Museum sheds light on history

Geoff Ginn with his recently published book titled Archangels Archaeology at the Abbey Musuem. Photo: Nicola Brander / Caboolture News
Geoff Ginn with his recently published book titled Archangels Archaeology at the Abbey Musuem. Photo: Nicola Brander / Caboolture News Nicola Brander

THE extraordinary history of Caboolture's Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology will be told in a new book for the first time.

Written by University of Queensland historian Dr Geoff Ginn, using original records and international research, Archangels and Archaeology tells the story of the museum's founder, Father John Ward, his lifelong collecting habit and his connections with freemasonry and spiritualism.

Ward collected artworks, ancient pottery, weapons, tools, jewellery and religious artefacts of all kinds.

Ward's original museum, the Abbey Folk Park on the outskirts of London, was a major attraction in the 1930s.

Long forgotten by historians, it used salvaged buildings and heritage displays to tell the history of world civilisations to many thousands of visitors.

Dr Geoff Ginn's book also reveals for the first time the remarkable story of Ward's community, the Confraternity of the Kingdom of Christ, and how they and their immensely valuable collection travelled after World War II to Cyprus and then to Australia.

"It really is an extraordinary story," Dr Ginn said.

"It tells us a lot about the cultural turmoil and religious diversity of English life in the 1920s and 1930s, but there is a very human side to it too."

Central to Ward's decision to leave England was a sensational court case in May 1945, which Dr Ginn argues disgraced him unfairly and sent him into self-imposed exile.

"Social life in wartime England was dour and austere. Ward's mysticism and his idealistic community were both viewed with suspicion," Dr Ginn said.

"In a sense they were driven out of the country, and so made their way to Australia."

Archangels and Archaeology: JSM Ward's Kingdom of the Wise will be launched at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology on Friday.

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