The 2011 Queensland floods were devastating, causing widespread damage, destruction, and loss of life. The State Library was not spared – with the lower level of the building being inundated with floodwaters that threatened to destroy thousands of collection items stored in basement vaults. However the quick thinking of State Library staff saw the collections moved to higher ground in plenty of time, and revealed some hitherto unseen treasures.
As the floodwaters subsided and staff returned to the building to tirelessly clean mud out of every nook and cranny, a small crack team of librarians got to work on saving collections. Of note were the library’s glass plate negative collections – selecting images that would normally sit in boxes on shelves in a basement, for digitisation. Many of these images had not seen the light of day for many years, but now, thanks to the floods, they have risen to the surface, and can now be appreciated on a global scale through the State Library’s catalogue, One Search.
One collection that was unearthed during the process was an eclectic mix of images of Ipswich, Mt Morgan and Brisbane. Not a lot is known about the collection – glass plate negatives from 1890 through to 1925 depict a variety of locations, residences, buildings, sporting teams and portraits, most of which are unidentified. From gymnasts doing impossible feats to businesses that offer to curl your feathers, the Ipswich, Mt. Morgan and Brisbane Gelatin Glass Plate Negatives collection (Reference Code 27884) offers a diverse pictorial record of early Queensland life.
Some of the identified images include the Infants’ State School at Mt. Morgan, the premises of Hughes and Cameron, Auctioneers, in Ipswich, and St. Columba’s Catholic Church, Wilston. Some of the images have also been added to State Library’s page on Flickr Commons, making them even more accessible to a wider audience, who can hopefully help to identify some of the people, places, or events depicted in these fascinating photographs. Now available in One Search, the digitisation of these images is the silver lining to the dark cloud that was the 2011 floods. While many collections were identified at the time for digitisation, this one in particular is poignant and gives us a chance to showcase the every day history of Queensland.
Serena Coates – Senior Project Officer, Digital Preservation with C. Cottle – Digital Collections Curator, Queensland Memory