Cross)


Explored through dozens of personal stories, Life in Irons is a fascinating introduction to our city's inception. The exhibition provides a vivid insight into daily life in the settlement using original documents, personal accounts and contemporary art, alongside interactive technologies. This is a rare chance to see a few remaining original, official documents from Brisbane's penal colony. Queensland State Archives have loaned MoB some priceless pieces, including architectural plans and maps, handwritten registers, and the Book of Trials which details Brisbane Town's crimes and punishment. These historically significant documents are listed on UNESCO's Australian Memory of the World Register. Very impressive. There are also new artworks on display from Danie Mellor and Lawrence English. I found it fascinating.

convict, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, penal, archives, soldiers, may cross
Original artwork by D Mellor and L English (photo by M Cross)


Life in Irons - Exhibition and Curator Tours
Every week on Wednesdays at 12.00 noon, until 24 Oct 2018 you can join curators who will share their wealth of knowledge about the exhibits. These tours are free, but bookings are required. I have attended one of the tours and I highly recommend it. Curator Madeleine Johns and historians Dr Ray Kerkhove and Jenny Harrison share new research, delve into the personal stories and provide an insight into key themes, design and conservation challenges. of this great exhibition.

convict, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, penal, archives, soldiers, may cross
Original Maps from State Archives (May Cross)


MoB Sundays
Sunday is traditionally family day at Museum of Brisbane. Bring your kids along, choose a character and create your own adventure for a special family-themed MoB Kids tour of Life in Irons. You can then head into the beautiful Dome Lounge for activities that will have the little ones learning and creating while having fun. It's on every Sunday from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon and is FREE.

convict, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, penal, archives, soldiers, may cross
MoB Sundays in the Dome Lounge (May Cross)


A Convict's Hope
A Convict's Hope invites you to solve puzzles, complete tasks and work with family and friends in a game-like and theatrical experience exploring Life in Irons. You will meet an eccentric collector of stories who needs help to reconnect the story of Brisbane's convict past. Enjoy the new digital technology and dramatic storytelling which creates an engaging experience. This playful show is brought to you by Folly Games, the people behind "Glampire Masquerade" show which was a big success at the Anywhere Theatre Festival, and interactive games at the Woodford Festival. It's on until 27 October and is suitable for all ages. Prices vary (with group discounts available) and bookings are essential. Fans of puzzle rooms and history will love it.

convict, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, penal, archives, soldiers, may cross
Rare convict shirt 1819-1848 (May Cross)

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Why? Gain an insight into Brisbane's origins
When: Until 28 October 10am to 5pm daily
Phone: 07 3339 0800
Where: Museum of Brisbane, King George Square, Brisbane
Cost: FREE
Your Comment
Hi May, Love the article and love the Museum, there is always something interesting and educational happening there.
by Susan J Bowes (score: 3|1372) 448 days ago
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