The Cooktown and District Historical Society was formed in 1997, by two Cooktown residents, Bev and the late John Shay, with the purpose of filling a large gap in our local knowledge.

The Society’s goal was to collect data from as many sources as possible.  This meant visits to the Queensland State Archives, the John Oxley Library and the Cairns Historical Society and unending trips to the Cooktown Courthouse to check Birth, Deaths and Marriages for family history enquiries.  Thus began their collection of documents.

The photographic collection started with purchases from the John Oxley Library and the Cairns Historical Society, while an agreement was reached with the James Cook Museum to scan all their photos.  The collection now numbers over 6000 images.

In 2007, the society moved its offices and its display into the recently vacated Council offices, the oldest building in Charlotte Street. An appropriate place for an Historical Society! The Archive and Research Centre is the key function, while the display is a more recent addition and is a product of the research.

The Society’s main aspiration is to create a vibrant History Centre, owned by the Community, run by dedicated volunteers and frequented by visitors and locals alike. We support Council’s activities, when feasible, and have in our collection documents from the Shire’s archives (Cook, Hann and Daintree) which are being digitalised for future reference.

We are supporters of a “work together culture “and one of our goals is to ensure that pre and post contact history is recorded and sites protected and promoted as appropriate. Our investigation of the Muddy Lagoons murders at the start of the Gold Rush is a good example.

Moreover, finally, we believe, that supporting our unique festivals and events helps bring our community together and brings ongoing benefits to the town.