The Australian Museum was established in 1827, presenting the country’s first comprehensive collection of natural artifacts. Opened to the public in 1857, the museum is Sydney’s foremost contribution in the field of natural history.
The museum is housed in three-storied sandstone Grecian building that captivates visitors with its splendid architecture. Built in neo-classical style, the museum is home to artifacts not only from Australia, but also from Papua New Guinea and other countries of the Pacific region. The exhibits are from areas of interest like mineralogy, birds, reptiles and insects.
One of the most popular exhibits here is that of dinosaurs. Towering skeletal remains of the extinct mammoths that dominated earth millions of years ago never fail to impress visitors. Other attractions include modern reptiles and birds like emus, cockatoos, honeyeaters, bowerbirds and lyrebirds. Prominent among them is a night parrot, one of 24 such specimens available worldwide.
The museum offers help in making the study of birds, reptiles and mammals interesting. It has informative displays explaining why birds have hollow bones and why they developed feathers. Skeleton specimens of diverse living things provide visitors an excellent opportunity to study their body structure.
Insect Gallery draws huge crowds with its amazing collection of insects, some of them found only in Australia. The exhibits reveal how poisonous funnel spiders are and the interesting story behind the Australian Upside-Down Fly. Kids especially enjoy learning more about the country’s 300 different species of snails, scary scorpions, hairy spiders and blood-sucking leeches.
Not all exhibits are scary and repulsive. The museum’s vast and varied butterfly collection is beautiful, interesting and informative.
Non-living world also finds ample representation here with Albert Chapman Mineral Collection. Though miniscule compared to New York or London collections, it has many a gem (pun intended). The collection has specimens from all over the world, but the highlight is on Australian minerals. Together with the actual specimens, the museum provides computer displays offering detailed information about them.
The Planet of Minerals exhibition is an adjunct to the mineral collection. Here more information is available about rocks found in Sydney Harbor (officially known as Port Jackson). The exhibition explains how rocks and minerals are formed, how the Earth changed over millions of years, how limestone caves are formed, how volcanoes erupt and what are meteorites. The star exhibit is a 4.2 billion year old zircon found from Western Australia. Precious stones also find a place here at Gem Vault.
Being an island nation, Australia has close ties with sea and its treasures. The collection has an extensive array of shells and fossils sourced locally.
The museum is too vast to be covered in a short visit. Visitors may come prepared to spend the day or reconcile to multiple visits.
At the museum, parking is expensive. So, visitors may opt for train and get off at Museum Station or St James Station. Or else, George Street bus is another cost-effective and hassle-free alternative. Bus riders may get down at Town Hall and walk up Park Street to reach the museum.