Instead of posting last week’s linkspam on Friday, I was in Brisbane, visiting the museum shops of my youth.
Back in the day — which is to say, the early to mid 2000s — the Museum of Brisbane was a funny little museum in a basement below City Hall.
(Steph interjects: a basement in a city that floods is a TERRIBLE place for a museum, Brisbane, wth.)
(Liz adds: City Hall is above the flood zone!)
It contained your standard local history exhibits, covering Indigenous cultures, the convict era and the 1972 floods, but sometimes it also featured totally whackadoo art instalments. My favourite was the film of a guy humping a mud puddle — sans pants — and apologising over and over again to the planet.
My favourite part of the Museum of Brisbane was the shop — in fact, it was the very first museum shop I fell in love with. It carried your usual doodads and whatnots, but it also had local history books that you couldn’t get anywhere else.
I was excited to revisit the museum and its delightful little shop last week.
Sadly, the Museum of Brisbane is no longer a weird basement dweller, but a proper grown-up museum on an upper floor of City Hall, complete with mod cons like multimedia exhibits and natural light. No more random earth-humping videos.
Having said that, I really loved the current main exhibit, titled 100% Brisbane. It opens with a loop of performances by local Indigenous artists — my favourite was by Birri Gubba Wiri and Kungalu Dawson River Murri artist Teila Watson, who records hip hop under the name Ancestress — and then takes you through Brisbane’s history, as portrayed through the eyes of 100 people who are thought to typify the city.
There was video, but also artefacts, like a tram driver’s union badge (the section on Brisbane’s trams, and the tram strike of the 1920s, was a highlight for me), and a display that consisted of tubes containing scents of Brisbane — frangipani, jacaranda, the smell of a storm, and more.
The shop wasn’t really a standout, but that’s not to say that it’s gone downhill since its basement days — more that I’ve seen a lot of museum and art gallery shops since then, and now realise that the MoB shop is quite standard.
Museum of Brisbane shop cons:
- very few postcards
- come on, guys, postcards are the best part of a museum or gallery shop!
- smaller collection of local history than in the past
- too many tea towels
- do people really buy hugely expensive art tea towels that are too thin to effectively dry their dishes?
- very little stuff relating to Brisbane’s trams, which is to say, there was an excellent model of a famous tram in the museum itself, and I’d have bought a toy version for my nephews
- the jewellery was not by that artist/company whose work is in two out of three museum or gallery shops in Australia
- for $25, you can buy a perfume containing one of the scents of Brisbane, and if I was a person who wore perfume, I’d have bought the storm scent
- some of the local history books have new editions
- good mix of price points, including some finger puppets and doodads for under $15
- bookmark that looks like a tram’s destination roll (about $2.95)
- bumper sticker bearing 100% Brisbane logo (about $3.95)
The Museum of Brisbane
- Level 3, City Hall, Brisbane City
- Accessibility: 100% wheelchair accessible (completely inaccessible by stairs)
- Cost of entry: free
Three out of five expensive art tea towels.