South Australian Museum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The South Australian Museum situated on Adelaide's cultural boulevard, North Terrace
The water feature 14 Pieces by Angela and Hossein Valamanesh, in front of the South Australian Museum, is based on the forms of ichthyosaur vertebrae.[1]
The Mortlock Library, part of the State Library of South Australia, forms the west side of the courtyard at the front of the South Australian Museum

The South Australian Museum is a natural history museum and research institution in Adelaide, South Australia, founded in 1856.[2] It occupies a complex of buildings on North Terrace in the cultural precinct of the Adelaide Parklands.


The South Australian Institute, incorporating a public library and a museum, was established in 1847[3] in the rented premises of the Library and Mechanics' Institute in King William Street whilst waiting construction of the Institute building on the corner of North Terrace and Kintore Avenue.[4] Frederick George Waterhouse offered his services as curator of the South Australian Institute Museum in June 1859 in an honorary capacity.

When the Institute building was completed, the Board appointed him as the first curator, a position he held until his retirement in February 1882. He was succeeded by Wilhelm Haacke, who in January 1883 recommended the South Australian Institute Museum be renamed the South Australian Museum, and the position of Curator be changed to Director. Wilhelm was appointed the first of eleven Directors of the South Australian Institute Museum.[5]

In 1939, Haacke’s recommendation was finally realised; legislation was passed that gave the South Australian Museum autonomy from the Art Gallery and Library, and the South Australian Institute Museum was officially renamed the South Australian Museum.[5]

In the late 1990s, championed by Liberal Government Arts Minister, Diana Laidlaw, the SA Museum was funded to develop its ground floor Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery. The following decade Premier and Arts Minister, Mike Rann, funded the redevelopment of the Pacific Cultures Gallery and the development of the South Australian Biodiversity Gallery.[6] In 2011 Mr Rann appointed former Adelaide Lord Mayor and Education Minister The Hon Dr Jane Lomax-Smith AM as Chair of the Museum board.[7]

The Museum[edit]

The official role of the museum is:

"To increase knowledge and understanding of natural and cultural heritage; to serve the community by acquiring, preserving, interpreting and presenting material evidence concerning people and nature; and to provide opportunities for study, education and enjoyment."[6]

The current Director, appointed in December 2013, is Brian Oldman.[8]

The museum contains the largest collection of Australian Aboriginal cultural artefacts in the world.[5] The artefact collection is currently being digitised, with the aim of eventually making the catalogue available for on-line access, especially to Aboriginal communities around Australia.[9][10]

Permanent galleries include:

  • Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery
  • South Australian Biodiversity Gallery
  • World Mammals Gallery
  • Mawson Gallery
  • Megafauna Gallery
  • Minerals and Meteorites Gallery
  • Fossils Gallery
  • Opal Fossils Gallery
  • Pacific Cultures Gallery
  • Ancient Egyptian Room

The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize, the richest prize for natural science art in Australia and named for the museum's first curator, has been awarded annually since 2003.[11][12]


Management of the Museum is prescribed under the South Australian Museum Act 1976. The Museum is a Division of Arts South Australia within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet which transitioned to the Department of State Development on 1 July 2014. The Museum Board comprises eight people appointed by the Minister. The board functions as a body corporate. As of 1 July 2014, membership is:[13]

  • Hon Dr Jane Lomax-Smith AM (Chair)
  • Prof David Adelson
  • Juliet Brown – appointment commenced August 2013
  • Noelene Buddle
  • Helen Carreker – appointment commenced January 2014
  • Peter Hanlon
  • David Rathman AM PSM

Former board members include:


Partnerships help the museum facilitate events, conduct research and develop exhibits. Public sector partners include (but are not limited to) the University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Flinders University, Department of Education and Childhood Development, the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, CSIRO and SARDI.[13]

Corporate partners have include (but are not limited to):[13]


Opal fossils at the South Australian Museum[edit]

Precious opal replacing calcite of bivalve shells,
from Coober Pedy 
Precious opal replacing Ichthyosaur backbone 
Addyman 1
Display panel for the opalised Addyman Plesiosaur fossil from Andamooka 
Addyman 2
Display of the opalised Addyman Plesiosaur fossil from Andamooka 
Addyman 3
Rear view of the opalised Addyman Plesiosaur fossil from Andamooka 

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jude Elton, HistorySA: Adelaidia > Things > 14 Pieces Accessed 19 March 2014.
  2. ^ 'A Brief History of the South Australian Museum,', Accessed 21 May 2012.
  3. ^ South Australian Institute South Australian Advertiser 27 October 1863 p.4. Accessed 5 March 2011.
  4. ^ The Institute building was officially opened on 29 January 1861 and is still in use as part of the State Library of South Australia.
  5. ^ a b c A Potted History, South Australian Museum, 2004. Accessed 3 March 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d e Annual Report of the South Australian Museum Board, 2008-2009 Accessed 10 September 2014.
  7. ^ Former Rann Cabinet minister Jane Lomax-Smith to chair South Australian Museum The Advertiser, 19 August 2011. Accessed 10 September 2014.
  8. ^ SA Museum > Media > media releases > South Australian Museum Board Announces New Director, 3 December 2013 Accessed 3 March 2014.
  9. ^ SA Museum > Explore > Image Galleries > Australian Aboriginal Collections Digitisation Project Accessed 3 March 2014.
  10. ^ SA Museum's Aboriginal artefact collection to become available electronicallyABC News, 19 August 2013. Accessed 3 March 2014.
  11. ^ Annual Report of the South Australian Museum Board, 2003-2004 Accessed 10 August 2011.
  12. ^ The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize Accessed 10 August 2011.
  13. ^ a b c Annual report of the South Australian museum board 2013-2014 (PDF). Adelaide, South Australia: South Australian Museum. 2014. p. 6. ISSN 0814-2262. 
  14. ^ "Stott-Despoja joins SA museum board". Sydney Morning Herald. 2010-01-04. Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  15. ^ "ANNUAL REPORT OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM BOARD 2002-2003" (PDF). 2015-02-05. Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  16. ^ "Palaentology Week at the SA Museum". Santos. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2015-02-05. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°55′15″S 138°36′11″E / 34.920783°S 138.603017°E / -34.920783; 138.603017