No rampaging Tyrannosaurs or prehistoric dioramas, no cases of long dead butterflies and stuffed hummingbirds, no models of evolving humans. No - here in Canberra we have the National Museum of Australia - a representation of who we are, the land we live in, and the nation we have become.
We like visiting the museum. We don't have to be particularly quiet, and there's space to run amok outside. And we do :)
The building opened in 2001, and was quite controversial at the time. I'm on the 'love it' side, and still find it an interesting and exciting space to be in. The children always exclaim with delight at the 'rollercoaster' (not really an amusement park ride, but a link to the Uluru line - more on that later - and a continuation of the 'threads' that make up Australia's history). We stand beneath it and wonder where we'd end up if it was a rollercoaster and we flew off the end ...
If it's up to Miss Tizz and the X-man, we head firstly to k-space, where they can build their own house or vehicle of the future on a computer, then watch it come to life in a 3D theatre. The museum isn't just a record of the past, it encourages visitors to think ahead, because how we think of ourselves now will be a big influence on how we create our future. I'm not sure that this creature will be a part of that future, but he's pretty popular with the kids!
Then out into the Garden of Australian Dreams:
The garden is completely enclosed within the museum's built structure. It's a meld of 'dreams' - Aboriginal dreaming, the dreams of the early European settlers and later migrants (the word 'home' is painted onto the ground in one hundred different languages), exploration of this wide brown land (surveyor's staffs and topographic markings), and the great Australian dream of a house in the suburbs with a green lawn and a blue swimming pool (and a palm tree for The Crone ;) ):
There are a lot of elements in the Garden, and if you're interested, have a look at the museum's website, or ask me - I worked for a year as a host there soon after it opened.
This is one of my favourite places in the museum - the stark fallen tree in the water and the flood height marker evoke a very strong connection to the land in me. I lived quite a large part of my life in the country, and this scene is quite familiar:
The garden is a great place for children - there is water (no, you can't paddle!), grass, trees, open spaces, enclosed spaces, places to hide, a dark tunnel, a steep hill to climb, roads to follow - lots of fun all round :)
And no visit to the museum is complete without playing a chasing game out the front (don't step on the gravel!):
... or a flight with the giant Bogong moths:
... or a walk along the Uluru line:
The Uluru line is a red line that runs from the museum's heart in a north-westerly direction past the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies building, and ends (at least physically) in a great wave. But if you kept going in this direction, you would eventually arrive at Uluru, considered by many to be the spiritual heart of this land. It can also be seen as a link between the social & political centre of Australia (Canberra is Australia's capital city) and its spirit, like a songline.
The museum is currently undergoing some major renovations. The new Circa (a rotating theatre) is complete (and better than the original), but some other exhibition areas are closed at the moment. We're looking forward to another visit soon to see what's changed.