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If you are at a loose end in Perth Western Australia, then I recommend you take a look at the WA Museum. This is located at the Perth Cultural Centre, in James Street. It is easy to get to, being near the railway station and Northbridge area in the CBD.
It's worth noting that there are free buses that run within the city area in Perth, and they cover a loop which will drop you off at attractions like this.
This review covers my impressions of the museum when I visited it in September 2008. It isn't a big museum but that isn't necessarily a shortcoming because some of the displays were rather good in my opinion.
WHY GO ?
I realise that museums aren't really the first thing you'd think of if you were visiting Perth. Possibly you might be more inclined to hit the magnificent beaches, or bike along the miles of cycleways here. But really, the museum is worth a visit. What is there to see ? Please read on to find out.
You enter the museum through the main entrance off James Street. I found this quite an impressive gateway through revolving doors leading to a vast modern foyer. The entrance hall can be described as huge with approx 15m floor to ceiling windows. This area is known as the Hackett Hall Foyer.
If you are wheelchair bound, you don't have to negotiate the revolving doors as there is also ramp access.
The overall effect is one of light and space - a far cry from the days when museums were dark, gloomy and forbidding places housing musty collections.
There is an info desk over one side, looking rather like a Star Trek console. In the middle of the foyer is a glass cabinet strategically placed for donations.
I found that admission was free, although a notice on the cabinet proclaimed that a gold coin donation ($A2) would be appreciated. I suppose this donation would go towards ongoing costs associated with the museum, and funding of new displays etc. However, I didn't find there were beady-eyed attendants glowering at me, making me feel that I should put two dollars in. In fact, the staff I saw in the foyer were pleasant, friendly, and very helpful with information.
So I resolved to view the museum first, then if it passed muster in my humble estimation, I would give a donation.
LAYOUT OF THE MUSEUM
I found that the museum was divided into several areas - a Jubilee wing, the Beaufort Street wing, and another area called the Hackett Hall. There is also a courtyard with an old gaol, and a souvenir shop/cafe. There are plenty of toilets available within the complex.
The different sectors basically form an 'L' shape, so I decided to view the Jubilee Wing first. I was confronted initially by a series of dioramas of varying quality. It was rather dark in there, but I strolled around further to find a mammal gallery, a butterfly gallery, and a bird gallery.
The bird gallery was interesting to me because it gave information about the types of different birds you can see around Perth. I refer of course to the feathered variety, ornithologically speaking.
OK ON PHOTOS
There didn't seem to be any restrictions on taking photographs that I could see. Certainly I didn't see any notices preventing this, but possibly I may have overlooked them. The Dampier Marine gallery was also informative because I like looking at squooshy and weird creatures that inhabit the depths.
SOME SECTIONS CLOSED
I would have liked to see what was in the Beaufort Street wing, but this had a notice up saying that the area was closed.
So I returned to the main foyer, and then inspected the Hackett Hall which adjoins the foyer. This is on two levels. The ground portion is great if you want to learn about Western Australia's land and people. There are guided tours going apparently, weekdays at 2pm, but I didn't coincide with one of these.
SCHOOL GROUPS AND FAMILIES
I saw quite a few school groups going around, and a very enthusiastic staff attendant had them all laughing and participating in discovering the displays.
On the upper level, you can get to an elaborate Diamonds to Dinosaurs display. A very ferocious looking somesortofsaurus forms the centre piece here. It had good detail, and towered menacingly in a corner. With a marvellous set of wicked looking teeth, this was not something I would care to meet on a dark night.
I also learnt that Western Australia is home to a huge diamond mine up in the Kimberleys, and some extraordinary pink diamonds are found there, very valuable and sought after.
Elsewhere it was fascinating to look at an early settlers cottage, and to see how clever these pioneers were in creating usable furniture out of such things as packing cases etc. Necessity was the mother of invention in the early days.
That about completed my browsing of the museum but there was plenty I didn't see that would have to wait for another visit.
In conclusion, I would rate this attraction as informative and quite interesting for learning about the animals, birdlife and history of Western Australia. If you have an hour or so at your disposal, it is a pleasant place to visit, and there is lots to see if you take your time and read all the displays.
On the way out, I put a two dollar coin in the donation box - maybe next time I visit, this financial contribution will mean that the Beaufort wing may be open with other displays to inspect.
Pictures of Western Australian Museum, Perth
Modern exterior of Perth's Museum showing the impressive glass facade of the entry area.