Creative Histories is a project of Queensland artist Judy Barrass who is interested in interpreting history through her art practice.


Artist in Residence at The Woodworks Museum

officeG150 artist Meaghan Shelton will be creating an installation within the Mill office at the Gympie Woodworks Museum. Since this Saturday, October 15th  is Open Day at the Museum, with the sawmill operating and many things happening, Meaghan will be taking up residence for the day and beginning work on her installation. She’s interested in hearing stories and chatting with the public while she works, so say hello if you make it to the open day.



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Now and Then



We have a title for the exhibition! And it’s ‘Now and Then’. Thank you to Robin Hines for developing a logo that represents our backwards/forwards view of history.


Robin Hines

Four of the G150 artists met at Gympie Library on October 4th for an update, to decide on the title and visit the local history section of Gympie Library.

Robin reported that he is well underway to producing a series of paintings depicting modern versions of objects from the Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum. Robin’s idea is to highlight the past by referring to the present by showing the older objects alongside his paintings of the new. So, an old tin bath and bathing will be alongside his painting of a nude in the shower.

Rhonda is recreating five objects from the Gold Mining and Historical Museum in felt. Her first completed piece highlights aspects of the role of women. Shawn is planning to create a dark space within the gallery for a video installation that is playful and historically interesting, and John is working on an installation that will highlight the various stages of Gympie’s development, as well as some woodcuts depicting mining activity.

Rhonda Rettke, Robin Hines and John Gerritsen
John Gerritsen showing the group some of his printed woodcuts depicting the mining industry.

We then visited the Local History Section of the Gympie Library where there’s a wealth of photos, maps and information. The room is manned on Tuesdays 10-3.00 by Rose Sami and available other times by request. Beth Wilson, is the person who knows most about  the collection, and it’s  best to make an appointment  with her regarding access. There are also a lot of heritage resources available via the Library’s website.

Rhonda rettke
Rhonda Rettke finding inspiration for her next felted work in the local history section.
Shawn Javis and Robin Hines
Shawn Jarvis and Robin Hines sharing some of the vast amount of information contained in the local history section.
Rose Sami keeps the collection open to the public on Tuesdays 10.00 am to 3.00 pm. Rose, a long term resident, has many stories to tell about Gympie’s history.


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Artist Meeting and Museum Visit September 14th

Johng Gerritsen, Rhonda Rettke, Shawn Jarvis, and Robin Hines

Two of the artists selected for G150 are away until mid October, but the remaining four met with curator, Judy Barrass, at Gympie Regional Gallery to discuss the possibilities for artists working with museums, ideas for works and how the project might proceed. It is early in the project and there was as yet no interaction with the museums so ideas have yet to be fully formulated.

The afternoon was spent at Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum wandering through the vast collection looking for ideas and marvelling that John had expert knowledge about almost every piece of machinery or tool or display in the museum – even how the ancient dental drill worked!

Rhonda capturing images to take home and ponder
John explains the workings of a dentist drill to Shawn
Robin discovers the raw material for an installation in cupboard after cupboard filled with Gympie Times


Shawn excited to find one the same as he has at home, but in better condition than his


John checks out the make of the engine on a road roller

It did seem like the afternoon was a lot more fun and inspirational than talking and looking at slides of what other artists have done in the morning. After a slow start Robin went away with a sketchbook brimming with ideas, and John is possibly contemplating building a steam roller out of old road signs, or a dental drill out of old school books, or something like that. Rhonda and Shawn have taken home images of things that took their fancy or produced ideas. Who knows what’s going to come of it? Artworks we hope.


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Gympie Woodworks Museum


Carol Bradtke with a slice from a giant kauri pine.

On the opposite end of town to the Gold Mine Museum, Gympie Woodwork Museum tells the story of Australian forests and forestry. A significant collection of woodworking tools, photos, machinery and woods form part of a ‘living’ museum that includes a working steam driven timber mill and a working blacksmith shop, as well as being home to Gympie District Woodworkers Club.  Timber getting and wood work has been a vital part of the development of Gympie and Australia as a whole, including its role in mine supports and the railway as well as the first buildings in the township.

Carole Bradtke made curator, Judy Barrass, welcome and was delighted to be able to support the G150 artists project. Artists will find a wealth of inspirational material here, from the massive wagons used to haul logs to the delicate treadle driven scroll saws. img_0613



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Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum

Gympie was once the home of the largest dairy in the Southern hemisphere.

One of the museums taking part in the project is the Gold Mining and Historical Museum  run by the Gympie Historical Society, which sprawls over a large site next to the very pleasant Lake Alford park on the outskirts of Gympie. The no longer operational No 2 South Great Eastern gold mine forms part of the site as well as a number of buildings including two school buildings, a church, a railway station and Andrew Fisher’s cottage. Exhibits from the timber industry, dairy industry, primary production, gems, shells, transport, military and a wide range of social history are part of a huge, eclectic collection that offers a vast trove of inspiration for artists. The extensive site and it’s collection are maintained by volunteers.

