This gallery features displays about the island‘s volcanic origins, biogeography, biodiversity, scientific interest, World Heritage values, and the impact of humans and conservation. There is also a dedicated school children’s display area.

One of the more impressive exhibits in this display is a replica of the the skeleton of Meiolania platyceps, the giant horned turtle, which is the Museum’s logo. You can read more about its fossil remains here.


This gallery features displays about the Island’s human history – from discovery, through early settlement, shipping, the Kentia palm industry, the flying boats, tourism, and administration. The displays consist of original artefacts, photographs, quotes from original diaries and oral history recordings.

The historical gallery is undergoing extensive upgrades during 2020 and 2021, to redesign the displays and include more topics, such as sustainable living. The new displays will be completed mid-2022. You can read more about the renovations here.


The museum holds a number of smaller temporary displays each year to commemorate significant events and create interest for residents and regular visitors.

In recent years, these have included:

  • 75th anniversary of Sir Francis Chichester crossing the Tasman Sea solo in 1931
  • Official visits to the Island (to coincide with a visit from NSW Governor Her Excellency Marie Bashir in 2007)
  • Signs of Change
  • 25th anniversary of the Woodhen rescue
  • “Then and Now” showing scenes from pre-1950 compared to now.
  • “Weddings” – a photograph and memorabilia exhibition about weddings on the island.


This display contains photographs and stories relating to the Island jetty. For over 100 years the jetty was the centre of communication for the island. Cargo would come ashore, the first tourist passengers to the island would arrive by ship, and later the flying boat terminal was at the jetty. 

Today, the bulk of the Island freight arrives at the jetty and tourists depart on daily sightseeing and fishing trips from here.


In 1980 the Woodhen was saved by one of the most outstanding bird recovery programs in the world. 

Over three years, 92 Woodhen chicks were hatched and reared at the island’s captive breeding centre, and successfully released into the wild.

This achievement was honoured with a new display in 2005.


In 2008 the 60th anniversary of the crash of an RAAF Catalina was recognised with a new display.

This was the only aircraft incident on Lord Howe Island with loss of life. At dusk on September 28th 1948, an RAAF Catalina crashed on the Malabar Ridge, with seven of the crew being killed.

Islander Roy Wilson managed to rescue two airmen before the aircraft burst into flames. Roy received the George’s Cross medal for his actions.

Pieces of the wings, fuselage and engines are still visible near the crash site, and a memorial has been erected to mark the site.



This display comprises a detailed replica of Balls Pyramid with photo panels and story-boards that document the history of access and rock climbing on the Pyramid.

The display was sponsored by Dick Smith, who attended the launch with his climbing mates from the first ascent to the top of the Pyramid, in 1964.


Former Museum secretary Sue Nichols obtained the service records of all the men and women who enlisted from the island in the various wars, from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The Museum collection also contains medals and photographs from various island servicemen.


A permanent display that itemises the roles and responsibilities of the Lord Howe Island Board – the governing body established under the Lord Howe Island Act 1953.

A large part of the Board’s resources are used in programs that manage the Lord Howe Island Permanent Park Preserve and protect the World Heritage values of the island.



The Museum has a permanent area in the Environmental Gallery dedicated to school children’s projects, as part of our community involvement and growth scheme.

Each year students complete environmental projects as part of their curriculum. The children visit the Museum to learn about some aspect of the environment, and carry out project work at school. The finished displays are mounted in the Museum for exhibition over several months; recent topics include Threatened Snails, Weed Busters Week, Sea Week, Catalina Crash Anniversary.

The display material may include artwork, models and dioramas, poetry or digital presentations.

The Museum is regularly visited by school and university groups to learn about the island.

In addition, we provide a venue for students from Australian and international tertiary institutions, both for formal group instruction and individual research

Ian Kiernan and Jim Dorman - the Musuem‘s “founding fathers”



The museum has a dedicated library room with custom designed cabinets made from Huon pine timber, and a large Huon pine board-room table, which is used by many community groups for meetings.

The book collection includes many texts on history, particularly whaling in the Pacific Ocean. There is an extensive reference collection of nature books on flora, marine fishes and molluscs. The library also holds originals of most books, documents and scientific papers about Lord Howe Island.

The library items can be viewed and read by visitors and researchers by appointment with the curator.


