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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 Museum Act, 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. The major activity for this year was the refurbishment of the Torres Strait Islander gallery.

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.

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 a new story on distance trekker Jacob Baldwin, featuring his wheelchair, was included in the ‘Hope’ module.

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.

During 2013–14, six new exhibits were installed including the stories of the Lynch family bellringers, the Tichborne trial, the Busy Bee cafe, Germaine Greer, a toy theatre, and Yvonne Kennedy, an Australian killed in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

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.

As well as installing a new exhibit on the Trans-Australian railway, a number of new items were added to displays in 2013–14. These include a 1931 portrait of Phar Lap by Stuart Reid, a panoramic view of Melbourne from about 1875, an 1820s engraving of Liverpool Plains, a mid-1800s breastplate from the Liverpool Plains, an 1861 watercolour by Eliza Thurston, one of Australia’s first female colonial artists, and a chess set owned by Matthew Flinders.