National Museum of Australia, Acton, Australia

The National Museum of Australia preserves and interprets Australia’s social history, exploring the key issues, people and events that have shaped the nation. It was formally established by the National Museum of Australia Act 1980.

The Museum’s innovative use of new technologies has been central to its growing international reputation in outreach programming, particularly with regional communities. From 2003 to 2008, the Museum hosted Talkback Classroom, a student political forum.

The National Museum of Australia is a museum of social history. Its mission is to bring to life the rich and diverse stories of Australia through compelling objects, ideas and programs.

The Museum profiles 50,000 years of Indigenous heritage, settlement since 1788 and key events including Federation and the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal bark paintings and stone tools, the heart of champion racehorse Phar Lap and the Holden prototype No. 1 car.

The Museum also develops and travels exhibitions on subjects ranging from bushrangers to surf lifesaving. The National Museum of Australia Press publishes a wide range of books, catalogues and journals. The Museum’s Research Centre takes a cross-disciplinary approach to history, ensuring the museum is a lively forum for ideas and debate about Australia’s past, present and future.

The Museum was established to collect, document, research and communicate the history of Australia, focusing on three key themes:

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures;
• Australian society and history since 1788; and
• People and the environment.

The National Museum’s vision is to be a recognised world-class museum exploring Australia’s past, illuminating the present, imagining the future.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this site contains images of deceased persons, which may cause sadness or distress. The National Museum of Australia takes care to ensure that communities are consulted over the use of such images.

The Museum did not have a permanent home until 11 March 2001, when a purpose-built museum building was officially opened in the national capital Canberra.

As designed by architect Howard Raggatt (design architect and design director for the project), the museum building is based on a theme of knotted ropes, symbolically bringing together the stories of Australians. The most obvious of these extensions forms a large loop before becoming a walkway which extends past the neighbouring AIATSIS building ending in a large curl, as if a huge ribbon has haphazardly unrolled itself along the ground. Known as the “Uluru Axis” because it aligns with the central Australian natural landmark, the ribbon symbolically integrates the site with the Canberra city plan by Walter Burley Griffin and the spiritual heart of indigenous Australia.

The shape of the main entrance hall continues this theme: it is as though the otherwise rectangular building has been built encasing a complex knot which does not quite fit inside the building, and then the knot taken away. The entirely non-symmetrical complex is designed to not look like a museum, with startling colours and angles, unusual spaces and unpredictable projections and textures.

The exterior of the building is covered in anodised aluminium panels. Many of the panels include words written in braille and other decorative devices. Among the messages are “mate” and “she’ll be right”. Also included were such controversial words and phrases as “sorry” and “forgive us our genocide”. These more controversial messages have been obscured with silver discs being attached to the surface making the braille illegible. Among the phrases in braille are the words “Resurrection city”. The phrase may refer to the clearing of the former Canberra Hospital to make way for the museum or it could be a reference to reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and European settlers. The phrase is used as a label in tiles on another of Raggett’s buildings, the Storey Hall in Melbourne. Raggett says of that message: “I guess that tries to be some big sort of theme for this building as well and its sort of set of memories.”

As a social history museum, National Museum of Australia exhibitions explore the land, nation and people of Australia.

Some objects on display in Street View are on loan to the National Museum of Australia.

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