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Permanent galleries

First Australians: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

The First Australians gallery represents the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, as required by Section 5 of the National Museum of Australia Act 1980, and incorporates historical collections and exhibitions.

To improve audience understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, the gallery presents stories, objects and images that explore the culture and experiences of Australia’s first peoples from time immemorial, through colonisation to contemporary Australian life.

This year, the ‘Losing our children’ and ‘Missions’ modules in the First Australians gallery were expanded and reconfigured, with additional stories and objects. These modules tell the story of the institutional experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in missions and homes, and the profound impact those experiences had and continue to have on Indigenous Australians.

Old New Land: Australia’s People and Environment

Old New Land presents an environmental history of Australia. It examines the history of Australian attitudes to the environment, looking at the relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the land and the adaptation of settlers from Britain and Europe to the continent’s diverse environments. The gallery also explores the personal and emotional attachments of people to the great range of Australian landscapes and places.

During 2012–13, substantial refurbishment work was completed in the gallery to clarify its thematic organisation and refresh exhibits. New objects that were placed on display included material recording the work of the Australian Playtpus Conservancy, specimens from the former Australian Institute of Anatomy, and artworks exploring the impact of climate change on rural Australia.

Eternity: Stories from the Emotional Heart of Australia

Eternity examines the lives of 50 Australians, famous and not famous, living and dead. The gallery uses these life stories to highlight larger moments, movements, events and themes in Australian history. The gallery’s display is based on emotions, such as joy, hope, passion and fear, and experiences, such as loneliness, mystery, thrill, devotion, separation and chance. This year an exhibit was installed that focuses on Professor Fred Hollows, eye surgeon, and his devotion to Indigenous health.

Journeys: Australia’s Connections with the World

The Journeys gallery explores the passages of people to, from and across Australia. It traces the ways in which migrants and travellers have made homes in Australia and overseas, and have built and maintained connections between here and abroad.

This year a striking new display was installed featuring the Timothy Millet collection of convict love tokens. An innovative touch screen display allows visitors to examine the tokens in detail. This multimedia installation is now also available on the Museum’s website.

Landmarks: People and Places across Australia

The Landmarks gallery explores a broad history of Australia through stories of places and their peoples. The gallery considers 10 themes in Australian life, exploring how each has unfolded in particular places across the country. It looks at how people have engaged with landscapes, flora, fauna and technologies to develop distinctive Australian communities. Landmarks offers an imaginative tour of the country – the opportunity to ‘visit’ different places and to ask how, together, they create a history of Australia.

In 2012–13 a number of significant new items were added to displays. These include a silver snuffbox presented in 1801 to the New South Wales governor, Philip Gidley King, by Lieutenant James Grant; objects relating to the development of the Antill family properties at Picton, New South Wales; a coiled basket made at the Lake Condah Mission near Portland, Victoria; and a substantial collection of miners’ tools used on the Victorian goldfields.

Main Hall redevelopment

In October 2012 an eclectic mix of items from the collection, based on the theme of travelling across Australia, was installed in the Main Hall of the Museum. Framed by beautiful views of Lake Burley Griffin, 11 new exhibits have transformed the Main Hall into a vibrant and convivial meeting place.

The 11 objects that were chosen from the National Historical Collection for the Main Hall exhibits are: a 1923 Citroen 5CV two-seater tourer, a replica Tasmanian bark canoe, the Ranken coach, the Martumili Ngurra canvas, a Percival Gull monoplane, a collection of O gauge trains, a Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies portable steam engine, a replica biplane glider, a scale model of the PS Enterprise, the Saw Doctor’s wagon and a Malvern Star bicycle.


Gallery objects de-installed and installed

Gallery Objects de-installed Objects installed
First Australians 37 81
Old New Land 14 13
Eternity 8 4
Landmarks 98 66
Journeys 63 115
Total 220 279