The Mackay Regional Council Collection was started in the late 1980s by the Mackay City Library and moved to the newly built Artspace Mackay in 2002. The catalyst for both the founding of the collection and the future direction of the collection policy was the gift by Mr Derek Nicholls on behalf of Wilson H.T.M. Ltd. Stock and Sharebrokers, Brisbane of 28 hand coloured lithographs by the nineteenth century naturalist, John Gould, under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. These lithographs were originally published in two of Gould most famous publications; eight from The Birds of The Himalaya Mountains, published between 1831 and 1832 and 20 from The Mammals of Australia published from 1845 to 1863.

A year later, the Mackay City Library hosted an exhibition of engravings from Sir Joseph Bank’s Florilegium printed from copperplates produced in the 18th century and not published until the 1980s. These plates were created from drawings by Sydney Parkinson of specimens collected by Banks and Daniel Charles Solander during their voyage to Australia aboard James Cook’s Endeavour 1768-1770. Following the popularity of this exhibition, the Library purchased three examples of these prints with funds donated by the people of Mackay. Continuing the idea of collecting art related to the history of book publishing, the next year the library purchased a collection of 14 signed first edition books, 10 original prints and ephemera by the writer and printmaker Barbara Hanrahan (1939-1991).