Brisbane shule’s pages of history

Queensland State Librarian Vicki McDonald accepts a building committee minute book of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation from Dr Michael Briner.

BRISBANE Hebrew Congregation (BHC) has formally handed some rare historic artefacts relating to the early days of the shule to the Queensland State Library so they can be professionally preserved for posterity.

For the past two years, Dr Michael Briner, who volunteers as the shule’s heritage officer, has been working on saving the synagogue’s inaugural marriage register, which dates from 1868-1946, and other rare early documents.

The book details members’ weddings, their origins, occupations, parents occupations and the areas they lived.

Made from recycled rag cloth and linen paper, the register was rapidly falling into a state of disrepair and the community was at risk of losing its documented history forever. 

Briner had found the marriage register in an old safe at the shule, but the cotton and linen pages were “like matzah – if you touched it, it snapped off, and pages were losing their detail”, he told The AJN.

If BHC had undertaken restoration itself, it would have required setting up a special room, and it was decided the process should be outsourced. So, for the past 12 months, Briner has worked with the state library to identify the best way to rehabilitate the document, store it in a dehumidified environment and safely allow the community and historians access to the original. 

The Queensland State Library not only repaired and rebound the pages, which are now available by restricted white-glove access, but it created a digital version which gives the shule access to vital historical information about its early congregants, said Briner.

All the work has paid off with the formal handover at the Queensland State Library last month.