14/01/2020 - 15:12

Indigenous focus for new museum

14/01/2020 - 15:12

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WA’s newest cultural drawcard is set to showcase the state’s unique heritage on a world stage.

Indigenous focus for new museum
WA’s new museum integrates architectural heritage with a modern build. Photos: WA Museum

WA’s newest cultural drawcard is set to showcase the state’s unique heritage on a world stage.

The state’s rich indigenous history will be integrated throughout every gallery in the new Western Australian Museum, with diverse exhibits throughout the $430 million cultural facility to be linked by Aboriginal heritage.

Construction contractor Multiplex reached practical completion on the project late last year, and with the main building works complete, the WA Museum team is setting about filling it with exhibitions and artifacts.

WA Museum project director Trish McDonald said embracing indigenous cultural identity was the foundation of each of the museum’s new galleries.

“All the way through all of the galleries, where appropriate, we have Aboriginal perspectives and Aboriginal stories,” Ms McDonald told Business News.

“In particular, we have an Origins gallery, and we have a whole section in that exhibition where we look at significant landforms in WA and look at the creation stories of those landforms as well as the scientific, geological ways and processes that those landforms came about. 

“It’s really important for us to be working with communities all around WA to make sure that perspectives are shared and our stories are showcased.

“Even on arrival, there will be a soundscape that has the voices of the Whadjuk people welcoming you to the site, and then when you come into the ground floor and the foyer space, that space will have a very strong welcome to country experience, and a broadening out of the idea that there are many diverse Aboriginal communities around WA.”

Ms McDonald said exhibitions throughout the museum would be a significant departure from the previous facility, with architects HASSELL and OMA executing on a vision to showcase a collection of stories of WA’s past.

To achieve that vision, the architectural team created two circulation loops to connect and organise museum content, which includes the famous blue whale skeleton and a world-renowned meteorite collection.

Other themed galleries include: a Reflections space, which will tell the story of the people of WA; a Connections gallery, which will showcase WA’s relationships with the rest of the world; and a Changes gallery, which examines the relationship between people and the environment.

A temporary gallery space will also complement the permanent collections.

“What we’ve tried to do with the content is take a very thematic approach,” Ms McDonald said.

“So rather than the old museum, which was very taxonomic, there were the birds and there were the butterflies for example, we have taken people on a journey and mixed the different collections in each gallery, so there is a mix of natural and social and cultural history in all of the different galleries.”

Another key feature of the museum will be its City Room, a 1,000 square metre public open space that will integrate the facility with the surrounding Perth Cultural Centre and be used for special events, functions and travelling exhibitions.

Multiplex regional managing director Chris Palandri said the museum was one of the most complex, and ultimately satisfying, jobs the construction contractor has been involved with in its long history in WA.

Mr Palandri said one of the more challenging aspects of the new museum build was the restoration and integration of several heritage buildings.

“Between the stadium and the museum, it’s the two ends of the cultural spectrum in WA, and we’ve done both of them,” Mr Palandri told Business News.

“The stadium was a landmark building for Perth, but this building is a lot more connected to the city and it’s so connected to the cultural precinct. 

“I just think Western Australians will just love this building and the great thing about it is it will get so much exposure when the Perth Festival is on and the Fringe Festival is on, and no doubt the City Room will be used for events – it’s going to draw people in here.”

Both Ms McDonald and Mr Palandri applauded the state government’s December announcement to provide free entry to the museum for its first 18 months of operation, particularly due to the scale of the building and its diversity of exhibitions.

“I don’t think you could do justice to this building by coming into it and doing it in one sitting,” Mr Palandri said. 

“It’s too vast, there are too many elements to it, and you just won’t be able to do it in one go.” 

The new museum is on track to open in November.

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