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Museum of Economic Botany - Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Home > Adelaide > Art | Family | Free | Fun Things To Do | Museums
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. If you like my articles, please subscribe and click the link to Like them. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au
Published April 30th 2014
Now for something completely different
museum of economic botany, adelaide botanic gardens, botanic gardens, work of art, art work, greek revival
The Museum of Economic Botany - Built in the Greek Revival Style


The stately Museum of Economic Botany is an attractive Greek revival building located in Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. Modelled on the museum of the same name in Kew (England), there were once many museums of this type in the British Empire - now only three remain world wide.

museum of economic botany, adelaide botanic gardens, botanic gardens, work of art, art work, stencilled timber
The Stencilled Timber Ceiling is an Art Work


This grand gothic building with its intricately stencilled timber ceilings still retains much of the original decor and fittings from when it was first opened in 1881 by Dr Richard Schomburgk, director of the Botanic Gardens. It is listed on several registers including the State and National Trust registers, and many consider the building to be a work of art.

museum of economic botany, adelaide botanic gardens, botanic gardens, work of art, art work, wood display cabinets
Original Wood Display Cabinets


The original focus of the Museum of Economic Botany was largely practical as the name suggests. It was intended to provide a reference collection of useful fruits and plants which would help the colony of South Australia to grow and become more prosperous. Much of the original collection is still on display in the original display cases at the museum, including a collection of models of fruit and fungi made from papier mache.

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Papier Mache Models of the Fungi Kingdom


Each fruit on display is a hand made and hand painted work of art made in the 19th century in Germany, and after being hidden in storage for some 50 years the 360 fruit are again on show to the public.

While the fruit collection may only have a curiosity value to some of us, people associated with the production of food and wine can find an intense interest and curiosity in this unique display. Read noted wine writer Philip White's blog for an enjoyable account why.

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Australian Tree Oils


Surprisingly the original museum collection acknowledged and explored Indigenous people's innovation with plant materials also, displaying aboriginal plant products, tapa cloths, timbers and fibres.

With the sponsorship of South Australian company Santos, the Museum of Economic Botany has also acquired a dual purpose as an art gallery. The current exhibition Urpflanze Street Plants is part of the 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Dark Heart.

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Grove - Fiona Hall's Contemporary Creation


Also hidden at one end of the museum is a quite extraordinary art work reminiscent to me of a piece from the Archer's Arcadia exhibition - an exotic cabinet of curiosities created by Adelaide artist Fiona Hall. Its botanical themed multimedia display is a quirky contrast to the antique appearance of the cabinet which contains it.

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Explore the Life Cycle


The Adelaide Botanic Gardens are a work of art in their own right, and somehow it seems appropriate that the Museum of Economic Botany houses a very different kind of art. See the official page for the museum here for more information about the museum.

There is so many things to see and do in the Botanic Gardens that it is a major tourist attraction. With the Bicentennial Conservatory, the wonderful new wetlands, the Nelumbo Pond, the restaurant and the macabre Dead House it is hard not to spend an entire day there.
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Why? Find curios in the Botanic Gardens
Where: Botanic Gardens, Adelaide
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Have not visited this place for years Dave. Your article has really enticed me to revisit this beautiful building and its contents.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1590) 1536 days ago
Wow, what a fascinating place! And what a beautiful building too. Great article :)
by Fiona Anderson (score: 2|930) 1536 days ago
Great photos. It has the most curious collection, like walking back into another century.
by Jenny Esots (score: 3|1105) 1537 days ago
always enjoy your articles . . . but a small correction, the cabinet of curiousities, Grove, is by the wonderful artist Fiona Hall
by sandy (score: 2|144) 1537 days ago
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