Birdcage of the Bay – school holiday VR exhibition
St Helena Island, or Nugun in the Jandai language of the Quandamooka people, was Queensland’s main prison from 1867 until the early 21st century. Now a National Park, access to the ruins of the former prison stockade is restricted. Birdcage of the Bay provides a unique experience of the prison stockade through virtual reality and gaming technology. The entire prison stockade has been recreated using plans from the collection of Queensland State Archives and other historical sources. Developed in partnership with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services and the St Helena Island Community, the exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to walk through the former prison and discover a myriad of prisoner stories.
The virtual stockade is littered with stories of prisoners, warders and events from the 65-year history of the prison. At the main gate Queensland bushranger James McPherson (‘The Wild Scotchman’) charged the warders and fled in 1870. In the underground ‘dark’ cells troublesome prisoners were locked up for up to a month at a time. These were the same cells where infamous prisoners like the Kenniff brothers and the leaders of the 1891 Shearers’ Strike were locked up. There were also various escape attempts and the murder of a warder. In addition to the virtual experience, the exhibition is enhanced by original objects, interviews with historians and an interactive touch table.
Taking inspiration from the prisoners’ workshops on St Helena Island, Queensland State Archives has programmed a series of activities that pay homage to the trades of the prisoners in the stockade. Workshops for adults and children include introductory sewing, book binding and candle making. Adult workshops are on Saturday 8 June and 10 August. Children’s school holiday workshops are on Wednesday 3 September. There are also free Curator Tours on 29 May, 24 July and 4 September. For more information please email [email protected]
Birdcage of the Bay is a free exhibition at Queensland State Archives. It is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and the second Saturday of each month until 6 September 2019.