Queensland's important geological collections were housed initially in a cottage next door to the old Post Office and then a building in William Street . Designed by F. D. G. Stanley, the Queensland Museum built in 1877 to 1879 was converted into the Public Library of Queensland in 1902 . The building was constructed out of brick and sandstone, and has eight second-storey columns along the front facade.
In 1891 the museum collection was moved to a newly acquired Queensland Museum building on Bowen Bridge Road Brisbane. A £1 900 contract was let in September 1900 for conversion of the former Queensland museum building into premises for the free Public Library of Queensland and opened in the refurbished building in April 1902.
The imposing building at Bowen Bridge Road was originally built as an exhibition building for the National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland. Designed by the Welsh-born architect George Henry Addison, a minister's son orphaned at the age of 10. Addison, educated on a scholarship, showed great talent in drawing and design.
He migrated to Melbourne and later came to Brisbane, where he obtained some renown after designing Fernbrook, a grandiose family home at Indooroopilly. Bankrupted in the 1890s depression he later set up an architect's office and again enjoyed success.
His inspiration for the Queensland museum, The Mansions and other Brisbane buildings came from Venetian Gothic architecture, a style influenced by Byzantium, as Venetian and Byzantine. The side elevation has a row of pointed arches that may have been inspired by the arches on the facade of the Doge's Palace in Venice.
The front facade contains pinnacles and domed turrets created in rose and cream bricks, cream limestone, and floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows. The T-shaped building, accommodated an exhibition hall, concert hall and basement dining room.
The foundation stone was laid on 25 April 1891 and the entire building was completed by August of the same year. Credit was freely available in the booming 1880s at the time of its construction. The project was undercapitalised and the Agricultural Association borrowed money for the building's construction and consequently ran into debt.
Costs soared as Addison's masterpiece employed only the finest materials such as the glazed bricks, locally manufactured by James Campbell. The building was completed just as the boom faded and an economic depression set in.
The Association was unable to repay debt and the Queensland Government commandeered the building. On 23rd April 1891 it became a combination of a concert hall and home of the Queensland Museum. Alterations included the construction of a gallery within the main hall, addition of a line of windows in the main northern wall and the modification of the basement dining room into offices, preparation and storage spaces.
The well-known explorer and scientist Sir Augustus Gregory (Bio) became the first chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Queensland Museum and curator from 1882 to 1905 of the Queensland Museum was the botanist Frederick Manson Bailey. From 1930 to 1974 part of the building was occupied by the Queensland Art Gallery
Today Addison's red-brick Old Queensland Museum building has a new role as the headquarters of the Queensland Youth Orchestra and other organisations.