Curator of the Abbey Museum

Curator Interview with Michael Strong

Interview with a Curator

This interview was intended to capture a relatable snapshot of Michael Strong’s life, so that every-day South East Queenslanders (or anyone for that matter!) could find out a little about his humble beginnings, his long connection to the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology and his contagious joie-de-vie and knowledge which he shares generously with whomever he meets. He met me at the door of his home-office,  located in the quiet, sunny suburb of Sandstone Point, just off Bribie Island. He was clearly not the boss of his white hair, and his eyes, which sometimes had a curious sadness, became animated at random as he reminisced with a slight British inflection on the fascinating story of becoming the Curator of the Abbey Museum. 

We began to speak.

Michael, tell me a little about your life and how you became the Curator of the Abbey Museum:

There was a pause

Ahhh? Where do you want to start? he asked. It’s a very complicated story, he joked.

Michael began…

I guess much of my story parallels …

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Regency at the Abbey Museum

Regency treasures at the Abbey Museum

A fashion plate is an illustration or picture of the latest fashions of the time and were published in women’s journals throughout the Regency era.  The Lady’s Magazine was one such journal and one of the first to include hand-coloured and engraved fashion plates in its publications. First published in 1770 the Lady’s Magazine was one of the leading periodicals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The magazine included:

short stories and poetry essays praising the ‘female virtues” of decorum and modesty advice for wives and mothers information on fashion (fashion plates) recipes medicinal ‘receipts’ offering cures for illnesses from cramp to ‘hectic fevers’ biographies of famous historical and contemporary figures domestic and foreign news

Although the Abbey Museum does not have full copies of the Lady’s Magazine, it does have an extensive collection of the fashion plates and fans which span 1773 to 1902.

This is known as the Regency era when the Prince Regent (Prince of Wales) ruled the United Kingdom because his father, King …

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Stone Age Family Fun week

Learn Stone Age history at Abbey Museum

Meet Ugg, our Stone Age hero from Skara Brae.

The Stone Age period, or neolithic era, was very significant time in man’s evolution as this was the period in history when man first started using technology.  When we say technology,  we don’t mean items such as Ipads, or drones or sat navs of course.  Instead, by technology we mean basic implements that we might probably under estimate today.  These implements or technology helped to provide solutions to problems. The problems that Stone Age people encountered were slightly different to problems that we encounter today, however, this type of technology  became vital to man’s survival and  progression and included rocks, sticks, string and bone. We’d like to introduce you to Ugg, who lived in a beautiful stone age village known as  Skara Brae, located in Scotland’s Orkney Islands a long, long time ago.  Approximately 3000BC!

Ugg very clever! Ugg make string from flax. String not big thing today. Modern man have duct tape, who need string? String big step for man. String tie two things together. String tie pointy thing to …

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Partner of the Abbey Museum – North Harbour

PartnerMorayfields Heritage Precinct

A sponsor and partner of the Abbey Museum and Abbey Medieval Festival, there is a lot happening at North Harbour – from registered and ready to build on land, to our new display villages, parks, events, construction on our heritage precinct and much more!
First a recap. North Harbour is a unique residential development in the northern corridor between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in the booming suburb of Burpengary East. Located along 9km of direct river frontage we are just 10 minutes from beautiful Moreton Bay and surrounding islands.
We differ from similarly sized Southeast Queensland developments in that we only plan to develop 48% of the site so on completion we will offer a huge 1000 acres of open space and parklands (even larger than Central Park in New York) including environmental corridors, river access and a unique $3m heritage precinct for which we have partnered with The Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology.   The proposed 1000 acres of open space and parklands include walking and bike tracks, lots of trees (almost 60,000 have already been planted) and plenty of play equipment for young and older kids, BBQs, artworks and picnic areas as well as exercise equipment. North Harbour has two parks open already and we also offer weekly free events which are open to everyone in the community including parkrun and Sunrise Yoga.

North Harbour Heritage Precinct and Museum partner

Thee heritage precinct is a very exciting and unique part of our masterplan. This community attraction, which will take two years to develop, will cost over $3m with $1,535,062 of funds coming from the Federal Government through a funding agreement with the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology. Funding is through the Community Development Grants programme, provided through the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The $1,535,062 Grant will be matched by North Harbour. The Abbey Museum and North Harbour will also be working as partners and providing significant “in-kind” support through project planning, project management, post-construction operation and maintenance.
The first stage of construction has been completed including roads and other infrastructure. The construction of picnic areas will begin shortly including shelters, BBQs, tables and benches and toilet facilities. We’re also working to ensure the heritage remains are preserved and available to view and enjoy by the general public.

