National Museum of Australia
Looks can be deceiving – this ugly looking monstrosity is actually excellent once you get inside. The Museum preserves and interprets Australia’s social history, exploring the key issues, people and events that have shaped the nation. The Museum profiles 50,000 years of Indigenous heritage, settlement since 1788 and key events including Federation and the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
On display is the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal bark paintings and stone tools, the actual heart of champion racehorse Phar Lap and the original prototype of the Holden car. The Museum’s innovative use of new technologies has been central to its growing international reputation in outreach programming, particularly with regional communities. In 2005 and 2006 the Museum was named Australia’s best major tourist attraction.
The National Historical Collection is the core collection of the National Museum of Australia. It includes more than 200,000 objects, most of which are stored at Mitchell, a suburb on the outskirts of Canberra. Conservation and Registration work closely to ensure that the collection is safely and securely stored and accessible for study, exhibitions and research.
Location: Lawson Cres., Acton Peninsula, Acton. Contact: (02) 6208 5000. Free admission.
How to get there: from Canberra City, proceed east via Parkes Way, left into Lawson Cres.
The building had its origins in an international design competition launched in 1977. The winning design caused much discussion and debate. Avoiding traditional museum interpretations, the architects developed a post-modern Deconstructivist-style structure reflecting the diversity of the Museum’s collection. In November 2001 the Museum was awarded the prestigious international honour of the Blueprint Architecture Award for the Best New Public Building of the Year.
The most noticeable design feature of the Museum is the gigantic sculptural loop at the entrance. The building itself, which houses 6,600 square metres of exhibition space, is composed of several individual spaces pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, forming a semicircle around the Garden of Australian Dreams. Colour is used extensively, outside and inside. The exterior is a vibrant palette of crimson, orange, bronze, gold, black and brushed silver. Textures range from the smooth finish of the anodised aluminium panels that clad much of the building to the deeply patterned moulded concrete surface of the western section. Some of the raised dimples and sunken holes are words written in braille.