Secretary of Gympie Historical Society, Ralph Richardson, and Treasurer Marilyn Soames.

On a preliminary visit to the museum members of the Historical Society committee made curator, Judy Barrass, welcome, showed her around the site and were generally supportive of the idea of artists using the collection as the inspiraton for the G150 exhibition.

A wealth of machinery and tools tell the story of Gympie’s mining past.
The railway has been a huge influence on Gympie’s history from its inception to the present day

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Now and Then – Gympie 150 2016/17

In 2016 six artists were chosen to work with curator Judy Barrass to develop work in response to the collections of Gympie’s local historical museums for  an exhibition  to be held in Gympie Regional Gallery the following year. The exhibition was part of Gympie’s 150th birthday celebrations in 2017. The project was funded by Gympie Regional Council and the Gympie Regional Gallery.

Gympie Region in Southeast Queensland, Australia, is a diverse region stretching from the coastal towns of Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach in the East to the rural, farming communities of Kilkivan and Goomeri in the West. The township of Gympie, the economic hub of the region, is located 160 kilometres north of the state capital, Brisbane. The region has a rich heritage and history which is celebrated in various ways. 2017 is the anniversary of the discovery of gold in Gympie and said to be the date the town was founded.

Many of the posts from the original Gympie 150 – Now and Then blog are now reproduced on this site.

Judy Barrass June 22nd 2020

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Catalogue Essay – Collective Insites Exhibition, Gatakers Artspace 2011


Judy Barrass – Curator

In 2010 Gatakers Artspace in Maryborough received RADF funding for a project that sought to stimulate audience engagement and interest in local museums through innovative approaches to interpreting and examining their collections.

At a time when museums are moving away from being mere repositories of material objects, to a broader role of engagement and communication, creative approaches developed by artists can enliven experiences and develop new ways of reaching audiences. Artists are used to dealing in concepts and ideas, used to questioning, commenting and seeking fresh approaches.

Five artists were selected, each to work with one of five historical collections chosen to be part of the project. Each has developed a body of work as a response to this interaction. We deliberately chose artists with varying levels of experience who were working in a variety of mediums. Each has brought their own skills, biases, interpretations and personality to the project.

The collections chosen for the project were also a widely differing selection, from the traditional military museum to a scattered collection of objects and memorabilia relating to Maryborough’s industrial past.

Collaborations between historical collections and artists are not new, although very few have taken place in a regional context, where small museums often make a significant contribution to the cultural and economic fabric of the community.

While the primary focus of this project has been interaction between the artists and individual collections, it has also been about the forging of new relationships and repositioning the role of cultural institutions in the community. In this project Gatakers Artspace chose to redraw the boundaries between art, gallery, and heritage, museum, adding to and enriching the cultural mix in Maryborough.

There are many ways artists can work with collections and each of the five artists involved in Collective Insites has approached the project in a different way.

New media artist David Hodges’ reaction to Brennan and Geraghty’s store was immediate and enthusiastic. Rather than making comment on the collection he chose to augment and restate its existing message. David’s interactive, digital recreations of objects from the store offer a new way for audiences to engage with the museum. His objective was to work collaboratively with museum curator Ken Brooks to restate the museum message to reach a younger, more tech-savvy age group. The partnership that grew out of the project has produced a lasting resource for the store, which David has generously donated to the owners, the National Trust of Queensland.

In contrast to David’s approach, digitial artist Peta Duggan has used her own reactions to the Military Museum as the basis for her works.

Peta’s strong pacifist principles made interacting with this collection a personal journey that sometimes evoked strong emotions, uncertainties, and mixed feelings. At times the desire to respect and honor the museum and its custodians was at odds with her immediate reactions and long held beliefs. Peta’s richly layered digital imagery recontextualises the message of the museum, positioning it in a far less certain environment where truths are contested, assumptions are laid bare, and alternative points of view are allowed. The time capsule piece is safely positioned sometime in the distant future, allowing her to say what she wants about a possible future without offence to the past.

Christine Turner used her interaction with the collection at MavisBank to reiterate themes she has previously explored in her work.  She uses household objects from the past to represent the role of the ‘domestic goddess’ or Mother figure.

The rich and eclectic Mavis Bank collection provided ample fodder for Christine to continue to explore the intersections between the public and private faces of women, between the relentless drudgery of household chores and the refinement of the parlour; between the reality and the romanticised goddess. Christine draws our attention to these unstated tensions and untold stories in the everyday objects in the collection.

