The Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the Natural History Museum London and LWL Museum fuer Naturkunde, all have one thing in common… I have visited each to see their dinosaur exhibits, and every time they were shut for some reason (the NHM London this has happened twice in fact). I have always wanted to see big dinosaur fossils and at over 30 years old, still hadn’t accomplished this! That’s where the Australian Museum stepped in!
This museum isn’t huge (no where near the size of NHM London and I would say also smaller than the Smithsonian) and we did go in fairly late so rushed a little missing the geology exhibit, but it does have a lot of interesting and well laid out exhibits, making it certainly worth a visit… Even though you do have to pay (something which makes the Smithsonian and NHM London better as they are free):
So this is the main reason we actually came here! Their dinosaur exhibit was open and I must say it didn’t disappoint – I was like a kid! You see images and models of these creatures but until you see actual fossilized bones it doesn’t quite hit home that those models are based on real creatures!
The dinosaur bones are the stars of the shows, without a doubt! I can’t decide where I prefer the mounted skeletons or the fossils left in their matrix, but either way it was worth the wait. However they do also have various models which are very detailed and incredibly well done. I would say my favourite however was a cast of a t-rex skull which you could get really close for in order to get some great photos!
The very first thing we saw (in order to get to the dinosaurs) was a balcony which had cabinets all around the edge showing a huge variety of birds. The cool thing was that we had already seen a couple of bird species on our trip which we hadn’t identified and this really helped a lot. Seeing a stuffed animal (and they are done very well) really is better than just flicking through a field guide where you often don’t get a real sense of size! The exhibit also had some cool invertebrate displays.
Being a collector of curiosities and working with a very small collection of tribal art this is always fun to see, especially as the art they have here comes from Oceania (in particular much of it from Papua New Guinea), which is some of the most intricate and stunning to look at – the masks in particular were items I could have quite happily seen more of!
There is a large exhibit which shows various aboriginal items (many boats especially) as well as lining the walls of the hall with signs and videos. This was for us probably the most educational part of the visit. We all know about the struggles of the black community in America in particular… from the days of slavery starting in the 16th century, the changes in the 19th century with the emancipation proclamation and the important civil rights movement of the 20th century. It is certainly also no secret that in many parts of the world there are plenty of people for whom skin color is still an issue!
However we had no idea (and I bet many people outside of Australia) know of the huge problems which the aboriginal people of Australia faced, as it is an issue which has not been as widely broadcast, and I think is worth people dipping in to for some extra clarification!
When ever the British colonized a country it is no secret that it was never a peaceful process! Not only did the British take much of their land, destroy the land and fauna, as well as spreading disease, they also started decades of racial segregation… It wasn’t until the 1940s to 60s before indigenous Australians were allowed to vote in their own country!
It really was eye opening!
Often in these types of museums the mammal taxidermy in particular is old and worn… the worst examples can be found in the NHM London where many of the animals are completely bleached by the lights and damaged from years of being on display. However the animals on display here are in pretty good shape, and it looks like they were often originally done pretty well.
This section is not very big, and can be found near the dinosaurs. There are some young crocodiles and various other reptiles and amphibians. The most noticeable of these are some frogs which are quite deformed in appearance, coming to the museum as rescues where they had not been fed the correct diets and thus developed issued with their bone growth.
All in all there is no doubt that this is a very impressive, engaging and educational museum, which is easily worth the entrance fee!