Although it is one of Australia’s newest cultural institutions, the National Museum of Australia was almost 100 years in the making. Over the course of the 20th century, proposals for a national museum were intermittent, and interrupted by wars, financial crises and changing government priorities.
A national inquiry in 1975 (the ‘Pigott Report’) resulted in the creation of the Museum with the passing of the National Museum of Australia Act 1980 (the Museum Act). Collecting officially began with the inheritance of significant collections from Australian Government agencies, including the Australian Institute of Anatomy. A location for the Museum was identified at Yarramundi Reach, Canberra.
In December 1996, the building of the Museum was announced as the key Centenary of Federation project, and Acton Peninsula was chosen as the site, with funding confirmed in 1997. The Museum opened on 11 March 2001. It is home to the National Historical Collection and is one of the nation’s major cultural institutions.
The Museum’s exhibitions, collections, programs and research focus on three interrelated subject areas, which are specified in the Museum Act:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture
- Australia’s history and society since 1788
- the interaction of people with the environment.
These define the Museum’s intellectual and conceptual framework, which is articulated to the public through the themes of land, nation and people.