When friends come to visit us in Canberra, they often ask "Where are the best museums in Canberra?" The answer depends on what each person is interested in, as some may prefer to learn the history of war, whereas others may prefer to learn the difference between a Stegosaurus and a Triceratops! Either way, there is something for everyone to explore in Canberra, particularly the history of our country as a nation. Although many Australian visitors to Canberra may have lived in this country their whole lives, it is fascinating how much more we can learn about this country, by what we discover in Canberra's museums. Even if you live in Canberra, every time you visit one of these museums, you are guaranteed to learn something new. Let's check out the biggest and best ones (in my opinion!) first.
Which ones are your favourites?
The biggest - The Australian War Memorial, National Museum of Australia and Old Parliament House
The Australian War Memorial is located in Campbell and is the most popular museum and tourist attraction in Canberra. There are stories to read, original objects to look at and full-sized tanks and planes to walk around in Anzac Hall. Although we may know the general stories of each conflict that Australia has been involved in, these exhibitions really tell the story of the people who fought in them and the background of their lives. See here for details.
The National Museum of Australia is located in Acton and houses the complex series of events which make up the Australian story. Walk back in time and learn about indigenous history in the Gallery of First Australians, as well as view unique exhibits such as Captain Cook's magnifier, convict love tokens, Phar Lap's heart and more. Learn about events in Australia that you may have never heard of or view objects which represent larger events world-wide. See here for details.
Planes on display in Anzac Hall, the Australian War Memorial
The Museum of Australian Democracy, otherwise known as Old Parliament House, is located in Parkes and visually represents the history of politics and democracy in Australia. Walk through the halls and learn more about what democracy means, events in our past and get a sneak peak at previous Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating's office. It is a unique walk back through Australia's politics and if you have lived in Australia your whole life, then it will also stir up a host of memories from decades gone by. See here for details.
ACT Historic Places offer a different kind of museum experience, for those who are interested in the early settler history of the Canberra region. Visitors can walk inside original buildings from the 1800 - 1900's and learn about what it would have been like, in the early days on the Limestone Plains. ACT Historic Houses offer tours at Calthorpe's House, Mugga Mugga and Lanyon Homestead - see here for details. Also on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin is Blundell's Cottage, which has free tours and shows a visual history of life in Canberra. For more museum experiences, also check out Parliament House, Canberra Museum and Gallery for Canberra's artistic and social history, the National Capital Exhibition to learn about the design of Canberra and The Royal Australian Mint for the history of coins in Australia.
Walk through the Senate of Old Parliament House, at the Museum of Australian Democracy
Questacon Science Museum is a "must" for any family who are in Canberra for a few days and can spare half a day or more at this large, interactive science museum for kids. This hands-on museum teaches kids the principles of science with experiments and shows, which will have them talking about it for days! See here for details.
Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex is located out of the city and has a fascinating museum about Australia's role in space programs. The complex is a working space station, which "listens" to transmissions from space and analyses the data. This small museum is ideal for older kids and adults who have an interest in space. See here for details.
The National Dinosaur Museum is an interesting, small museum for primary-school age children to learn more about the history of dinosaurs. There are exhibitions to read, animatronic dinosaurs and facts about dinosaurs that will astound. Younger children will enjoy exploring the dinosaurs outside the front of the museum. See here for details.
Do you have a favourite museum that you love to go back to time and time again? If so, please leave a comment at the top of this article and share your reasons why. Museums used to have a stigma of being boring, stuffy places to visit - but not these days and certainly not in Canberra! The joy of this city is that there is something for everyone, which makes this city such a fun place to explore - for all ages!
A museum with a slide at Questacon science museum!