More than just skin deep – Museum of Tropical Queensland’s new tattoo exhibition explores the meaning behind military stories

26 August 2022

The stories of Australian veterans told through their tattoos will be the subject of a new photographic exhibition at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, opening on 27 August.

The travelling exhibition from the Australian War Memorial features more than 70 stunning photographic portraits of 22 Australian servicemen and servicewomen and is one of the first in Australia to explore the use of tattoos in the military.

Whether it’s memorialising lost friends, embodying a profound experience of loss or transformation, or simply a lasting memento, each tattoo featured in Ink in the Lines tells a different story of life in the Australian Defence Force.

Queensland Museum Network CEO, Dr Jim Thompson, said Ink in the Lines has a special link to Townsville with local stories and tattoo artistry featured throughout the exhibition.

“By sharing personal accounts of their service and emotional details of life after the defence force, the exhibition reveals the unifying reasons for getting inked – to remember the people, events and experiences which shaped their lives,” Dr Thompson said

Australian War Memorial photographic curator, Stephanie Boyle, said the veterans’ identities are inscribed on their skin to recognise the commemoration of loss, experiences of trauma and overcoming adversity, the bonds of family and friends, and to acknowledge the experiences that define who they are.

“I hope this exhibition helps visitors to engage with the Australian military in a way they probably haven’t before, so that they see that everyone has an important story to tell, and that some stories can be written on skin,” Ms Boyle said.

Australian War Memorial Director, Matt Anderson, said he was pleased the Ink in the Lines tour was able to take the stories of today’s veterans around the country, and to connect with veterans and their families in a way that resonates with them.

“The experiences of present-day veterans and their loved ones are unique and often private. For some, the tattoo is an invitation to ask about their experience. These tattoos show personal ways to preserve a memory. They are a reminder of their service and sacrifice,” Mr Anderson said. 

Ink in the Lines is the first of two travelling exhibitions to feature at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2022. Action! Film & War, which explores the role of the moving image in documenting, supporting, promoting, reporting on and commemorating the Australian experience of war will premiere at the museum on 12 November 2022.

Ink in the Lines is on display at the Museum of Tropical Queensland 27 August 2022–23 October 2022. The exhibition is free with admission and open daily from 9.30am–4pm. Visit mtq.qm.qld.gov.au to learn more. 

ENDS

Media Contact: Kylie Hay | media@qm.qld.gov.au