Australiana Queensland outing to Miegunyah 13 June 2018
Fifteen members and guests attended the meeting at The Queensland Women’s Historical Association (QWHA) historic house museum, Miegunyah (http://www.miegunyah.org/). Built in 1886, Miegunyah is an elegant Queenslander style timber house built by a wealthy family for their son. It is richly decorated with cast iron lace made specifically for the house.
It was a perfect winter’s day in Brisbane as we were seated at tables set on the wide veranda and treated to home-made scones with leaf tea or plunger coffee. QWHA members talked knowledgeably about the house and its history, the history of the families that had lived there and the surrounding area of Bowen Hills.
Our tour of the house and some highlights of the collection was guided by society member Dr Judith McKay, who is very knowledgeable about the house and its extraordinary collection. Dr McKay prepared a significance assessment of the collection undertaken under the guidelines of the National Library of Australia’s Community Heritage Grant program (http://www.miegunyah.org/pdf_files/2016%20Significance%20Assessment%20of%20the%20QWHA%20collection%20Report.pdf). We learned from Dr McKay that the QWHA was the first organisation in Queensland to actively collect material and items relating to white settler history. Because of that early start and the enthusiasm of its members their privately held collection remains extremely important today. Australiana Society members are encouraged to visit the Association’s website and download the illustrated significance report as these provide an excellent introduction to the museum (links above).
As Dr McKay writes in her report “Many of the association’s early members were related to notable pioneers, enabling it to collect material associated with early premiers and other politicians, professionals, senior public servants, pioneer pastoralists and the like. Other material was given by members who were notable in their own right, while some material was obtained by making direct approaches to descendants of governors, etc. At the time the QWHA had few competitors in Queensland actively collecting historical material hence it managed to secure material of outstanding significance that would normally have gone to state collections.”
The house museum and its collection are maintained by the hard work and efforts of the members of the QWHA, supplemented only by the occasional grant of specific purpose funds. The entry fee and the charges for Devonshire Tea on the veranda provides the bulk of their income.
The house and its collection are relatively unrecognised and are deserving of much greater support. We encourage all society members visiting Queensland to include Miegunyah in their itinerary. The museum is open on Wednesdays 10.30 to 3 pm and Saturday and Sunday 10.30 to 4 pm. Visits on other days may be possible by prior arrangement. The bulk of their approximately 15,000 item collection is in storage so if members have specific interests in material not usually on show (e.g. quilts, costume) it would be wise to contact the Association to negotiate access prior to your visit.
David Bedford and Jennifer Stuerzl