As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention. But necessity only tells part of the story. Great inventors and makers are often driven by a problem to be solved or a circumstance to be overcome, but the fruits of their labour tell their own stories: tales of perseverance and innovation, beating the odds and changing the course of history.
State Library of Queensland’s exhibition Magnificent Makers tells seven stories of canny creators, daring discoverers and imaginative inventors that have trace a path through Queensland’s history since the late nineteenth century to the present day. The exhibition not only helps tell the story of our state, but showcases the achievements of men and women who took a chance on their ideas — resourceful, trail-blazing or altruistic — and transformed them into lasting legacies. Using the technology available to them at the time, these innovators made significant developments in the areas of education, sport, leisure, clothing, photography, medicine and scientific research. Their innovations range from the weird and wacky to the functional and philanthropic.
One of the most intriguing items on display in the exhibition is an intricate Braille globe for vision-impaired children, invented in Queensland in the 1950s by Richard Frank Tunley. Tunley dedicated his life to improving outcomes for vision-impaired children and adults, producing Braille globes and maps, as well as being instrumental in implementing compulsory education for deaf and blind children. Other stories featured in the exhibition include the conquest of the invasive prickly pear plant in the early 20th century and AJ Hunting’s revolution of Australian sport, via his pioneering development of the one day cricket match. The Magnificent Makers exhibition is free and open in the Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery at the State Library daily from 10am to 5pm until 3 June 2018.
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