The Australian Museum is located right next to Sydney’s Hyde Park and is in essence a natural history museum focusing on the Australian environment. Opened in 1857, the museum serves the dual purpose of an educational as well as a research facility and enjoys thanks to its 18 million exhibits worldwide expert recognition.
The history of the Australian Museum is particularly evident in the architecture of the building complex, as you will see immediately how the museum has grown organically over the decades – after passing the foyer you suddenly find yourself in a covered courtyard that is surrounded by former exterior walls that now have some of their windows and doors filled in. The old structures and buildings that make up the museum today have been transformed over time to accommodate modern requirements.
To be honest, if you’ve ever been to the British Museum in London the Australian Museum might be a bit of a disappointment. Compared to the British Queen of all Museums, this colonial copy looks a bit like a poor, neglected cousin. Having said that, in its entirety the Australian Museum with its collections of cultural items, rocks, animals and so on is definitely sufficient to provide tourists and kids with a good first impression of the uniqueness of the Australian continent.
For example, the geology exhibition is stuffed with great exhibits from around the world and of course Australia. Precious stones, gems, minerals, metals, ores, crystals and so on make up this beautiful collection.
Skeletons appear to be around every other corner – much to the delight of the kids who like the thrill of seeing these scary pieces – for example there is a massive sperm whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling right at the entrance, and there is the famous anatomy gallery which is home to a number of complete skeletons such as that of a giraffe, a human, different pets, a giant mammoth and many more. And of course, just like any other good natural history museum you will find your beloved dinosaur bones here too in their own dedicated space.
Australia’s unique and fabulous animal kingdom can be studied in the ornithological exhibition, and in the collection of bugs, spiders and butterflies, as well as in the fascinating gallery “Dangerous Australia”. In particular the last one is great to get further information on which native species are dangerous and what makes the Australian continent so special in this regard. A corner with big illuminated fish tanks with living creatures complete the picture.
Totally fascinating in my view are the cultural objects in the indigenous exhibition – stunning modern as well as historic pieces can be viewed in this section. The stories told here also touch on the sad topic of the white settlers who invaded the Aborigines’ living spaces, destroyed their several thousand years old culture and displaced them permanently.
Let me assure you that kids will love the Australian Museum which makes it a great destination for the upcoming winter school holidays. The Kidsspace has been designed with babies and toddlers in mind and is basically a safe enclosed area filled to the brim with relevant toys, books, taxidermied animals and other objects that the kids can feel, touch and manipulate in their own time. School aged kids have access to a dedicated wing with taxidermied animals, bones, bugs, computer games, books and so forth. This is a great place to feel the fur of a kangaroo or koala, to view flies under a magnifying lens and to have a safe encounter with a live Sydney Funnel Web Spider in the terrarium.
The Australian Museum is not too expensive– expect a family of four to pay around $30. It may not be the most existing of natural history museums that I have seen in my life time but it is probably the best when it comes to Australian natural history museums, and luckily thanks to Australia’s uniqueness there are many stories this museum can tell that you won’t be able to hear anywhere else in the world.
The Australian Museum. Cnr College & William Streets, Sydney. http://australianmuseum.net.au/