Cape York Collection

The Cape York Collection is a remarkable assembly of archives, books, ephemera, journals, maps, newspapers, photographs and reports relating to the region. It is located within the Hibberd Library. The geographical coverage of the collection includes the mainland of Cape York Peninsula, extending from Port Douglas in the south to the Northern Peninsula Area, the northern Great Barrier Reef, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait.

During the late 1970s, Comalco senior management wanted to provide their Weipa workforce with information about the Peninsula region as part of a plan to attract and retain long-term residents.  Around the same time, Elders of the Mapoon and Napranum communities asked Comalco to trace archival papers, books and photographs relating to their communities.

About the Collection

Established in 1980 by Comalco’s technical librarian, Geoff Wharton, and further developed by long-term local resident Kath Newman, the Collection includes over 1,000 books relating to the region. It covers a broad range of subject areas, such as Aboriginal culture and languages, avifauna, biography, botany, defence studies, exploration, geography, geology, history, literature, mining, space technology and zoology.

By contacting descendants of former missionaries and people who had visited the region in earlier decades, it was possible to obtain copies of precious photographs and memorabilia. The generosity of these families in assisting the Collection is gratefully acknowledged. Some of these materials have been used to re-connect Indigenous families with photographs of their ancestors and to re-establish wartime heritage and stories for the communities, culminating in memorials to commemorate service to the nation by Mapoon and Napranum people.

Featured items

The oldest item in the Collection is a chart of the Peninsula east coast from Cape Tribulation to Endeavour Straits, compiled by Lieutenant James Cook RN during the voyage of HMB Endeavour in 1770, published in London in 1773.  

Classic books such as Robert Logan Jack’s Northmost Australia – a history of Cape York Peninsula to 1921 – and Arthur Ward’s The Miracle of Mapoon published in 1908, provide Eurocentric impressions of the region’s heritage.

In recent years, books by local Indigenous authors have been acquired to enrich the Collection’s coverage from an Indigenous perspective. These include books by Oochunyung (Fiona Wirrer-George, winner of the David Unaipon Award 2003), and books depicting works by artists such as Dr Thancoupie Fletcher AO and the Lockhart River Art Gang.

Accessing the Collection

To access the Collection, please seek assistance from library staff, as the Collection room is usually locked. Borrowing is not permitted from the Collection however extracts from books published since 1955 may be scanned or photocopied, at the discretion of library staff and subject to copyright laws. Generally older books are too fragile to be photocopied.

Visitors to the Collection can browse the shelves, or search for materials using the computer-based catalogue, known as Capecat. Once you have used any item in the Collection, please leave it on the map cabinet, and do not attempt to reshelve the item. Please also remember to sign the visitors book before departing from the Collection room and advise library staff when you are finished.

For further information, contact the Hibberd Library on (07) 4030 9403 or Email: