Canberra Museum and Gallery – Free
National Capital Exhibition – Free
National Museum of Australia – Free
National Gallery of Australia – Free
National Film and Sound Archive – Free
National War Memorial – Free
Canberra, like most other capital cities, contains a high density of museums and other cultural gems. But unlike most other capital cities, you can visit most of these places for… well…. FREE! Not a bad deal if you ask me.
I was on the Arts and Culture steam during Visit Canberra’s Human Brochure Tourism campaign, and therefore got to go on special tours of the National Museum of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive. On top of getting a birds eye view of the city from a hot air balloon and playing with molten glass at the Canberra glass works… it was a busy weekend!
National Museum of Australia
The National Museum of Australia is primarily a social history museum – they focus on the history of the people in Australia, and how the land has shaped the culture and experiences of the people living here. Some of the highlights of the collection include a large number of indigenous artifacts from all throughout Australia, a windmill from the “bush”, and some very interesting old forms of transport.
One of the newer exhibitions which I just loved offered an in depth look into how the museum preserves and stores the items it collects. Not every artifact looks the way it does in the museum when it first arrives. Old cars are falling apart and rusted, clothes and ripped or missing pieces – and the museum team must go to great efforts to restore the item to it’s previous glory. Hands on activities demonstrate how challenging this can be as well. Even once the item is restored, sometimes there is just no place for it on the exhibition floor, so the museum also demonstrates how the items are stored – in giant, climate controlled bubbles!
Another great feature of the museum in the outdoor courtyard, called the Garden of Australian dreams. Every part of the courtyard represents some aspects of Australia’s history, culture, and identity. Some things are obvious, like how the design reflects the geographical layout of the country, while others are a little more obscure – like the abstract representation of a guillotine symbolizing how Australia could have just as easily have become a French colony instead of an English one.
National Film and Sound Archive
The National Film and Sound Archive is relatively new to Canberra, and so far has amassed a collection of over 1.9 million works.
The images and sounds of film, television, radio and recording are a reflection of our creativity – a window onto our life and times, our dreams and stories, our place in the world.
On our tour of the archive we saw how different types of film and sound recordings are preserved, restored, and digitized – thus ensuring it’s easy access for future generations. We saw how colour balance is restored to old film, and the magic required to restore the recording from a vinyl record that had been broken into several pieces!
The National Film and Sound archive also has a great little exhibition space showing the history and influence of different media in Australia, and also host a variety of great events such as film screenings, tours, and talks.
The Canberra Centennial
2013 is going to be a great year to visit Canberra. This year marks the hundredth year birthday of the city, and like other cities, Canberra will be hosting a party. But unlike other cities, this party is going on all year long!
The Canberra Centenary will be offering programs and events all year long to entice people of all backgrounds to come to Canberra and see just how much the city has to offer. Exhibitions, talks, workshops, and events will be filling up Canberra’s calendar in the New Year, so make sure to check out the calendar of events before your visit.