The Research Annexe is a custom-built section of the Musuem, dedicated to storage of equipment, reference materials and tools for specific research projects. Bench space is provided for laboratory work, including identification of animal and plant species, and there are spaces allocated for discussions, meetings and impromptu talks.


Regular lectures are held each Monday and Thursday, 5.30 to 6.30pm, informing tourists about the Island’s World Heritage, flora, fauna and history.

In addition, there are free screenings of video documentaries each Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as well as frequent talks by visiting scientists and artists.



On display in the Historical Gallery are several maps of Lord Howe Island dating from the mid 1800s, including some rare first editions. The prize of our collection is an original 1853 map, prepared from data given to a Sydney mapmaker by the British research ships Herald and Torch in 1851. The map shows detailed water depths around the island and is the very first map showing the farm holdings at the time. It may be the only first edition in existence. Other maps detail the island leases, some original drawings of options for the runway in 1974, and various tourist maps showing walking tracks, lodges, topographic features and embellished with drawings of flowers, fish and activities. Reproductions of several of these maps are available for purchase in the museum shop.


The Museum holds a large range of popular magazines that contain published stories about Lord Howe Island.


The Museum is home to many original artworks, photographs and limited edition prints.
• original black and white photographs hand printed by Max Dupain in the 1970s, donated by his daughter Danina Anderson.
• two of Jack Earl’s original oil paintings – one depicting the Supply at the time of discovery of Lord Howe Island; the other depicting the early Island trading boat Sylph in a storm off Ball’s Pyramid.
• three original paintings by Irwin Weber done in the 1970s.
• a set of two Island bird posters done by artist Kevan Hardacre in the 1980s.
• several prints of extinct birds from 1790 publications.
• original artworks by local artist Margaret Murray as part of the Environmental Gallery displays.
• a watercolour commissioned by the owner of the ship Ovalau that burnt off Lord Howe Island in 1903.

Natural History

There are several collections of natural history items endemic to Lord Howe Island – from snail shells to stuffed birds. The collections of natural history items include marine snail shells collected and donated by many residents; collections of rock types found on the island; skeletons of other marine organisms; a collection of taxidermed birds that were collected dead and prepared by Tasmanian taxidermist Brian Looker (funded by Detached organisation). The museum holds digital photo catalogues of Lord Howe Island invertebrates, marine life and fungi donated by Curator Ian Hutton The Museum holds a reference book collection on island natural history. These include flora, fish, marine life, insects, geology. These are available for perusal by appointment with the Curator or committee member.


Many models can be found in the Museum – ships, aeroplanes, animals, birds, and geological structures. The Museum houses quality models of various items. These include two of the First Fleet ships, Supply and Lady Penrhyn, involved with Lord Howe Island’s discovery; the 1850s American whaling ship Charles W Morgan; the SS Morinda that serviced the island with freight and passengers from 1932 to 1952. The Historical gallery houses two very large, scale models of the flying boats – a Catalina and a Sandringham built and donated by Gold Coast modeller, Geoff Reichelt in 1997. In 1982 the American Museum of Natural History donated a full sized model of the extinct Horned Turtle skeleton. In 2014 Dick Smith sponsored the production of a very accurate scale model of Balls Pyramid.


At the time of forming the original museum in 1978, the Curator Jim Dorman had collected many artefacts and items from the community.
There is a wealth of items illustrating the island’s past – communication equipment from the Aviation Department; everyday household items, farming equipment such as cream separators and corn huskers, whaling implements (donated by Ian Kiernan); shipwreck items including the ship’s bell from the S.S. Ovalau donated by Greg and Ellis Whitfield
In 2004 PhD student Kimberley Owens carried out a project on the early archaeology of the island. During this research she excavated several sites and uncovered what is believed to be the 1834 foundations of the very first cottage on the island, buried under sand in the Old Settlement paddock. She uncovered over 3,000 artefacts which, along with her research papers, are all lodged at the museum.


The Museum holds numerous reference books on the island’s discovery, early history and whaling. The Lord Howe Island Museum now holds the world’s largest single collection of Lord Howe Island historical books. Some of these are on display in cabinets in the Historical Gallery; others are locked securely away but can be viewed in the library by appointment with the Curator or committee member. Some of these books depict the First Fleet voyage from London to Botany Bay in 1788, and the discovery of Lord Howe Island.  Ian Kiernan collected and donated books on the whaling industry. Island families and the relatives of the first settlers (now in New Zealand) have donated family bibles to the Museum.

