Step into stories of city’s past with Museum of Brisbane walking tours

Museum of Brisbane will be welcoming visitors back to City Hall from next week and it’s launching a series of new exhibitions to coincide with the reopening.

Jul 06, 2020, updated Jul 06, 2020
Ben Craig with his reconstruction of Brisbane City Hall. (Photo: Supplied)

Ben Craig with his reconstruction of Brisbane City Hall. (Photo: Supplied)

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of City Hall’s construction, a 40,000-brick Lego reconstruction of has been assembled by renowned Lego builder Ben Craig and is currently on display in the building’s foyer, and the museum will also be launching its new Storytellers exhibition and accompanying walking tours.

“Museum of Brisbane is ready with a jam-packed program full of walking tours and exhibitions that cater to all ages aimed to reignite the desire to explore our gorgeous city,” director Renai Grace told InQueensland.

“From the many Storytellers walking tours to the monumental Brisbane City Hall Lego build which celebrates a century of this iconic building’s history, MoB is dedicated to bringing fresh, exciting activities to Brisbane.”

The Storytellers exhibition – which features new stories by the likes of Trent Dalton, Nick Earls, Benjamin Law, Matthew Condon, Hugh Lunn, Kate Morton and Ellen van Neerven – will create an immersive and interactive experience for visitors that combines Brisbane’s historical objects, artworks and narrated histories to communicate some of the many identities that make up the city.

As part of the Storytellers exhibition, MoB will also be conducting three walking tours of the city – Stories Around the Riverbend, Americans in WWII Brisbane and Journey to City Botanic Gardens – that have been curated by Brian Odgen, the museum’s longest-serving customer service officer and most experienced City Hall tour guide.

Odgen – who has worked on the visitor experience team at MoB for 17 years, and has been involved with taking tours of City Hall for the past seven years – said he was looking forward to telling visitors about aspects of the city’s history they might not. be familiar with.

“As one of my colleagues says, ‘look up, look around – the history and the art, everything, it’s all around us’,” Ogden told InQueensland.

“I’ve done tours on and off in one way or another for years and it’s been an education for me, that’s for sure,” he said. “You read some of the things and think ‘you’ve got to be kidding’.  You know there’s nothing that has to be embellished, it’s all sitting there ready to tell, so hopefully people will enjoy the tours is based on the strength of the storytelling.”

Odgen said several weeks’ planning had gone into training tour guides and refining the walking tours.

“One of the things I’ve found interesting is you could be writing the notes at home and then you go out and hear your words reflected back at you, so the training sessions have been great,” he said.

“They’ve helped us confirm, ‘yes, that’s a good story that’s worth going with’, and also brought up extra questions that need to be researched, so that’s been a huge thing to undertake in the last handful of weeks.”

He said the walking tours focused more heavily on the people and events from Brisbane’s past than they did on the structures, and he said people would be surprised to learn about some of the events that had taken place in the city.

“For instance, if you’re walking through the Queen Street Mall, on one side, where you’ve got the Myer Centre and that whole block of bustling shops and department stores today, in December of 1864, in two-and-a-half hours, that entire block went up in flames, which was most of the city’s business district at the time.”

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Odgen said he was looking forward to helping provide an opportunity for people to re-engage with the city after months of social isolation.

“You’ve got a backdrop of beautiful buildings, you’re out in the fresh air with a group of people after months of being cooped up inside – for good reason – and now people are starting to make their way back into the city again, so it’ll be lovely if we can be part of making that a nice experience for them.”

Ogden said MoB’s popular tours of the City Hall clock tower would also be resuming from July 20.

“Brisbane’s City Hall was the second-most-expensive public project in the country at the time of its construction,” he said. “Only the Sydney Harbour Bridge cost more money, and City Hall was the tallest building in Brisbane from 1930 when it opened until as late as 1967.”

Ogden said until the late 1960s, the top of the tower provided panoramic views that stretched as far as Moreton Bay, and despite the higher density of buildings in the CBD these days, he said it still offered an impressive vantage point.

“You still get a good view across to Roma Street Parkland these days, and you get a view across the city’s buildings but part of it is just the experience itself, I think, because City Hall was such an engineering feat for its day.

He was quick to add that although locals made up a large proportion of MoB’s regular visitors, the museum also attracted an increasing range of interstate visitors and new residents, and he said he was confident the walking tours would offer an engaging culturally enriching experience for residents and tourists alike.

“We do have loyal people they’ve come to every exhibition, I guess because it’s a good mixture of social history, art and local culture,” he said. “But what I have found interesting over the years, too, is it’s not only great for locals but it’s a good introduction to the city for interstate visitors and international people as well, to get a sense of the place through seeing us interact with it.”

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