As a rough and ready mining town Mount Isa has always needed the tender care of nurses and the hospitals they work in.
The first hospital in Mount Isa was a row of tents operated by Mount Isa Mines from the earliest years of mining operations.
The company opened a 40 bed community hospital on the leases in 1929. Eventually another hospital was built on the hospital reserve in town.
When Darwin was bombed in World War II precautions were taken to protect the Mount Isa district hospital in the event of an air raid.and the underground hospital was built into the hills.
However the threat from Japan receded and the underground hospital was never used and left abandoned by authorities.
Nevertheless post-war pioneers like nurse Beth Anderson saw the potential of the underground hospital and an associated museum and started to keep an inventory of old medical and hospital stock that might become exhibits in the museum.
One young nurse that saw Ms Anderson engaged in this work was Barbara Shipman and she enthusiastically took part becoming one of the driving forces to establish the museum.
Now 82 and retired to Bundaberg, Mrs Shipman worked and lived in Mount Isa for 32 years, rising to become in charge of operating theatre and returned here this week to check out the museum and was modest about her own role in the endeavour.
"I was on the staff at the time and a group of us got together at the time to kick the museum off," Mrs Shipman said.
"It started out with the underground part and somebody asked why did you did and the answer was 'well, it was there!'".
"The doors were shut up after the war but the nurses used to go up there and smoke because it was cooler."
The museum was a labour of love for the early volunteers.
"Beth and I - she's passed on - saved some old equipment," she said.
"We did terrible things because there used to be a rule back in those days that if it was superseded it was to be destroyed but we didn't destroy anything. We used to have secret cupboards."
Beth and Barbara's unauthorised work was finally rewarded when their secret squirreling became the centrepiece of the museum that was later named in Beth Anderson's honour.
Another person that was instrumental in the early days was businesswoman Margaret Medley, with a volunteer room at the museum named in her honour.
"She had all the contacts, she was good for getting fences put up. Greg Humphrey was good too. He did work on the garden," Mrs Shipman said.
Though she has been gone for 13 years she still takes a keen interest in the museum and is helping volunteer coordinator Erica Shaw with reestablishing an inventory list she herself set up when the museum first opened.
"It's an encouragement for anyone interested in hospital stuff, stuff like the kerosene lights that came from Camooweal hospital, they'd have to run out at night with those lights in case the Flying Doctor came in at night," she said.
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