The Australian Museum, Sydney - review by Rusty Compass
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The Australian Museum, Sydney

| 27 Jun 2021
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The Australian Museum, Sydney
1 William St, Darlinghurst, Sydney - right by Hyde Park near Museum Station
27 Jun 2021

This is the Sydney museum you must see - make time. It's Australia's oldest museum set in a heritage building with a fascinating collection of natural history and regular special exhibitions. Entry is free.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

The Australian Museum is Australia's oldest museum. It's been focused on natural science in Australia since the early decades of colonial settlement. Its original name, The Colonial Museum, connects it with the excesses of colonial science and the dispossession of First Nations People.

The museum's current incarnation opened in 1857 and there have been many incremental additions over the decades. The most recent was completed at the end of 2020. The museum remains a centre of scientific and anthropological research and it feels fresh and dynamic. 

Dinosaurs have always been a hit at the Australian Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Dinosaurs have always been a hit at the Australian Museum, Sydney
Australian Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Australian Museum, Sydney
Captain Cook directs to rAustralian Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Captain Cook directs to rAustralian Museum, Sydney
Australian Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Australian Museum, Sydney

The Australian Museum boasts a collection of 21 million scientific specimens and cultural objects. A tiny amount of the collection forms the permanent exhibition. There's a lot to wade through.

Highlights include a superb collection of dinosaurs and birds - these have been highlights for decades. More recent galleries include First Nations and Pacific Island collections.

The Australian Museum hosts regular talks and events and is especially well suited to families.

The museum cafe has pride of place in the heart of the structure.

Across from the Australian Museum in Hyde Park is a controversial statue of Captain James Cook - the explorer and seafarer who first claimed the Eastern Australian coastline for the British in 1770. The statue was unveiled in Sydney in 1879 and has been frequently vandalised in recent years. The Cook statue is considered by many to be a symbol of the British colonial invasion and the dispossession of First Nations people. Check out the statue with your visit to the museum.

Eminent Australian scientist, author and climate change action advocate Tim Flannery is the most celebrated recent member of the Australian Museum team. He was Principal Research Scientist in mammalogy between 1984 and 1999. He's recently returned to the museum as a distinguished visiting fellow raising awareness on climate impacts. Look out for Flannery's writing.

It may confound that Australia's pre-eminent museum - government funded - is engaged in climate awareness with one of the world's most eloquent advocates for action, while the conservative national government stubbornly persists in distorting climate facts and the country is intractably paralysed on securing global action.  

Try and visit the Australian Museum by rail from the heritage listed Museum underground station. Dating back to 1926, this is one of Sydney's most beautiful old underground stations.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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