Jason Starr
Jason Starr

14 Beautiful Museums in Australia and New Zealand

Jason Starr
Jason Starr

We've featured striking and stunning museums from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Now it's time to finish the list with some of the most beautiful museums in Australia.

1. Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand

Dating back to 1852, the Auckland Museum started in a farm worker's cottage and bounced from location to location until it was moved into its current home. After WWI, the existing collection was merged with a war memorial. The building was finished in 1929 and has since become one of the most famous buildings in Auckland. The impressive structure was designed by Grierson, Aimer and Draffin and features a neo-classicist style. Two additions were added through the years to commemorate those who served in WWII.

2. Art Gallery of New South Wales

The fourth largest museum in Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has been displaying Australian art from the time of the country's settlement until now.

The museum is mostly early Greek classical, but some of the wings constructed later on don't quite adhere to the original style designed by Walter Liberty Vernon. Admission to the museum is free, which is good—with eight wings and a rooftop sculpture garden, you might need to make multiple trips to see all the artwork.

3. Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu

After Christchurch's Robert McDougall Art Gallery closed in 2002, the Christchurch Art Gallery took its place. The gallery's dramatic, modern structure was designed by the Buchan Group. "Te Puna o Waiwhetu" is the name for the spring below the gallery.

4. Sydney Observatory

Home of the oldest observatory and telescope (still actively used) in Australia, the Sydney Observatory dates back to 1858. The sandstone, Italianate structure originally just included an office and home for the resident astronomer; a wing was added in 1877 to provide an additional office, a library, and a second dome for another telescope. The structure was officially converted into a museum by government order in 1982.

Visitors are still invited to visit and use the 1874 telescope to stare at the stars every night; they can use a more modern telescope, too. Aside from serving as an observatory open to the public, the structure also houses an astronomical museum.

5. Sovereign Hill

There are quite a few open-air museums in Australia dedicated to the gold rush. One of those museums is the incredibly popular and delightfully charming Sovereign Hill, where gold was discovered in 1851. The museum, opened in 1970, strives to be a perfect copycat of the town in the 1850s—complete with costumed actors, antiques, and gold panning—and stretches over 62 acres, including two full-sized mines where guests can enjoy guided tours.

6. Albury Library Museum

Both a library and a museum, this great space in Albury was designed by Ashton Raggatt McDougall and opened in 2007. The orange, criss-cross accents on the exterior are said to have been inspired by the historic Murray River rail bridge. The innovative look of the structure earned the building the National Award for Public Architecture from the Australian Institute of Architecture.

The building's library offers a selection of 50,000 materials while the museum showcases the city's culture and heritage, including that of the Wiradjuri natives who once lived in the area.

7. Questacon

Also known as the National Science and Technology Centre, this impressive space offers more than 200 interactive science and technology exhibits—many of which are dedicated to inspiring children in the area to develop an interest in science. Surprisingly, the modernist structure is already almost 25 years old, a gift from Japan for Australia's 1988 bicentenary.

8. Nafsika Stamoulis Hellenic Museum Limited

The Hellenic Museum aims to promote “the celebration, understanding, and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of ancient and modern Greece.” While the museum was only founded in 2007, it's housed in the old Royal Mint building that in dates back to 1872. The mint building is one of only a handful of Australian structures built in the Renaissance revival style. It was designed by J.J. Clark, who was strongly inspired by Raphael's 1515 Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli.

9. Monte Cristo Homestead

Once a home to the Crawley family, this 1885 Victorian manor stood empty between 1948 and 1963, when it was purchased by Reg and Olive Ryan, who restored the structure and turned it into a museum and antique store. Aside from providing a look at Victorian life and architecture, the Monte Cristo Homestead is also a popular destination for those seeking ghost sightings—it's considered by many to be the most haunted house in Australia.

10. Campbelltown Arts Centre

Aside from an art gallery space, this impressive building features a 180-seat performance studio, event spaces, a sculpture garden, a Japanese garden, a cafe, an amphitheater, and more. It also supports contemporary artists in the area by featuring a residency apartment and studio spaces. Campbelltown is home to one of the biggest Aboriginal communities in Australia, so the center has a particular emphasis on Indigenous visual and performance arts.

11. Australian Museum

The Australian Museum was founded in 1827, making it the oldest museum in the country. The museum building, designed by James Barnet, was completed in 1849 and officially opened to the public in 1857. Since then, it has been expanded and extended greatly to create space for the ever-increasing collection, which covers all nature of sciences including mineralogy, paleontology, anthropology, zoology, and natural history.

12. National Museum of Australia

Formally established by the National Museum of Australia Act of 1980, this national museum is surprisingly young compared to many other national museums; the building wasn't even finished until 2001. The structure was designed by Howard Raggatt, who was inspired by the idea of ropes trailing from a center knot—the ropes represent the stories of all Australians that make up the overall story of the country itself. The exterior is covered in aluminum panels, many of which feature words written in Braille (although some of the words and phrases—such as "forgive us our genocide"—were considered controversial and have since been obscured by silver discs).

While the building where it is housed is entirely modernist, the contents are totally classic, exploring and preserving 50,000 years of history in Australia. The museum's holdings include the largest collection of Aboriginal bark paintings and stone tools.

13. Australian War Memorial

Opened in 1941, the Australian War Memorial is the country's dedication to the members of its armed forces. The memorial also features a military museum, a research center, and a sculpture garden. The idea of the museum occurred to Charles Bean as he observed the fighting of WWI in France in 1916.

The structure was a result of a 1927 design contest that did not have a winner, but instead two participants were asked to create a joint design. The structure was completed in 1941, shortly after the outbreak of WWII. In front of the structure is a narrow courtyard with a memorial pool surrounding an eternal flame. To either side of the courtyard are bronze plaques naming all 102,000 Australian military personnel who have been killed in the line of duty all the way back to the British Sudanese Expedition. Visitors are encouraged to insert poppies in the cracks to honor those who have died.

14. Geelong Art Gallery

The Geelong Art Gallery hosts an impressive collection of 4000 works of art. The gallery itself was first created in 1895, and the current building was opened in 1915. The gallery was expanded in 1928 and again in 1937, 1956, and 1971. Now the once small art gallery is incredibly expansive and stretches across half a block.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]


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