Cultures and Histories Collections

Who manages the collections?

Our collections are managed by Cultures and Histories curatorial and collections staff within the Queensland Museum Network. There are a number of ways to access information about the collection:

Why do we collect?

Queensland Museum Network has a legislated responsibility, as defined by the Queensland Museum Act 1970, to collect, research and promote Queensland's natural, cultural and technological heritage. Collections ranging in origin from just days ago to minerals over 3 billion years old provide temporal and spatial evidence of changes occurring in our natural and cultural environments.

Cultural and historical collections provide a tangible link to human innovation and experience. Objects help document how people react to changes as dramatic as epidemics and war, to environmental stress and cultural differences. At the heart of our collection is the material culture of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, connecting the deep history of the continent with contemporary life in Australia today. We actively collect, focusing on popular contemporary culture including music, sport and politics. The researching and collecting of cultures and histories documents the present, and the very recent past, for the future.

What's in our collection?

The State Cultures and Histories Collection is comprised of objects that are significant to the people of Queensland. The collection includes a rich diversity of cultural objects including significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections, material from the Pacific Islands and important social history, transport and technology collections. These objects are cared for on behalf of all Queenslanders so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.

  • Archaeology – Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders cultural heritage, maritime and historical archaeological collections and antiquities collection
  • Indigenous Cultures – Human history focusing on indigenous cultural material from Australia, the Pacific and throughout the world. These collections include culturally sensitive material
  • Social History – every-day material culture, photographs, paintings, dress and textiles
  • Science and Technology – X-ray, medical, communications, environmental science equipment, photography
  • Industry – Rail history, Queensland aviation and horse drawn vehicles


The Australian archaeology collections consist of many archaeological assemblages derived from known archaeological contexts. These include Indigenous collections from Australia, Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands, and Historical Archaeological collections, Maritime Archaeology and Antiquities. The collection also includes an extensive collection of stone artefacts from Queensland and other locations in Australia, mostly from surface collections. These collections tell the story of people, land and place.

Indigenous Cultural Collections

Cultural material from Queensland’s Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders comprise the most important part of our collections. We also hold a significant Pacific Island Collection that connects Queensland to the Pacific. The collections are strongest in their links to Queensland and adjacent regions including the Northern Territory and the Western Pacific (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu).

Cultures and Histories research and community engagement activities play a key role in fostering respect and recognition of Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Australian South Sea Islander peoples in the broader Queensland community. Cultural objects from other parts of the world are represented in the collection. Highlights include Kastom collections of Australian South Sea Islander material, the MacGregor Collection from Papua New Guinea and the Marson collection of musical instruments.

Culturally sensitive material

Culturally sensitive material from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is cared for in custodianship at Queensland Museum. Most important are the Ancestral Remains of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders and Secret and/or Sacred Objects. Collected with little or no regard for people or traditional customs, these objects are now subject of a Repatriation program.

Social History

The history of Queensland, the state and its communities are well represented in the collection. The collections trace the earliest settler histories through to recent and current political and social history. Highlights include the Olive Ashworth and Gwen Gillam collections in the Dress and Textile sections; Daintree photographs and the Ellis Rowan botanical paintings.

Science and Technology

Queensland has a long history of research and innovation in the field of science and technology, so it is a focus for the state collection. The collection has a large number of items relating to the research, preservation and exploitation of Queensland's unique landscape. Environmental science objects in the Queensland Museum collection include implements aimed at the control of introduced pests such as rabbits and prickly pear. There is a strong X-ray technology collection as well as microscopes and testing equipment. Everyday technology is well represented from sewing machines and radios to computers and cameras. Similarly, Queensland’s reliance on industry is demonstrated by our agricultural, transport, mining and trades collections.

Accessing the collection

Collections Online

Selections of our collection objects are accessible through Queensland Museum Collections Online. These examples provide an overview of individual objects and collections, highlighting the variety and depth of our collections.

Specific Queensland Museum collections are also highlighted on the Museum metadata exchange.

Loans and Research

Queensland Museum supports the use of our collections in displays and research within the organisation and through loans to other institutions. For more information about borrowing objects read the Loan Guidelines. For more information on researching the collection please please complete the enquiry form.


If you have an enquiry regarding history, technology, archaeology or indigenous cultural collections, please complete the enquiry form.

We will acknowledge receipt of your enquiry within 10 days and provide an indicative timeframe for answering your query at that point. There may be occasions where we are unable to provide the information you seek. Depending on staff resources and expertise, enquiries may take up to six weeks to complete. Please view our Customer Service Charter (505 KB) pdf document icon for more information.

Donate to the Collection

We continue to expand the collection guided by our collection policy. Some of our current priorities include:

  • Trends in technological innovation and popular culture;
  • Contemporary Aboriginal Peoples’ and Torres Strait Islanders’ stories of resistance, separation and celebration; and
  • Queensland’s military and political history.

For more information, please see donating to the Collection.