Museum of Brisbane

Life in Irons

  • 18 May - 28 Oct 2018
  • 10am - 5pm, daily, 10am-7pm Friday
  • Free
  • Gallery 1

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 provides a vivid insight into daily life in the settlement using original documents, personal accounts and contemporary art, alongside immersive new technologies.

Life in Irons: Brisbane's Convict Stories

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 peoples on whose Country the colony was built.

This exhibition offers a rare chance to view some of the few remaining official documents from the Brisbane penal colony.

Presented in partnership with Queensland State Archives, these priceless pieces comprise: 5 hand-written registers from 1824-1842 that detail rations and harvests, illnesses and death,  employment and transgressions; the original architectural plans and maps, many prepared by convict George Browne, that show the footprint of the penal settlement prior to the reopening of Brisbane Town as a free settlement in 1842; and the Book of Trials which logs the crimes and punishments meted out within the settlement.

These historically significant documents are listed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

Life in Irons will feature an extensive MoB Learn program, children’s activities, public programs, tours of the Queensland State Archives and performances.

Please note: Life in Irons will be closed temporarily during the following dates and times as A Convict’s Hope performances will be taking place in the space:

22/09/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

23/09/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

29/09/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

30/09/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

06/10/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

07/10/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

09/10/2018 | 12.10pm – 1.10pm

11/10/2018 | 10.10am – 11.10am | 12.10pm – 1.10pm

20/10/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

27/10/2018 | 2pm – 3pm | 4pm – 5pm

Above photos: Life in Irons exhibition, Museum of Brisbane. Photos: Jono Searle & David Kelly.

Supporting Partners

Life in Irons: Brisbane’s convict stories is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Presented in partnership with


Supporting Partners


Media Partners                                                                      Accommodation Partner