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Artist’s rendering of new touring exhibition hall at the transformed Australian Museum.
Photograph: Supplied/Australian Museum | Artist’s rendering of new touring exhibition hall at the transformed Australian Museum.

The new-look Australian Museum opens this weekend

To celebrate, general admission to Sydney's natural history museum will be free of charge

Written by
Alannah Maher
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After closing its doors some 15 months ago to undergo a $57.5 million facelift, Sydney’s landmark natural history museum will reopen to the public on Saturday, November 28. This is exciting news for anyone looking to take a little one on an educational outing, or for those who are just really stoked on dinosaur skeletons and the morbid beauty of taxidermy displays. In celebration of the grand reopening, general admission will also be completely free.

This is the most extensive renovation the 190-year-old Australian Museum, the country’s first museum, has had in decades, and it includes the addition of more than 3,000 square metres of new public space, repurposed from back-of-house areas. Every public area has been renovated, promising seamless circulation around the building, including new bathrooms on every level and a second, family-friendly café. 

The Australian Museum's renovation in progress, March 2020.
Photograph: Supplied/Australian Museum.'Project Discover' renovation in progress, March 2020.

The ambitious transformation, dubbed Project Discover, has also nearly doubled the size of the touring exhibition hall, swelling from 850 square metres to 1,500 square metres. This will allow the museum to host major international travelling exhibitions, or two smaller exhibitions at the same time.

The first blockbuster exhibition to christen the space is Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family, an update on one of the Australian Museum’s most popular exhibitions, which focuses on the king of dinosaurs and has been touring in the United States and Europe for the past five years. As a major touring exhibition, this will be ticketed, and visitors are advised to purchase a timed ticket in advance ($20 adult, $16 concession, $10 child). You can book tickets here. The popular Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year exhibition will also return in time for reopening, and entry to this will be included with general admission (so, free).

“Without doubt, the heart of the museum is the new Grand Hall, which is the length of three tennis courts,” the Australian Museum’s director and CEO, Kim McKay, said in a press release. “Now that general admission is free, it will become a popular meeting space and new after-hours event space for Sydney. Like a public square, we will be able to host music and performances as well as provide a place to relax and contemplate, discuss and debate, enjoy a coffee and experience an exhibition.” 

The Australian Museum's renovation in progress, March 2020.
Photograph: Supplied/Australian Museum'Project Discovery' renovation in progress, March 2020.

The museum hopes that the top-to-bottom makeover will help to position the Australian Museum among the best natural history museums in the world – and the NSW government, which footed $50.5 million of the renovation bill, certainly hopes so too. 

At the moment pre-booking your visit is not required, but the museum will introduce timed ticketing for general admission if necessary. Physical distancing will be in place and all visitors are required to register their details on arrival.

Got the museum bug? These are the best museums to visit in Sydney.

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