Rueckert Collection

A recent major acquisition, the maps and books of collector Hans Rueckert are now on display in the Historical Gallery and the Library. The backbone of the library is a recently acquired collection from Hans Reuckert.  Hans lived on the island in the 1970s and 1980s and collected books and maps from sources all around the World.  In 2017 the Museum was able to purchase this valuable collection with the help of generous supporters. 


The Museum holds an extensive collection of Island newspapers.
The first local newspaper started in the 1930s, written by Will Whiting. In 1954 Jim Whistler and Trevor Nixon commenced the The Signal. This was hand typed and reproduced on a spirit and ink print press known as a Gestetner.  More recently the newspaper was reproduced with a photocopier machine. Jim had a break from September 1987 to October 1988 when Daphne Nichols produced a newspaper called Sailo.
Jim then again ran the The Signal until 2006 when Barney Nichols took it over and ran it until October 2014.  Then Stephen Sia took over its operation, using a team of local contributors.
The collection also includes many mainland newspaper and magazine clippings relating to Lord Howe Island.
The Museum received a grant from the Lord Howe Island Board to purchase a high speed scanner. In 2019 the entire collection of local Signal newspapers was scanned as searchable PDFs, enabling rapid search of names, words etc, and these are available in the museum on computers and iPad for residents, visitors and researchers.


The Museum holds many documents relating to the island’s history: Lord Howe Island Board reports on various aspects of the island. These include documents involved in preparation for World Heritage Listing in 1982. Various original diaries, shop ledger books and lodge guest books donated by island families. Telegrams between the Board and the NSW government during the WWII years. National Parks and Marine Parks documents.

Scientific publications

There have been many scientific studies on Lord Howe Island dating back to the 1850s.
The Museum holds an extensive collection of science papers on various research topics related to the island. These include the flora, invertebrates, seabirds, landbirds, marine life, geology and conservation of the island, and of Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs.
More recent articles are digital PDFs. Many older ones are original documents, which we plan to scan and add as searchable PDFs to the collection that will be available on computers at the museum.

Audio and video histories

The earliest recordings were collected by our historian Chris Murray in the 1970s, including interviews with Phil Dignam and Lil Wilson. More recently James and Leonie Furber sponsored a series of video interviews with residents carried out by Chris Murray with our associate videographer Dick Collingridge.
Current Curator Ian Hutton has also compiled a number of video interviews with researchers and residents – Peter Fullagar, John Disney, Glenn Fraser & Pete McLelland.
These recordings are securely archived on the museum digital platform.

RSL records

Former Museum secretary Sue Nichols obtained the service records of all the men and women who enlisted from the island in the various wars, from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The Museum collection also contains medals and photographs from various island servicemen.


The backbone of the photo archives is the Dick Morris Collection. Dick Morris was resident photographer from 1931, producing a unique record of island events – weddings, boat building, school events etc. The first Museum Curator Jim Dorman secured the collection of Dick’s negatives and these are stored at the museum. Many residents and visitors have also donated photos and albums to the Museum collection. In 2003 the Museum began a project to digitise the photo collection, and purchased a high quality scanner to scan the photos to archival quality. To date 5,324 have been scanned and digitised. The majority of these are on a photo catalogue system at the museum, which can be searched for places, people, buildings, boats, events, tourism and more. This is an ongoing project and residents can contribute to information about the photographs to add to the catalogue. Some of the collection is available for public viewing on iPads at the museum.


There has been interest in Lord Howe Island from philatelists for over a century. Housed at the Museum is the world’s largest collection of stamps and related materials depicting Lord Howe Island. Many philatelists have sent letters and postcards to be stamped with the Lord Howe Island Post Office postmark. Also, there have been a number of commemorative envelopes and stamps depicting Lord Howe Island. In 2003 the Museum purchased the world’s largest single collection of Lord Howe Island philatelic material from collector Bill Mayo. A highlight of this collection is the Lord Howe Island 1920 provisional stamp – an Australian penny-halfpenny stamp overwritten to two pence by the then Post Master Stan Fenton Snr.


Many of the objects in our Museum’s collections have been recorded in “eHive”.

eHive is a web-based collection cataloguing system, used worldwide by hundreds of museums, societies and private collectors to catalogue objects, store images, manage acquisition information and publish their collections online.

Read more about eHive.

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