Trading places

Trading boards from the Brisbane Stock Exchange. (Photo: Jason McCarthy)

These trading boards from the Brisbane Stock Exchange were among the first objects to be moved into the Landmarks gallery. Daniel Oakman, curator of our Expanding the Economy module, reflects on their history.


These trading boards are from the Brisbane Stock Exchange and are the last of their kind in Australia. When stock and share trading went electronic in 1990, these giant blackboards, which were used to record prices and transactions, became redundant, and trading floors across Australia closed down.

Conservators Cathy Collins and Ian Cramer prepare the boards for installation. (Photo: Rathicca Chandra)

Engineer Bill Lang (left) and conservator Ainslie Greiner attach the boards to the gallery wall. (Photo: Rathicca Chandra)

Each listing, of course, tells its own story about the financial history of Australia. One gem hidden away is Alan Bond’s “Bond Corp” which has a red ‘Suspended’ sign alongside it. When the trading floors closed, the exchange had suspended trading in the company. The suspension marked the beginning of a spectacular fall from grace for the former Australian of the Year and hero of the 1983 America’s Cup victory. In 1992, Bond was declared bankrupt and later convicted of fraud.

(Photo: Rathicca Chandra)

While the trading boards have had a very serious working life recording the financial turmoil of the late 1980s, I’ve also tended to respond to them with a strong sense of nostalgia. They remind me of Nicholson’s ‘Rubbery figures‘ series, whose puppets lampooned Australian and international politicians, but also captured the complex financial and economic changes of the day with great wit.

Paul Keating and Bob Hawke as portrayed in part of our collection of ‘Rubbery Figures’ The installation was created by Peter Nicholson. (Photo:NMA)

The boards also remind me of those other trademarks of the era: corporate takeovers, big hair, shoulder pads, and let’s not forget the man perms!

Daniel Oakman (sadly without a man perm) watches as NMA conservators prepare to lift the final board into position. (Photo: Rathicca Chandra)

3 Responses to “Trading places”

  1. Anne Faris says:

    Thanks for this insight Daniel. I remember hearing that the Aussie Rules players had jobs as chalkies because they were tall and could reach up high on the boards. at the Stock Exchanges. I guess they would have needed to be able to move fast at times too.

  2. [...] be something new every day. When we had our great gallery tour with Kirsten Wehner in January, the Brisbane Stock exchange boards were shrouded in wrappings. Now they can be seen in all their glory from the newly opened stairs [...]

  3. Kirsten Wehner says:

    It’s amazing to me that the chalk markings made on these boards in 1990 have survived for two decades. I was really interested to see how the Museum’s conservators stabilised the chalk to prevent it flaking off while the boards are on display. Anybody who hasn’t already seen them should take a look at the behind the scenes photos on the NMA website.

    http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/landmarks/bse_boards_treatment/

    I always thought the Stock Exchange boards would be an interesting and provocative addition to the Landmarks gallery, but I didn’t anticipate that they would be so visually compelling. As I move through the gallery, they constantly remind me of the role of enterprise and business in shaping Australian history.