The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

18 October, 2016

Cooktown Museum and History Centre

In 1876-77 the Post & Telegraph Office was built in Cooktown however the building was taken over by the Council in 1893 after a fire destroyed their original offices.  Now it is home to the History Centre and staffed entirely by volunteers from the Cooktown & District Historical Society.

This is a wonderful place to visit as it showcases life through the ages in Cooktown with award winning displays, and well worth a visit.  Displays include early mining, the Cooktown Railway and the wharf area. There are many historical photos enhancing the area along with stories of life in times past.  Incredible to read all the cyclones, fires and hard times this community has encountered and how they are able to build themselves back up again.

Cooktown History Centre (next to the post office which was erected in 1887)

Excellent display cabinets following Cooktown's time line

Scetch map of Cooktown in 1874 with historic photos showing buildings in the town

The building in which the James Cook Museum is housed was completed in 1889 as St Mary's Convent of Mercy boarding school. In 1941 World War II resulted in the outbreak of war in the Pacific and women and children, including the remaining 4 sisters and 13 children at the Convent, were evacuated to Cairns.  By 1943 the Convent building was occupied by a Fleet Radio Unit Detachment of the US 7th Fleet, with the attic used as a radio room, the first floor as living quarters and the ground floor as storage for Convent furniture.  The Convent was returned to the Sisters at the end of the war, but was never occupied by them again.  It fell into a state of disrepair and became the temporary home for Hans Looser and his family for 5 months in 1955.

James Cook Museum

Administered by the National Trust of Queensland, the James Cook Museum is considered one of the most significant Trust museums open to the public.  Highlights include displays of the original H.M. Bark Endeavour anchor and cannon, Cook's diary extracts, stories from local Aboriginal elders, the Palmer River Gold Rush, everyday life in early Cook's Town and the Chinese who flocked to this area.
The Cooktown Manual Telephone Exchange operated from 1973 to 1985 when the Exchange became the last coastal manual system in Australia to be converted to automation


This spiral staircase was used by the girls boarding in the convent as only the Sisters were allowed to use the main wooden staircase.

This display showed early dental equipment - certainly would not be keen to sit in this chair and have work done with instruments displayed!

The Palmer Goldfield differed from earlier Australian goldfields by its high Chinese population.  By 1877 the number of Chinese on the Palmer had reached 18,000, over 90% of the fields population.  An infrastructure to support the Chinese population grew with the establishment of many market gardens, the construction of two Joss Houses in town and a shrine at the Cooktown Cemetery.  Chinese cooks were employed at many of the hotels and a Chinese Consulate was appointed in the late 19th Century

One of the displays in the Chinese Section of the Museum - Ladies shoes made for bound feet

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