IN AN incredible twist of fate, 82 glass negatives from the late 1800s to early 1900s – donated by three different Fraser Coast families – have all found their way to the QLD Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum.
There are many pieces to the pie-chart-like puzzle, starting with a pioneering family called the Hendersons who discovered the first lot of glass negatives under an old home in Pialba and donated the small collection to the museum about eight years ago.
The second historic collection of glass negatives and an antique camera were gifted to the museum by the pioneering Hervey Bay Kaminski family.
The third and final piece of the pie is remarkable.
Five boxes of glass negatives, still in their original cardboard cases, were found by a local at the tip 20 years ago, salvaged and given to his friend
Bob Winnett, who had a special interest in photography.
Bob kept the historic artefacts safe for all these years until recently when he decided they were in better hands with the folks at the museum.
While digitising the collection about eight weeks ago, Hervey Bay historian and museum volunteer John Andersen made a phenomenal discovery.
The collection of negatives donated by Bob were identical to the ones gifted by the Kaminski family, and taken on the same camera that was donated.
“These things are just meant to be somehow,” MrAndersen said.
“It’s just the circumstance of how they were found. If that fellow hadn’t been at the tip at that particular moment, those negatives would have been buried forever and gone.
“Now some 20 years later they have finished up in a place where they should be, they are here for keeps and digitised so the public can see them.”
Mr Andersen said the only people who would have ever seen the historically significant prints would have been the Kaminski family some 120 years ago.
“We know they are local scenes because there’s photos of scenes like the crossing on the Burrum River and a couple of negatives that are identical almost to the ones that the Kaminski family gave us – same boxes too.
“They are without a doubt the same local family.”
Mr Andersen said the family owned a dairy farm covering most of Scarness heights and would have been one of very few to own a camera in that era.
“In those days there were very few people who had cameras like that, it was quite an expensive sort of thing to have.
“The Kaminski family obviously had wealth to have had such a camera. These photos are an absolute snapshot record of what life was like in the 1800 to 1900s, with an absolutly amazing collection of local scenery pics.
“The others have photos of boats, someone taking a staghorn from what looks like Fraser Island … there’s some classic ones like a fellow catching a kangaroo by the tail.
“With beach scenes, timber getting, bush camping, farming and coal mining at Howard, the collection, which was almost lost forever, is now preserved as an important historical record of the time,” Mr Andersen said.
“There really is no other photographic record of the period showing life of the era in such detail.”
Many of the never-before-seen photographs will be included in a new publication called Moments In Time: A Pictorial History of Hervey Bay and Surrounds from 1890 to 2018.
The book, which is an initiative of the museum and Fraser Coast Regional Council, is expected to be printed by April 2019.