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8 July, 2021

Preserving our valuable heritage

PRICELESS historical artefacts are at risk due to the deteriorating condition of the James Cook Museum’s roof in Cooktown.

By Peter McCullagh

The former convent, now owned and operated by the National Trust of Australia (Queensland), is one of Cooktown’s major attractions.

The museum houses an extensive collection of local Guugu Yimithiir artefacts, along with an original anchor and canon from HMB Endeavour and a model of the ship that dates to the early twentieth century.

The museum also celebrates the history of the convent and the nuns and children who lived there until the 1940’s and displays telling the stories of the Chinese immigrants and the Gold Rush era in the Far North.

Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he was shocked to learn during a recent visit to Cooktown aspects of the historically significant museum had fallen into disrepair.

“Unfortunately, in recent years the original convent building that houses James Cook Museum has needed repairs to the roof and rainwater infrastructure,” Mr Entsch said.

“The ongoing leaks have led to some damage in the attic and the property needs significant upgrades to ensure it’s watertight.

“This will ensure the fascinating artefacts contained in the museum are not put further at risk.

“Thankfully, the museum’s dedicated team have been working to ensure the collection items are well looked after but unfortunately the scope of repairs is now significant.”

Mr Entsch said he was investigating funding avenues to ensure the National Trust of Australia (Queensland) could undertake the necessary and urgent repairs.

“We can’t sit by and watch this magnificent and historical building fall further into disrepair,” he said.

“The history contained in the building is simply amazing. It is our shared history.

“However, with all that has occurred over the past 18 months, it has not been possible for National Trust of Australia (Queensland) to complete these now urgent repairs.

Acting CEO for the National Trust Queensland, Ms Jayme Cuttriss is appreciative of the support shown by the federal member for Leichhardt.

“James Cook Museum is important to the community, visitors to Cooktown and Australia. It houses fascinating stories of Cooktown, including the first recorded Act of Reconciliation between Lt. Cook and the Guugu Yimithirr.

“Cooktown is an exceptional place, and National Trust has been devastated to put repair work on hold due to the financial impact of COVID-19 on our tourism business.

“We look forward to working with Warren Entsch MP on funding options, and we appeal to the public to assist with these much-needed repairs.

“This support will help us secure the convent building, prevent further deterioration, and improve the visitor experience. In addition, we must conserve the socially significant collection of artefacts that are displayed here. We thank Mr Enstch for listening to our request for help during this challenging time for the National Trust in Queensland.

“Finally, we want to thank the community that has supported the Museum generously over the years.”

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