The Australian Museum (AM) will reopen to the public on Saturday 28 November after a 15 month $57.5m building transformation which has significantly increased public spaces and improved amenities within the historic museum complex on the corner of William and College Streets, Sydney
As a major bonus for the public, the NSW Government has announced general admission will be FREE to celebrate the reopening of the iconic institution, providing access to the AM for all and helping position the region’s leading natural history and culture museum among the best in the world.
In its most extensive renovation in decades, Australia’s first museum, originally founded in 1827, has redeveloped its public and exhibition spaces. This includes adding more than 3,000sqm of new public space, repurposed from back-of-house areas. Known as Project Discover – the transformation was made possible by the NSW Government contributing $50.5m and generous philanthropic support from AM private donors.
“Making general admission free to the public – both adults and children – is the icing on the cake for this extraordinary redevelopment and one which the NSW Government is honoured to support,” said Minister for the Arts, The Hon Don Harwin MLC.
“The Australian Museum is now a truly civic space for Sydney, one which we all will be able to visit often and be incredibly proud of as it reinforces NSW’s reputation as a world centre for cultural experiences and creative industries, as well as for science and innovation.”
“The Museum is at the cultural and scientific heart of the city. Project Discover propels this iconic institution into a new era,” said Minister Harwin.
The transformation significantly expands the AM’s touring exhibition hall from 850sqm to 1500sqm, allowing the AM to host one major international travelling exhibition or two smaller exhibitions at the same time. Project Discover has also transformed other public spaces including the creation of a new Museum Shop, a second café, an expanded Members Lounge, cloaking and new amenities.
The first exhibition to enter the AM’s new blockbuster gallery is Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family – an update on one of the AM’s most popular exhibitions, which has been touring in the USA and Europe for the past five years. In addition, the popular Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year exhibition will also return to the AM in the Grand Hall exhibition space in time for reopening.
According to the Australian Museum’s Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, who led the vision for Project Discover, the transformation is a game-changer for the AM. “Without doubt, the heart of the Museum is the new Grand Hall, which is the length of three tennis courts. Now that general admission is free, it will become a popular meeting space and new after-hours event space for Sydney,” she said.
“Like a public square, we will be able to host music and performances as well as provide a place to relax and contemplate, discuss and debate, enjoy a coffee and experience an exhibition. We can’t wait to welcome visitors back to our revamped and reopened Museum providing friendly, accessible and fun spaces for the public to learn about the richness of life, the Earth, and culture in Australia and the Pacific,” she said.
Ms. McKay said that the AM has been renovated from “top to bottom. We’ve done work on every floor of the Museum through Project Discover. From the basement Touring Exhibition Hall which connects to the Grand Hall above by escalators, to the new cloaking and amenities, the Members Lounge and education rooms on the lower ground level, to the expanded entry plaza and Museum Shop extending from the back of Crystal Hall on ground level. The Museum has been completely transformed,” she said.
“All the Museum’s public spaces have been renovated, making circulation around the building much easier. There are new gallery spaces and new bathrooms on every floor and a new family friendly café on Level 2,” said Ms McKay.
Hinting there’s still more to come, Ms McKay said within the next 12 months, two new galleries will open and there are future plans to upgrade and expand other existing galleries as well. “The Australian Museum has an extraordinary collection of over 21.9 million objects and specimens, which is the largest in the southern hemisphere. Project Discover is just the first step – we want to continue to evolve our galleries and show more of this inspiring collection to the public,” she said.
While general admission to the new AM will be free, visitors will be able to purchase tickets to attend major international exhibitions, including Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family. This unique exhibition focuses on the king of the dinosaurs, T.rex, and its eclectic Tyrannosaur family. It features a colossal collection of skeletons, skulls, fossil eggs and even fossilised dinosaur dung, revealing the stories and science behind these astonishing carnivores.
The AM is committed to keeping visitors and staff safe and has achieved the NSW Government’s ‘COVID Safe’ industry standard by demonstrating adherence to the respective Government and public health guidelines and the implementation of new safety measures, including:
- The AM’s staff will be trained to support visitors in enjoying their visit while staying safe.
- Limiting capacity in each of the AM spaces and galleries will allow visitors to maintain social distancing.
- Hand sanitiser will be available at all AM entrances, cafés, shops, toilets, lifts and gallery spaces.
- Protection screens will be installed in places such as cafés, shops and information desks.
The Australian Museum (AM) reopens to the public on Saturday 28 November 2020. For more information, visit: www.australian.museum for details.
Image: Artist’s rendering of new touring exhibition hall at the transformed Australian Museum (AM).