National Museum of Australia

Last weekend when we were in Canberra the birthday girl asked if we could visit the Museum. I had no idea if there even WAS a museum, but a quick google search showed that there was and before we knew it we were headed that way for quick look around. The first thing that struck us was the architecture of the building. This was the place that had always caught my eye when we were travelling over the bridge towards Parliament House…a swirling, colourful structure that you would expect to see in Europe or in New York.

Completed in 2001 the building originated from a design competition that was won by the architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall and Robert Peck von Hartel Trethowan who started work on the 11 hectare site in 1996. Taken from the Museum website: ” The architecture and design of the National Museum of Australia was a milestone for a building of its type. Avoiding traditional museum interpretations, the architects developed a post-modern structure reflecting the diversity of the Museum’s collection. The most noticeable design feature of the Museum is the gigantic sculptural loop at the entrance – the most visible part of the Uluru line.”

This building is something else…every angle, detail, colour has been thought out and it’s a triumph of architecture.

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I had no idea about what would be inside – what exhibitions, if the girls would be interested and what the cost would be…this was a complete blind visit. After we walked in and made a donation (entry is dead set FREE) we were given a quick run down with a map from a kind security  guard and we headed into the museum and onto the exhibitions….that was once I stopped making everyone stop to look at the building and take a photo of every angle I could find.

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The exhibitions are based loosely on the idea of Land, Nation and People. “The National Museum of Australia is a social history museum. We explore the land, nation and people of Australia. We focus on Indigenous histories and cultures, histories of European settlement and our interaction with the environment.”  The girls, Rob and I all wandered through each section taking different things from it: for the girls it was the animals, skeletons and things that they  could touch and interact with, for me the costumes and scenes from homes in the past and the wonderful selection of indigenous art. I was also really impressed with a dedicated kids area with cupboards they can open up to touch and feel things that they have seen as well as a workbook that Harper was particularly keen on – drawing in animals and items peppered throughout the exhibitions.

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For me my very favourite part was the garden in the centre that the Museum is built around – The Garden of Australian Dreams. Each step you take through the garden represents 100km’s across the real landmass of our country. Kids can run through tunnels, over hills, and across to the dedicated kids area K Space where they could build their own homes of the future and watch a 3D film of them afterwards.

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3 hours later we headed back up the highway home completely thrilled with our experience at the Museum…happy kids and adults who got something from it as well. And for free? No brainer.

Have you been to the National Museum of Australia?
What did you think?


  1. Like you, I didn’t even know this museum existed. It looks fab. You’re inspiring me to do a visit to the capital when we’re back in Oz. x

  2. We had our wedding reception there – both my husband & I were actually born on the site (used to be the Canberra Hospital) Unfortunately, the day we were married it was sooooo farkin cold we couldn’t enjoy the outside areas – great architecture

  3. Rhi@FlourChild says

    My old stomping ground… literally! I worked there for a few years when I was fresh out of uni. Loved it! Was a fantastic place to work. So glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  4. Beth- I usually love your photos but these ones didnt do it for me. Interesting read though 🙂 Will be checking it out next time I’m in the capital.

    • BabyMacBlogBeth says

      I took these all very quickly…I had kids to chase after and a husband telling me to put the camera down. I agree – you can tell.

  5. Love this post! Thank you for for writing it. Museums can be wonderful fun. x

  6. Lisa Mckenzie says

    That looks wonderful ,there is so many free things to do in Canberra isn’t there,love the garden too!

  7. being a resident, and having spent the last 3 years going there on excursions, I am well and truly over the NMA. Having said that, the first time is always the best. It’s the trouble living in CBR, you get over the tourist places pretty quick. Questacon, Parli house, war memorial. been there, done that (especially as a teacher, you do them ALL ad nauseum!

  8. Pamela Barritt says

    We spent half a day there with our then 5 year old a year ago. Loved it. Was my 3rd visit and I would go there every time I ever visited Canberra!

  9. Annette Hill says

    Visited it last year and loved it – found the architecture really inspiring and the exhibitions and staff were fantastic, and I even got a great lunch with lakeside views of Parliament House – and I don’t mind your photos at all!

  10. You must have been exhausted after all you fitted in during your Canberra visit! Have you been to the Portrait Gallery yet? You’d love it. And if you’re down again before 21 April go to the Gold and the Incas exhibition at the National Gallery. As well as being blown away by the exhibition itself, they have a fantastic family activities room that my three kids (11, 7, 5) loved. The family activities room runs during every major exhibition.

    • BabyMacBlogBeth says

      I haven’t ever been there and was keen to go there when we were in town but the kids were not so much…next time! Also looks like a great space.

  11. Yes I’ve been to the museum, and was very impressed. Loved the War Memorial too. Canberra has pleasantly surprised me every time we’ve visited.

  12. As a tot, my daughter absolutely loved the part where the images of the Aboriginal dancers are projected onto the walls and you can dance along! We have spent many hours in that exhibit! The museum usually has a terrific school holiday program too.

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