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Obligations to Objects

Tangled Histories and Changing Contexts of the Burnett River Rock Engravings

Brit Asmussen, Lester Michael Hill, Sean Ulm and Chantal Knowles

ABSTRACT

This article discusses changing obligations toward objects from an archaeological site held by the Queensland Museum, through a long-term, 40-year case study. Between 1971 and 1972 a selection of 92 stone blocks weighing up to 5 tons containing Aboriginal engravings were cut out of the site and distributed to multiple locations across Queensland by the State Government under the provisions of the then Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1967. The site was subsequently flooded following dam construction and the removed blocks became part of the Queensland Museum’s collection. This article chronicles the history of the site and its “salvage,” the consequences of fragmentation of the site for community and institutions, the creation of 92 museum objects, the transformation from immobile to mobile cultural heritage, and community-led requests for their repatriation back to country.