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Life in Irons

Our city’s harsh past were revealed in Life in Irons: Brisbane’s Convict Stories.

Moreton Bay penal colony was established by the British Government to “…reinstate transportation as an object of real terror to all classes of society”. It succeeded. Life in Irons: Brisbane’s Convict Stories provides a vivid insight into daily life in the settlement using original documents, personal accounts, historical objects and contemporary art, brought to life with immersive new technologies.

Life in convict Brisbane was unrelentingly harsh for the 3,000 men and women imprisoned here from its founding in 1824 to the penal colony’s closure in 1839.

It also irrevocably changed the life of the Aboriginal people on whose Country the colony was built. This exhibition offered a rare chance to view the few remaining official documents from the Brisbane penal colony. These original registers, maps, drawings and the Book of Trials are listed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register and treasured by Queensland State Archives.

Life in Irons also featured new artworks from renowned contemporary artist, Danie Mellor, and Brisbane sound artist, Lawrence English.


Museums and Galleries National Awards:
Winner in Interpretation, Learning and Audience Engagement for Life in Irons: Brisbane’s Convict Stories


Presented in partnership with Queensland State Archives.

Life in Irons: Brisbane’s Convict Stories was supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Hear how Museum of Brisbane’s Artists-in-Residence at the time, Camerata, responded to the Life in Irons exhibition through their music.

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