War memorial

War memorial

Before I started my new job in January I had a few days off, so decided to head down to Canberra (about 3.5 hours south west of Sydney) to check out some more of the museums. Matt and I had been to Caneberra together once before, which you can read about here.

I had a list of 5 museums or galleries I wanted to check out in two days, and managed to get around them all. They were all free to visit, with just the price of parking in the Parliamentary area as the cost.

National Portrait Gallery 

I ended up parking by the Portrait Gallery as it was cheaper than the Art Gallery, so popped in there first for a quick visit. I’m not a big fan of portraits unless they are photos, so probably only spent about half an hour here. It was mainly paintings in different styles. They did have a special mixed-media exhibit on ‘Being Human’ which looked quite good for $10. I was going to come back to that but ran out of time.

National Art Galley

The National Art Gallery is just a few minutes walk from the Portrait Gallery. It was really good, with lots of different styles of art and art from different geographies all in one place, including a good Aboriginal Art section and a lot of Asian art. They had works by some famous artists like Monet and Jackson Pollock.

Ned Kelly by

Ned Kelly by Sidney Nolan

Some of my favourite bits were:

  • A series of cartoon-like paintings of Ned  Kelly and his adventured by an artist called Sidney Nolan
  • A life-sized print of Elvis by Andy Warhol
  • A sculpture of a group of monkeys suspended from the air by their tails and reaching forward like they wanted to touch you
  • Some paintings from the colonial times of Australian landscapes including Mt Kozsciousko and Mt Arapalies 
  • Some works on racism in Australia, particularly towards Aboriginal people
  • Outside the gallery was a cool sculpture garden which included a mini replica of the Angel of the North. 


National Library 

The library in Melbourne is very cool and old with some interesting displays in it. I spent some time checking out the one in Canberra. It looks quite impressive from the outside, but isn’t really too exciting inside. The exhibit they used to have on maps had finished, and instead there was one on War Mementos and one on ‘Treasures’ of the library. This had a really wide range of things in it, some of which were arranged from A to Z including a journal from Captain Cook and letters from Jane Austin. They had quite a lot of colonial things again including drawings of plants and animals by some of the early explorers which I always find interesting. Overall I thought the Melbourne Library was more interesting, but it was worth a visit. I still need to go and look around the one in Sydney.

Old Parliament House (Museum of Australian Democracy)

For my final stop on my first day I went to Old Parliament House, which has the Museum of Australian Democracy. Again, this was within walking distance of all the other places, to pretty handy. There was a small entry fee of just $2. The museum was quite big, housed in the building which used to be Parliament House until they moved to Capital Hill in 1988. There were lots of different rooms with different exhibits in, including about the Queens visit, the evolution of democracy and former Prime Ministers.

Old Parliament House

Old Parliament House

I went on one of the free guided tours of the museum, which took about an hour. We looked around all the old rooms including the old Prime Ministers office, as well as the Senate and Parliament chambers. All the furniture and decor was very 1970’s and they had even left in a lot of the old chairs, phones and type-writers. It reminded me of some of the Council offices I’ve been to in the UK. They had a section where visitors should vote on whether gay marriage should be allowed, which is a controversial topic here in Australia. I was pleased to see that yes had about double the votes of no.

Downstairs at the museum was an exhibit of political cartoons. Some of it was a bit lost on me becasue I don’t know much about the politics from before we got here, but some of the more up to date ones were pretty funny.

Political cartoon

Political cartoon

That evening I camped slightly out of town and had some tasty  dinner at Jamies’ Italian in the city. The next morning, after some breakfast at a recommended but slightly disappointing bakery, I headed to my final stop.

War Memorial 

The Australian War Memorial is an impressive building and commemorates the sacrifice of Australians who have died in all different wars. It includes a museum with a big section on WW1 which has just been re-opened. I often find it hard to engage with war-related things, so again decided to go on one of the guided tours which started just after I arrived. Our guide told us the stories behind some of the large paintings and I learnt more about Gallipoli. It was interesting to hear about the war from another countries perspective. The section had some very impressive and large dioramas of war scenes which had been recently restored.

WW1 diaorama

WW1 diorama

As well as the WW1 exhibit, some of the other good exhibits were:

  • The Hall of Valour with details of different Veterans and the medals they were awarded
  • The aircraft hall with big aeroplanes in it
  • Anzac Hall which also had big planes and a war-time submarine
  • The replica bridge from HMAS Brisbane and
  • An exhibit on Afghanistan with lots of videos and photos
War memorial

War memorial

The building itself was impressive, and has a Roll of Honour surrounding a pool. The walls on each side had the names of over 102,000 Australians who had died in all different wars. You can buy poppies at reception and people had put them into the wall in honour of lost friends and relatives. At the end is the Hall of Memory with big stained glass windows and a memorial to the unknown soldiers.

After that it was time to head back home, via a pie from the bakery at the giant merino sheep in Goulburn.

War Memorial

War Memorial

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