Sunday, 19 July 2015

Australian Museum, Sydney

We chanced upon this museum during one of our unplanned noon wanderings in the city! This is the oldest museum in Australia established at its present location in 1849. We were taken up by its sheer size! Being a Natural History museum, it covered a vast array of subjects and we felt lost, not knowing where to begin with, this despite two wings of the museum being closed for expansion and renovation!

The museum itself is a lovely maze of floors connected by spacious elevators and grand stairways. They have a decently stocked rooftop cafe too!

We headed straight to the section on “Skeletons” since that was what intrigued Del the most! Since skeletons are not really something that interests me, I kept nudging Del to keep moving on just when he spotted a cycle which he could ride on with a skeleton by his side! The delight on his face and the spring in his step racing towards the cycle would make anyone believe that it was one of a kind of a discovery in the museum itself!

The dinosaur section was engaging with interactive displays, as well as, miniature set ups for those interested in trying their hand at excavation. Infact, during our visit, a large piece of sedimentary rock was kept on a huge table, and the entire area cordoned off with yellow tape with a little board requesting visitors not to touch any of it and that a team of young researchers were working on it. It was wonderful looking up at the huge dinosaur casts!

Coelcanth - Living Fossil
It was exciting seeing a living fossil, so called because the Coelcanths were thought to have become extinct about 90 million years ago. However, in 1938, a living Coelcanth was netted in the Indian Ocean!

It was enchanting looking at the different birds of Australia. They were stuffed and well preserved which made them appear to be alive, seemingly posing, so that we could have a good look at them! A couple of artists equipped with various kinds of pencils and pieces of lead made themselves comfortable on the floor, lost in the sketching of the different birds and mammals on display. There were plenty of insects and reptiles too!

Cone shells - Stinging shells
Since Del and I love collecting shells, we were attracted towards the exhibits displaying them. We were stunned when we read that live cone shells could be very dangerous to the extent of immobilizing humans with their lethal venom, unfortunately for which no anti-venom is available!

Ten day old Polar Bear cubs
Another area which caught my eye was the section on Mammals. We were moved looking at the two ten day old Polar bear cubs who died in the London Zoological Gardens and were acquired in 1924.

Eastern Quoll
Also, fascinating to look at was the Eastern Quoll, which became extinct from the mainland in 1963. This quoll was hit by a car and acquired in 1948.

Marsupial Lion
Then there was the extinct marsupial lion (a crafted exhibit I assume) who is closely related to the wombats and koalas.

An extensive collection of books sits in their library with an adjoining section housing the various kind of equipments and articles used by our early ancestors. Also sections of cupboards with narrow drawers holding various specimens of insects, eggs etc. were on display. Many young scientists and researchers were busy at their computers examining specimens, researching matter etc.

It was interesting seeing a 2800 year old mummy in a coffin having a lovely display of artwork, probably indicative of the status and position of that person in society.

Our visit concluded at the mineral section of the museum, an outstanding collection by Albert Chapman.

Even two whole days wouldn’t suffice to do justice to this rich institution, let alone a couple of hours! Be that at it may, we were content with an opportunity to spend a noon at this amazing place!

- Aarina

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