Susan Hutton is acutely aware that what many perceive as the long history of Maryborough is but a moment in the story of an ancient land. Such perception heightens her awareness of the ephemeral nature of things. She sees objects in the museum as having only a fleeting ‘presence’ that fades with time, until meaning is lost and they become relics. Like old bones, her ceramic objects retain their shape but are bleached of colour and pattern suggesting a withdrawal from the procession of time.

In isolating, recreating and repositioning objects from the collection Susan makes reference to museum practices of chosing, collecting and displaying objects from the past, preserved on a pedestal but divorced from the life where they once played an active part as treasured or practical objects.

“For many of us, our families have been implanted into this land for only a few generations. We move house we exchange neighbours.  Our sense of history has been pulled out from under us. The museum collection delivers us a tangible connection, a feeling of fraternity, a part ownership of  history maybe.”

Niels Ellmoos has appropriated aspects of museum practice and discourse as a strategy in his work with the collection of wooden patterns from Walkers Foundry. A central concern of his art has been to show how time and images construct our relationship to the world around us.

Maryborough’s industrial history revealed rich imagery for Niels.Documentary photographs of men working in the foundries provided a reality of a particular place and time.

 ‘Images of harsh and dangerous working conditions of the foundry workers as bare handed and bare-chested ‘bronzed Aussies’ contrasted dramatically with the pristine wooden forms of the patterns, the material evidence remaining today. The inscriptions (the orders for production), written on the patterns reveal the human link to those dangerous situations’.

A mural sized charcoal drawing forms the centerpiece of Niels’ installation. Incorporating the drama of human intervention, it is interwoven with the energy of the foundry activities, reflecting an interplay of chaos and order.

The collection of moulds was stored in several locations and had recently been moved because of floods. This necessary portability provided a departure point for the notion of a portable or traveling museum. Rough timber transport palettes pose as a microcosm of museum space that theoretically can be moved from place to place and re-assembled in various ways.

The third element of his installation, a documentary digital movie loop of a 1950’s industrial training film, draws attention away from fascination with the sculptural and aesthetic qualities of the patterns by making direct reference to a utilitarian, industrial past.

Niels says it was his intention not only to re-interpret the collection but also to explore the tension between entertainment and education created by placing a museum collection in an art gallery space.

My intention was to inject a sense of history, disjuncture, humour and absence into a multi faceted installation of seemingly disparate elements of media.’

His use of several different mediums within the same installation explores the concept of collage in a new context. Each of the elements in the installation fits together to tell the whole story.

This project has been a major undertaking by a gallery that seeks to become an integral part of the Fraser Coast community. Gatakers Artspace is a relatively new community facility, being barely a year old when this exhibition opens. The gallery welcomed Niels Ellmoos as ‘artist in residence’ in the early part of the project giving visitors an insight into an artist’s practice and a taste of what was to come in the future. It also gave Niels the opportunity to come into contact with people who had memories of working at Walkers in the past.

Collective Insites positions local museums as a place of relevance to contemporary culture and local community. The project provides a model for collaborations between artists, galleries, and historical collections in regional areas, and gives an insight into how creative approaches can invigorate the interface between museums and their audience. This is of particular relevance in regional areas where small local museums often contribute significantly to the cultural and economic fabric of the community, and where partnerships between cultural institutions are of great importance.

Many have contributed to the success of the project. It would not have been possible without funding from RADF, without the assistance and support of Museums Development Officer, Fiona Mohr, and the direct involvement of staff and volunteers at the gallery. Downer EDI have sponsored the printing of this catalogue. The museums have been equal partners, opening their doors and their collections to the artists with great generosity. All deserve credit, but it is the artists who have made the project what it is. They have worked with great enthusiasm and commitment to bring to us their own creative interpretations and responses to the collections.

I hope you enjoy Collective Insites. It has been an interesting and rewarding experience for me to have been part of the project and I thank all involved.

Judy Barrass

 Curator of Collective Insites

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Peta Duggan – Maryborough Military Museum, Collective Insites, Gatakers Artspace Mackay

Peta Duggan is a young woman who thinks things through, who asks the difficult questions and worries about the answers. Her interaction with the Maryborough Military Museum led to hours of thought and internal discussions that were documented in diary format.

Working with the Military Museum presented her with a personal dilemma. She was acutely aware of the honour and pride that the museum and its collection engendered in its custodians and in the community, and of the need to give due deference to the museum’s stories and heroes; and yet she was also not prepared to ignore her own distaste for war and aggression. Peta’s diaries tell of an internal conversation and questioning that went far deeper than interaction with mere objects.

The curator and the selection committee had deliberately chosen this vibrant young digital artist to interact with the conservative militarymuseum, and were sure the owners and staff had the goodwill and maturity to cope with what might come of it. The outcome has been exciting and rewarding.

