6 Australian Museums Worth Visiting

Museums are back. After a few years in the wilderness, places like MONA in Tasmania are spearheading the return to prominence of history houses of all persuasions. We may not have thousands years of tradition like some other glory-hogging continents you care to name *cough* Europe *cough*, but that hasn’t stopped Australia from stocking up on a large pile of notable museums of its own — from the celebrated to the niche, here are six museum must-sees. How many have you visited?

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART (SYDNEY)

Yes, you’ll get distracted by the most spectacular natural harbour in the world, and sure, sometimes the views of the Opera House get obscured by cruise ships the size of floating cities, but who cares when there’s this much brain-bending, thought-provoking magnificence being hurled at your frontal lobe? Think cutting edge exhibits, surreal videography, optical illusions, pop-up gin gardens, late night ARTBAR, and displays that run from the whimsical to the futuristic to the downright macabre. Plus entry is free. Strap in and feel the Gs.

PHOTO: FILIPA L.

MUSEUM OF ECONOMIC BOTANY (ADELAIDE)

Oh, Adelaide. Just when we thought you couldn’t possibly charm us any more than you already do, you crank it up to eleven. This Greek Revival building in the Botanic Gardens is one of the only remaining museums of economic botany on the planet. Learning what plants we ate, snorted, wore, and used for medicinal purposes is more interesting than you might think. Plants as commerce? Yessir! So quaint you’ll just want to die with interested cuteness, which is definitely a thing.

PHOTO: BRIAN T.

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM (PERTH)

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Where can I see the biggest meteorite ever to hit Australia, one that was created 4.56 billion years ago and weighs over 12 tons?”, this is the place for you. After you’ve checked out the Mundrabilla iron meteor, hit up the now-extinct Tasmanian Tiger, the geology and periodic table exhibits, the fluorescent rocks, and the argyle diamonds (all the single ladies, all the single ladies). Oh, and move fast. The museum closes in June 2016 for a 4-year renovation.

PHOTO: ESMERELDA P.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA (CANBERRA)

A museum in Canberra? Snoring, right? Well – no, actually. This place is wild, and one of the few art houses where you’ll be glad you did the guided tour. From the Azaria Chamberlain story (“A dingo ate my baby!”) to the giant, interpretive acid trip that is the Garden of Australian Dreams, this entire place tells the history of Australia like you’ve never seen it before. Like the knot-shaped main hall representing the unity of the Australian people, and the windows shaped like Eucalyptus leaves. That guy with the southern cross tattoo isn’t part of it, however. He’s just visiting.

PHOTO: SCOTT W.

MONA (HOBART)

Responsible for single-handedly making art cool again, this is the rock star of the Australian museum circuit and anything but your typical gallery. The only thing to expect is nothing you could possibly imagine. Like, say, a machine that emulates the human digestive tract, or a room filled with people singing Madonna songs. There’s a ton of graphic imagery (spoiler alert: hillbilly nudity) so leave the kiddly winks at home with some glittered Play Doh or whatever it is the carpet commandos are into these days.

PHOTO: GEMMA W.

IMMIGRATION MUSEUM (MELBOURNE)

Stop the boats! Is not something you’ll hear anyone say at this highly topical palace to all things immigration. There’s no sugarcoating the rampant racism that was part and parcel of the Australian story but it’s dealt with in a thoughtful and objective manner. The focus is on stories and tales from actual immigrants, and hey, who doesn’t like a good story? Nobody that knows what’s good for them, that’s who.

PHOTO: MELINA C.
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