Gender and Place In Colonial Queensland

UQ Honorary Fellow Dr Gemmia Burden has been awarded the inaugural John Oxley Library Honorary Fellowship for her project Private lives, public knowledge: Gendered collecting and intimacies of place in Queensland c. 1842-1900. This project will explore how settler and pioneer women on Queensland’s frontier collected and categorised objects and material cultures, and how these were used to understand the New World around them. In particular, Burden is intrigued with the ways colonial women understood their relationships with indigenous people, and the complex power dynamics between traditional owners and the colonisers on the frontier.  Burden will consider the private and interior lives of the women and their domesticated spaces, contextualised within the wider vision of knowledge production across the Empire.

To build this history, Burden will draw upon diaries, station records, personal papers, albums and images, all found in the John Oxley Library collection. These rich and evocative sources will allow Burden unprecedented access to the way women themselves framed their surroundings and local people.

This work is an important extension of her PhD work. Gemmia did her PhD in History in HPI, titled ‘From dispossession to display: authenticity, aboriginality and the Queensland Museum, c.1862-1917’. The thesis explored the collection of the Queensland Museum and its interpretation and display of Aboriginal cultural items, including material culture and ancestral remains, over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Burden examined the institutional construction of Aboriginality, and in particular the ways this was disseminated to the visiting public. As she argued, through its active and passive collecting of indigenous bones and other artefacts, the Museum itself was deeply embedded in the violent realities of frontier and post-frontier life: as an arm of the colonial state, the Museum was complicit in the violence towards, and dispossession of, Aboriginal people in Queensland.

We look forward to seeing the development of Burden’s new project. More information here.