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5 September 2005

An exhibition showcasing the rich diversity of the National Museum of Australia's collection will open in Canberra on 14 December.

Captivating and Curious celebrates the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the National Museum, demonstrating the history and strength of its collection.

Captivating and Curious, a free exhibition in the Temporary Gallery, will display many objects which have never before been shown in the Museum, including the anchor from Matthew Flinders' Investigator, Frank Hurley's camera, a 1936 Percival Gull Six plane, colonial clothing and Governor Lachlan Macquarie's dirk.

It will also delve into museology - revealing how Museum staff have collected, conserved and interpreted objects over time.

'We have chosen the very best of our best objects to display in Captivating and Curious,' said National Museum director Craddock Morton. 'They'll include the iconic and the everyday, the serious and the quirky - all the elements involved in telling the stories of Australia's land, nation and people.'

These stories are told through 450 objects including a wide array of Aboriginal breastplates, tools, weapons and art; early biological specimens; Sir Robert Menzies' movie camera; Sir Thomas Mitchell's duelling pistols; Dame Nellie Melba's farewell letter; Azaria Chamberlain's dress and other items belonging to famous Australians.

Captivating and Curious will also display a number of large objects such an enormous kewpie doll which figured in the closing of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the No.1 Holden Prototype and a Depression-era tinker's wagon.

The exhibition will explore how the Australian Government first began building the National Historical Collection and how it eventually found a home in the Museum, which opened in March 2001.

It begins by recounting the establishment of the Institute of Anatomy in the 1920s, and how the Institute became a home for ethnographic collections from the University of Sydney and the Institute for Aboriginal Studies. It goes on to recount how the Department of Home Affairs collected significant material in the 1970s in anticipation of the establishment of a National Museum.

The exhibition will also explore how, with the passing of the NMA Act 1980, the Museum began to build its collection - as with any museum, a work in progress. A special section in the exhibition, Collector's Corner, will celebrate the act of collecting - which for many Australians has become a magnificent obsession.

Captivating and Curious is on show at the National Museum of Australia from 14 December 2005 to 20 March 2006. Entry is free.

For interviews, striking images or more information please contact Sandy Forbes on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or email

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