The museum gave Peta full access to the collection and to a bank of many images of objects. She used many of these images in her work, combining  them with her own imagery  into a richly layered digital tapestry of story upon story.

To overcome some of the conflicts Peta found in dealing with her subject she positioned her work well into the future.

A time capsule (a large sculptural object created from found objects and digital imagery, created 100 years earlier has recently landed in the year 4200AZ  into a world where humans are no longer like us, but wars and conflicts are still occurring. The contents are now opened and revealed to the earth’s inhabitants.






Peta’s collection of 18 digital images  shown in the exhibition documents the contents of the capsule. They represent both an aftermath and our own future. Many fantastic and unimagined things have happened, and many wars have taken place, but ethical questions remain unanswered, which leads us to wonder about the nature of conflict and war. Will we continue to repeat history?

Her work recontextualises the message of the museum, placing it in a far less certain environment where truths are contested, assumptions are laid bare, and alternative points of view are allowed.  In doing so she allows her audience to consider the message of the museum outside the emotive context of its sacred objects and stories.

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David Hodges – Collective Insites – Gatakers Artspace, Marybourough

David Hodges knew right from the beginning that he was going to put together a new media work that built upon and reiterated the message of the National Trust property, Brennan and Geraghty’s Store Museum. His interaction with the collection immediately developed into a collaborative working arrangement with curator Ken Brookes.

David applied his considerable skills in graphic design, digital 3D modeling and video production to producing a touch screen installation that interpreted various significant items in the Brennan and Geraghty collection. In doing so he also created a lasting resource for the National Trust.

The video can be seen in a modified version for the internet here There are also some working videos and a summary from David of his approach to his work on the Collective Insites ABC Pool site.

For the group exhibition David’s installation was housed in a strange tardis-like construction made from old wooden election booths, which is shown under construction below.Visitors operated the touchscreen outside the booth and peeped through holes to see the large screen projection inside, an idea reminiscent of the old Victorian peephole shows.

The openings for the screen and peepholes were framed in ornate gilt , the whimsical idea of  Trevor Spohr who helped David construct the booth. It was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, and fitted well with the theme of David’s work.

The touchscreen mounted in the viewing booth.

Peepholes were available at various heights.

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Christine Turner – Collective Insites – Gatakers Artspace Maryborough

As an artist who often uses objects from the past as a metaphor, Christine Turner found an ample supply of inspiration in the eclectic collection at the historic house, Mavis Bank. The essentially personal and domestic nature of the collection fitted well with the recurrent ‘domestic goddess’ themes in Christine’s previous work.

Her work in the Collective Insites group exhibition explored the intersection between the private and public faces of women and between the reality and the dream.  Objects of household drudgery from the Mavis Bank collection were juxtaposed with symbols of refinement and romanticized notions of womanhood. Her transformation of machines from the Mavis Bank collection reminds us of the meaning we find in objects from the past. Their inclusion in an art gallery exhibition, transformed by the artist raises our perceptions of these objects from mere curiosities with long gone practical uses to symbols of wider and more esoteric stories.

An old copper filled with doilies standing in a pool of laces highlighted the essential conflict between the reality of hard work and practicality with the refinement of the parlour.

An old washer became a bride like figure with a veil of lace. The backdrop hanging of impossibly white, starched lace and linen richly embroidered with the word ‘Mother’ as the centerpiece pointed to yet another idealized notion of womanhood. Indeed, the idea of ‘mother’ is often central to Christine’s work.Christine’s third piece in the group exhibition was a tribute to the collection and its owners. From the beginning of her association with Mavis Bank she had fallen in love with the ancient mangle whose ornate form combined with a practical purpose seemed to embody her domestic goddess theme. Images of the collection and it’s owners Elizabeth and Patrick have been interwoven into a large scale sepia print that rolls out of the mangle onto the floor. There are allusions to printing processes here, and to the way history is often preserved only in fading images  that flatten memory into two dimensions.

Christine continued these themes in her solo exhibition. The copper bubbled up colourful detritus of womanhood from lipsticks, hairclips and compacts to baby shoes and flowers.

The washer was again transformed  as a bridelike figure  with a wispy net veil, but if one looked closely the veil decoration consisted of tiny objects of everyday domesticity interspersed with flowers. Wardrobes, chairs, beds and other domestic furniture reminded us of the reality behind ceremony and decorative effect and of the collection at Mavis Bank.An old stove from Mavis Bank collection, included in Christine’s solo exhibition was adorned with richly decorative biscuit  tins,  reminding us again of the importance of exterior appearances that may have little to do with the contents. Also on the stove a womans head, idealised with a tiara or halo made from old chandelier pieces. But this goddesses head is not filled with mystical or heavenly thoughts- just the everyday tasks of sewing and mending. The sorts of things mothers think about while they cook?

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