Stories are powerful. They have been used by all kinds of people to pass on knowledge to future generations for thousands of years. Libraries have always been the keepers of stories, however on this occasion we, James Cook University (JCU) Library, have chosen to tell a story.

The story of the Expedition to the Great Barrier Reef in 1928-1929, as told in a highly engaging manner by Trisha Fielding (Special Collections Library Officer and independent historian and writer), is one of adventure, great accomplishment and legacy. The most immediate legacy for us being the addition of Sir Charles Maurice Yonge’s personal library to our suite of Special Collections in 2018, accepted as a generous gift from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

Knowing the story behind our collections allows us the privilege of understanding the significance and importance of what we hold here in our JCU Libraries. There is a great deal of work involved in taking donations (large or small), but once they arrive another wave of essential work begins: the work of forming an intimate relationship with what you have, learning all you can about it, processing it and then promoting it. This is essential to connect the works with other collections and institutions and most importantly individual researchers.

Expedition to the Great Barrier Reef: The Story of a Ground-Breaking Scientific Mission to Low Isles, Queensland in 1928-1929, and an Overview of its Legacies has been created for a general audience of readers so that we can share that understanding with you and those who come after us in order to promote the discovery of the Sir Charles Maurice Yonge Collection and protect it for future generations.

The origins of this book can be found in a series of JCU Library blog posts which were written and published prior to the launch of the Sir Charles Maurice Yonge Collection in 2018. Trisha Fielding led on these posts whilst Special Collections volunteers Suzie Davies and Liz Downes also made valuable contributions researching and writing about a few of the beautiful, rare books that form part of the collection. Retired AIMS and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMPA) Librarian Suzie Davies has played a key role in inspiring us all with a love of this collection. From day one Suzie has shared all she knows about the collection and Sir Maurice. She was there when the boxes were first unpacked at AIMS in 1982 and she is here with us now. Liz Downes has contributed many popular posts to our blog over the years, and has an eye for finding the most interesting treasures in our collections.

Trisha has very skilfully redesigned the telling of the story for this eBook and further explored certain aspects of the history particularly in relation to the very important role women played on the expedition.

We hope you enjoy this book and share it with others so they, too, can learn about this important expedition. You can participate in the legacy by visiting the Helen Mays Reading Room in the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library to access the Sir Charles Maurice Yonge Collection. You can also visit our online repository for the Special Collections, NQHeritage@JCU, to explore the digital versions of some of the items.


Helen Hooper and Bronwyn McBurnie

Helen Hooper is the Director, Library Services and University Librarian – James Cook University
Bronwyn McBurnie is the Manager, Special Collections, James Cook University Library