What’s in the James Cook Museum in Cooktown?

These days Cooktown, over 300 kilometres north of Cairns, is a quiet and fairly low-key laid back kind of place. However, that was not always the case, as evidenced by the various exhibits inside the National Trust James Cook Museum.

From explorer James Cook’s encounter with what is now Cooktown, the town’s founding, the gold rush, and significant immigration, to the impact of the Second World War and of European settlement on the local indigenous population, this small museum houses several exhibits sharing Cooktown’s interesting history.

James Cook and the HMS Endeavour

Originally jettisoned from James Cook’s ship the Endeavour, the enormous anchor and a cannon form the centerpiece of the display telling the story of Captain Cook’s time in Cooktown. Displays guide visitors through the seven weeks Cook and his crew were forced to spend in Cooktown to make repairs to their vessel. Information includes reports of discoveries of flora and fauna made by the ship’s scientific team, the first meaningful interaction between Europeans and Indigenous people, and the salvage of the anchor and cannon from the seabed in the 1970s.

HMS Endeavour anchor, James Cook Museum, Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

The history of the convent building

The building that houses the museum was originally constructed in1889 as a convent to provide an education to the local children in this remote region. Many children were taught here until 1941 when the town was evacuated during the Second World War. Photos illustrate what life was like in the convent and the nun’s rooms upstairs have been preserved, giving an idea of what life was like for them.

View from the convent verandah, Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

Cooktown through history

The history of Cooktown is told through an exhibition detailing the foundation of the town, the gold rush years and the impact of the Second World War on the town. A gallery of personal objects brings these times to life.

Medical items on display at James Cook Museum, Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

Cooktown’s Chinese heritage

Cooktown’s gold rush attracted many Chinese immigrants during the late 1800s. Artefacts and photos guide visitors through what life was like for Cooktown’s Chinese community.

James Cook Museum display, Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

Indigenous Gallery

A gallery of Aboriginal art work, shields, spears and photos explains how the local indigenous people lived before European settlement, and the impact it had on them.

The James Cook Museum is slightly up hill from the main street, on the corner of Helen Street and Furneaux Street, and is well worth a visit.

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