The Gympie Bone Museum is equal parts scientific, quirky, and macabre. In 2016, after the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads announced a $1 billion upgrade to the Bruce Highway that included a 16-mile bypass around Gympie, local science technicians and educational cadaver suppliers Jaimie and Debra Cook came up with the idea for the museum in order to “bypass-proof” their town and create a much-needed tourism industry for the area.
Operating out of their backyard shed, the Cooks collected roadkill and began preparing the carcasses for eventual display, skinning them and cleaning the bones with the help of carrion beetles. By 2019, the museum had secured its first premises and opened to the public.
The majority of the specimens on display have been generously donated and include an array of beloved family pets, a camel, a racehorse, a platypus, and a water buffalo—all of which were skinned, cleaned by carrion beetles, then bleached and re-assembled by the Cooks and a devoted team of volunteers. There is even a human skeleton named Rodger in the collection, a medical skeleton from the 1950s that was donated by a doctor upon his retirement.
Although you will find a plaster cast skull of the Thylacoleo carnifex, Australia’s prehistoric marsupial lion, next to the posed skeleton of a Guinea pig, all the specimens on display are modern species and, when possible, are not behind glass. This keeps the exhibits accessible and allows for a more immersive and hands-on experience.
The Cooks’ ultimate goal is to establish their bone museum as a world-class academic and tourism venue that will draw scientists, students, and the perennially curious. Long-term plans for expansion include all-ages educational programs, research facilities, opportunities for university undergraduates, bone cleaning services, and venue spaces for lecturers.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission is by gold coin donation.