Steve Chaddock from Timeline Heritage is working with a team of archaeologists at the remains of the “Moray Fields” property that was built by George Raff at what is now the North Harbour site.

Steve said: “We are looking to carefully record the exposed areas of the old house and its outbuildings and yards so that we can later interpret that to the public and in advance of a tree management program aiming to preserve the State Listed archaeological remains.”

“It’s a slow and steady process, so in this first stage of work we found out what is there by dividing the site into squares, each 5 x 5m, and then we systematically took on one square at a time.”

“We found areas of cement flooring, some of it had been lifted by trees, some of which have grown really tall after 50 years of little maintenance. We found worked stone blocks and stone foundations and areas of floor made by lying down bricks in a closely packed fashion.”

12 Quick Facts about North Harbour heritage:

1 – The North Harbour site was first named Moray Fields in 1861
2 – Since then it has gone through many incarnations: Cotton Farm, Sugar Plantation, Dairy Farm and Pine Plantation
3 – George Raff purchased and settled the plantation in 1861 and named this Sugar development ‘Moray Fields’, to complement his Moray Bank house in Brisbane City
4 – Mr Raff was closely involved in the early development of Queensland and was a member of the second Queensland Parliament and a prominent Brisbane local businessman, operating in and out of Raff’s Wharf on the Brisbane River
5 – Sugar cane was grown here to produce sugar and both rum and molasses
6 – The plantation was a substantial undertaking in what was then a remote area, being approximately 40 kilometres north of Brisbane. Access by land was difficult and links to the outside world were better via boats and small steamers. So, a ‘commodious wharf’ was built on the river for landing and embarking goods or produce in the small vessels required for maintaining communication with the capital
7 – The plantation had to have many of the elements of a self-sufficient village with stockyards, stables, sheds, carpenters shops, blacksmith’s shop, butcher’s shop, baker’s shop, stores, saw mill, and lots of other buildings
9 – At this time, Moray Fields was a local communication node. Local properties nearby, such as Durundur Station which was located close to modern day Woodford, had a shed for storing supplies delivered by steamer for later collection. Cattle from Durundur provided meat for the people living at Moray Fields
10 – George Raff was a prominent supporter of the use of Islander peoples as labour on plantations. It remains unclear how many Islander labourers worked on the plantation, but in the late 1860s newspaper reports of the time suggest up to 70 at a time. These workers came from several islands in the South Pacific, but particularly from modern day Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
11 – As the 1900s rolled around, former plantation lands were divided into paddocks for grazing dairy cows, though some portions continued to be cultivated. Successive owners erected new buildings and structures, such as dips, sheds and fences. Some plantation-era buildings were re-used, including the ‘mansion’ and possibly some sheds by the Caboolture River
12 – A Queenslander-style house was also built close to the lagoon for share-farmers and their families. In the 1950s, a new farm house complex was built, and the former plantation owner’s house abandoned and demolished.

To find out more about the rich history of the North Harbour site visit  This dedicated heritage website also includes photos, audio clips and accounts from local oral historians.
In other areas of the masterplan we’re planning a new park called Riparian Park, scheduled to open in 2019, which will be another park for our residents and join the already open Village and Reflections Parks. Our second Display Village, opened mid 2018,  includes 33 homes from 17 of Australia’s best builders. And, we have several house and land packages on our ‘ready to build’ land – which means this is already registered and ready to go!
Our current 35 Home Display Village and the North Harbour Sales & Information Centre is open seven days a week, 10am-5pm. We are proud to partner with the Abbey Musuem and for more information on the North Harbour community and our available house and land packages please contact us. To keep up to date with the latest news and info, sign up for email and SMS updates and find North Harbour on Facebook.

Abbey Museum medieval lamentation

Sculpture unveiled at Abbey Museum


Abbey Museum’s Medieval Sculpture Unveiled

‘The Lamentation of Christ’ – a limestone sculpture was unveiled on the 18th of October at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology to an intimate audience of forty Friends and guests of the Abbey Museum.

Director of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Mr. Chris Saines formally opened the event, joking that the display of the piece was “not bad for Caboolture.”

“This frieze is one of very few high quality medieval sculptures in Australia” he said comparing it to the wax Giambologna ‘Flagellation of Christ’ in the Queensland Art Gallery and the wooden Antwerp altarpiece at the National Gallery of Victoria.  He also compared it to the Master of Arenberg ‘The Lamentation’ at the Detroit Institute of Art.

“Our own medieval collection is limited, so I’m hoping we can borrow this” he said.

