Hanging 120 years of Nudgee College

For more than 120 years, St Joseph’s Nudgee College has been educating the young men of Queensland and further afield. Today, they have 1570 students, more than 270 of whom are boarders.

For a school with such a long and rich history, keeping track of all their memorabilia is an unenviable task. It’s been taken on by former teacher and now museum curator John Sayer.

Picture Hanging Systems has been working with John to help realise his dream – a museum of the school’s history, where students and members of the public can come and soak up the years of achievements of the school and its former pupils.

The school houses an enviable and varied collection – from Wallabies jerseys, to war medals, to paintings and rare photographs. According to John, the oldest piece of memorabilia at the school is a document called the “House Annals”.

“Each year the Christian Brother in charge of the Brothers' community - and in the early days he also was in charge of the school - was required to write a brief history/account of the happenings in the school and community that year,” John said. “It is a treasure trove of story and insight into the mindset of the day.”

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John added it was “extremely important” to preserve the history of the college.

“The Christian Brothers are diminishing in numbers and even though there have been significant efforts in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s to create archival records, the work of those people is only partially accessible in this present day,’’ he said.

“I believe it is the responsibility of the College to document its history because it is a member of the community and, as such, has the onus of accepting its part in the community's history.

“The picture hanging system the College invested in is the perfect system that allows for a creative use of the considerable vertical space in the old 14' walls,”

“Nudgee College is a significant presence in almost every Queensland town and community by virtue of its alumni and enrollment profile and so many of the lads from local areas have thrived as a result of their time at Boondall. The College has very strong connections across south-east Asia and PNG as well India, the Middle East, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.”

One of John’s aims is to tell a range of different “stories” by displaying the College’s collection – not just sport, but the war years, politics and the type of education that boys receive at the school.

“I think I am heading down the road of attempting to capture the unique way that the Christian Brothers and increasingly in the last 50 years, the wider group of teachers and employees at the College have nurtured the holistic development of the lads in their care,” he said.

“This will include a grasp of their studies, living conditions, relationships with each other and the Brothers, teachers and staff who look after the lads. It will attempt to broaden and educate the public perception that all that mattered was rugby.

“Sport is but a conduit to providing access to a wider society. In the early days, the Irish sport of handball was huge at all the Brother schools and so many life lessons were learned on the courts. That experience is lost today as schools have reclaimed the footprint for the building of classrooms and other educational facilities.

“Rugby in particular was the 'playing field' where the Irish catholic lads could mix it with the lads from the other realms of society of the day aka the protestants. Such language is so dated and inappropriate in today's society but it does attempt to frame the perspective of where the College was coming from and why it came that way. That contact opened the gates of acceptance and friendship and contributed amazingly and effectively to a healthier society.”

Kirk Atkins

One of the most important considerations for Picture Hanging Systems was the heritage listing of many of the buildings at the college.

“The picture hanging system the College invested in is the perfect system that allows for a creative use of the considerable vertical space in the old 14' walls,” John said.

“There is no damage to the heritage listed walls and the artifacts can be redeployed quickly and easily as museum occasions dictate. The rail system is almost invisible and does not detract from the visual appeal of the room.”

John says the ease of the system meant that once it was installed, he was able to start hanging the pieces himself.

“It took me about 50 hours to actually hang the pictures and paintings in the museum,’’ he said.

“I was able to do so entirely by myself. I have a very stable and sturdy high ladder and once I knew what I wanted to hang and where I wanted to hang it, all I needed was a spirit level, a tape measure and the confidence to back my own judgement of position and placement.

“I have actually adopted a salon style hanging system. Such a system allows me to group different styles of images together throughout the room and to arrange them in such a way that they tell a story.”

Once John’s immense task is complete, the museum will be opening to the public and the wider school community. In the meantime, Picture Hanging Systems has been helping the college in other areas, installing systems to allow students to display their artwork, and also brightening up the walls of the cafeteria and staff offices.

For more information on displaying artwork on heritage listed walls – or any other kind of walls – contact Picture Hanging Systems in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.