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AHS helps visitors experience the history of Cairns Court House


AHS is proud to have played a leading role in the restoration and adaptive re-use of Cairns Court House, which is the centrepiece of the heritage precinct connecting the city centre to the Esplanade parklands and waterfront.

Our experts worked closely with Cairns Regional Council (CRC) and the project team to deliver a suite of heritage services including the Conservation Management Plan (CMP), microscopic paint analysis and archaeological management.

To enable the local community, visitors and tourists to share in the site’s history it was essential to consider effective heritage interpretation, ensuring the building’s heritage values were maintained for future generations.

As the refurbishment and renovation works came to an end CRC commissioned AHS, in collaboration with Clarke & Prince Architects, to create an Interpretation Strategy, Interpretation Plan and Implementation Plan. These guided the interpretive opportunities for the Court House as a cultural art centre and entertainment space.

Interpretation Strategy

The first stage of this process was creating an Interpretation Strategy which defined the target audiences, considered the thematic framework and identified a range of possible interpretation opportunities.

Potential audiences for the restored Cairns Court House were found to be locals from the Cairns community, interstate travellers, international tourists, school groups and people attending cultural events.

When considering the thematic framework the AHS team focused upon opportunities directly associated to the Court House site including the growth of Cairns, the story of law and order in the region and the development of architecture to suit a tropical climate.

A variety of moveable heritage elements connected to the Court House had been preserved. The witness stand, prisoner dock, bench seating, Lady Justice statue, judge’s gavel and hammer, historical photos and antique books were some of the items that offered intriguing opportunities for interpretation.

The AHS team also managed a consultation with Traditional Owners to identify strategies for Indigenous interpretation, to ensure that stories relevant to Traditional Owners are embedded in the building’s interpretation.

The prisoner dock and Lady Justice statue


Interpretation Plan

Following a workshop with members of the CRC team a range of specific interpretation activities and opportunities were incorporated into the Interpretation Plan.

The Court House needed to function as a gallery space so the AHS team recommended that significant moveable heritage elements should be displayed in two key entrance spaces, the Judges Room and Police Magistrates Room. These would feature associated didactic signage and LumiSheet interpretive displays.

A selection of archaeological finds uncovered during the construction phase would also be displayed and interpreted in these spaces, including the iron shackles.

Lighting systems to be installed within the Court Room would showcase the architectural features, with new exterior lighting to enhance the landscape and significant features such as the coat of arms and flagpole.

Indigenous interpretation strategies identified by the consultation process were also proposed. These themes included traditional stories of pre-European settlement, the Blue Slippery Fig that used to be in front of the building, traditional Indigenous practices and stories about encounters with law enforcement and police magistrates.

Wall markings showing the location of stairs to the former Judge’s Bench with interpretative sign


Implementation Plan

The final phase of the interpretation process involved the collection, research, and development of content for the selected strategies.

AHS led the project team in additional consultation with Traditional Owners to develop their input into the interpretive displays. We also assisted CRC in the production and installation of the selected options.

As a result of the outstanding adaptive re-use project delivered by CRC with AHS and the project team, Cairns Court House is now a vibrant, dynamic art gallery and performance space presenting visual and performing arts in the restored heritage building.

Contact us

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

Exterior lighting scheme highlighting the coat of arms (The Court House Facebook)

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The Challenge

The first stage of this process was creating an Interpretation Strategy which defined the target audiences, considered the thematic framework and identified a range of possible interpretation opportunities.

Potential audiences for the restored Cairns Court House were found to be locals from the Cairns community, interstate travellers, international tourists, school groups and people attending cultural events.

When considering the thematic framework the AHS team focused upon opportunities directly associated to the Court House site including the growth of Cairns, the story of law and order in the region and the development of architecture to suit a tropical climate.

A variety of moveable heritage elements connected to the Court House had been preserved. The witness stand, prisoner dock, bench seating, Lady Justice statue, judge’s gavel and hammer, historical photos and antique books were some of the items that offered intriguing opportunities for interpretation.

The AHS team also managed a consultation with Traditional Owners to identify strategies for Indigenous interpretation, to ensure that stories relevant to Traditional Owners are embedded in the building’s interpretation.



How we helped

Following a workshop with members of the CRC team a range of specific interpretation activities and opportunities were incorporated into the Interpretation Plan.

The Court House needed to function as a gallery space so the AHS team recommended that significant moveable heritage elements should be displayed in two key entrance spaces, the Judges Room and Police Magistrates Room. These would feature associated didactic signage and LumiSheet interpretive displays.

A selection of archaeological finds uncovered during the construction phase would also be displayed and interpreted in these spaces, including the iron shackles.

Lighting systems to be installed within the Court Room would showcase the architectural features, with new exterior lighting to enhance the landscape and significant features such as the coat of arms and flagpole.

Indigenous interpretation strategies identified by the consultation process were also proposed. These themes included traditional stories of pre-European settlement, the Blue Slippery Fig that used to be in front of the building, traditional Indigenous practices and stories about encounters with law enforcement and police magistrates.

Results

The final phase of the interpretation process involved the collection, research, and development of content for the selected strategies.

AHS led the project team in additional consultation with Traditional Owners to develop their input into the interpretive displays. We also assisted CRC in the production and installation of the selected options.

As a result of the outstanding adaptive re-use project delivered by CRC with AHS and the project team, Cairns Court House is now a vibrant, dynamic art gallery and performance space presenting visual and performing arts in the restored heritage building.

Contact us

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

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AHS helps to record and conserve Bega’s network of historic granite kerbs and gutters for our client Bega Valley Shire Council

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AHS delivered a Conservation Management Plan for the State heritage listed former Cairns Masonic Temple

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Delivering heritage services including an Archival Recording at the Coffs Harbour Forestry Building

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Conserving Willard’s Farm, one of the oldest surviving farms and residences within the Redlands on Brisbane’s Bayside

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