Underworld exhibition has a tale for everyone

Underworld: Mugshots of the Roaring Twenties is a stylish treasure trove of stories and imagery harking back to a bygone era.
Discover Ipswich, Staff Writer

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties is a stylish art deco-themed exhibition with wide-ranging appeal. The exhibition is running until February 24, 2019 at the Workshops Rail Museum.


Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties

This must-see event is running at Ipswich’s Workshops Rail Museum.  Anyone with a love of photography and photographic technology, social or police history will find themselves enthralled. It would even appeal to those who simply enjoy a compelling yarn. The collection comprises 130 photographs taken by NSW police in the 1920s and 30s. Some shed light on a heartbreaking era in Australia’s past and the tough times some faced. Others to the unbelievable daring the top crims of the day displayed. It’s a fascinating insight.

The above image, circa September 1920, features Thomas Maria, left, with Patrick Dangar, right, & Patrick Bevin. Bevan had numerous aliases including Robert Barron, William Bates, William Bevin, Patrick Brosnahan and Owen Patrick Brosnan. As well as Patrick ‘Paddy’ Brosnan, Henry Jones and Arthur Wyatt. The accused were – ‘suspected of being in a place frequented by people with no visible means of support.’

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties

The museum exhibition comprises large-scale photography and a film component. It is beautifully styled with art deco framing and detailing adding a glam edge. The images hark back to an era when Australia was rebuilding after the tragic impact of World War I. In addition, dramatic changes were emerging in architecture, technology, entertainment and society.


Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties

The classic bentwood chair, which was common in police stations back in the day features in some of the mugshots. They were often included to give police a visual indication of a suspect’s height.


Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties

Ethel Violet May Benn was a remarkably athletic thief who had a history of escaping police, even while heavily pregnant. She had even been known to shimmy up a drain pipe to get to an open window.


Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties

A section is included for visitors to don some 1920s gear for a selfie. And those who want to take that concept further might want to glam up and grab a ticket to the Prohibition Party. It’s happening at the Ipswich Rail museum on Friday, September 21. (There will be alcohol available so this is an 18+ event). Tickets are limited.


Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties

George McKee, with a trio of elaborate aliases after his name, was ‘suspected of theft and wife desertion.’

The Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich, Queensland

The Workshops Rail Museum, in a significant heritage precinct in North Ipswich, is one of the city’s premier attractions. The museum is running a series of talks and activities to coincide with this exhibition. Full details can be found here.


Discover Ipswich Staff Writer
Rocky the Rock Wallaby is a Sagittarius who lives at the Ipswich Nature Centre and often contributes to Discover Ipswich in his spare time. When he's not busy blogging or hanging out with his bestie Windora the Bilby, he likes to hit the gym for a leg session, graze on quinoa salad and ponder the possibilities of the universe.

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