Edith Cuffe, Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology Director, said that the event was a resounding success.  “We’re happy that we were able to bring this piece back to life after so …

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A Medieval Sculpture to be unveiled in Queensland

A Medieval Sculpture ‘The Lamentation of Christ’

A 500 year old beautifully carved limestone sculpture depicting an episode from Christ’s Passion was rediscovered in the Abbey Museum’s archives and is set to be officially unveiled on Thursday, October 18th.  The exclusive event launching the Lamentation of Christ is invitation only and features special guest Mr. Chris Saines, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery.

Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology Director Edith Cuffe said ‘We are excited and honoured to have Mr Chris Saines officially unveil this beautiful sculpture to the public. This artefact is steeped in history and has an amazing story!’

A missing piece in the history of the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology

The Lamentation of Christ frieze was originally displayed in the Abbey Church at the Abbey Folk Park, New Barnet, London just before the second world war. It was sold when the Abbey Folk Park closed its doors.  It was then remarkably returned to the Queensland Abbey Museum in the 1990s by Hollywood Director, Mike Figgis Turner, from the Abbey …

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Victorian dress

The mysterious Victorian era

The Victorian Era

Great Britain’s Victorian era is the period of Queen Victoria’s reign which was from 20th June 1837 to her death on 22 January 1901. It was a period of great change in Britain across every sphere including science, technology, travel, population growth, religion, politics, education and more.

Under the Reign of Victoria, the world began a set of rapid advances that changed the shape of the world forever. It was an era of sanitation, exploration and innovation. Naturally, as with everything in technological and scientific worlds, many of these advances have since been advanced upon. In hindsight, we can laugh at passing sciences such as phrenology (practiced by those who theorized about the brain ( hypnotism, spiritualism, and divination were quite the thing then!  As was taxidermy!).  However, these strange phases were the stepping stones to many of the scientific fields, which are now considered just as credible as Victorian studies were. It is important to also consider what massive advances they were for their time.

Great and unusual

It was during this time that Britain’s Crystal …

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Water power at Samarakand

The History of Samarkand Paper

From China to Samarkand

In the previous blog about the oriental origin of paper, I mentioned Samarkand and how paper spread from China along the Silk Road.  A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to visit a traditional papermaking workshop in Uzbekistan, where the fabled city of Samarkand is located.  Samarkand was the first city in the medieval Islamic world to manufacture paper and remained associated with the finest quality paper until industrial mills took over in the modern age.  The original Chinese paper was made from silk fibres, but in Samarkand other fibres from recycled rags, hemp and mulberry branches were also introduced into the mix. The use of wood pulp, mostly pine, replaced many of these methods around the world towards the end of the 19th Century to meet the demands of an industrialised society.

Rediscovering a lost craft

Despite Samarkand’s long association with paper the craft of the paper-maker, like so many other traditional crafts around the globe, died out during the 20th century and had to be rediscovered. After a few years of …

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Paper masks

The oriental origin of paper

The history of paper.

Often it is the simple things that we take for granted that make all of the difference to history, and one of them is paper. How many sheets containing written information are on your desk, in your house or even in your bag?  Then there is all of the other uses we put paper to in our lives, cleaning, ticketing, containing, wrapping; the list (on paper of course) is nearly endless.  It is one of the inventions that made its way from China to the West via the amazing conduit of ideas, ideal and objects:  The Silk Road.

In the ancient and medieval world the paperless office was a real thing. Papyrus, as used by the ancient Egyptians, was nearly paper…sort of! The big problem with papyrus is that it is fragile, and the older it gets the more fragile it becomes, making it unsuited for long term storage of writings, which is presumably why it never replaced parchment in Europe. Other cultures used strips of bamboo or timber (China, India), bark (Russia and Meso-America) …

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St. Paul – A traveller on a mission!

Who was Paul?

Known as Paul the Apostle, St. Paul, Saul or  Paul of Tarsus, he was one of the most influential Saints and a very energetic traveller in the times of early Christianity.  Originating from Tarsus (modern Turkey) around the first century AD, he travelled throughout the Roman Empire Paul preaching Christianity making many friends and enemies along the way.

Paul is considered by many to be the leader of the apostles.  He is the patron saint of missionaries, evangelists, writers, journalists, authors, public workers, rope and saddle makers, and tent makers.  Born Jewish, in the town of Tarsus he was highly influenced by Greek and Roman cultures and he was an unlikely influencer of the spread of Christianity in the Roman world,  driving the transformation of Rome from a pantheistic to monotheistic empire.  In fact, Paul transformed from persecuting Christians as a result of an epiphany on the Road to Damascus and converting to Christianity to become an avid and very zealous reformee.  He was imprisoned more than once, hated by many for preaching Christianity, he was shipwrecked near …

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