Australian Museum as a Site Study - Teacher Notes

Through a presentation, behind the scenes tour and inquiry-based learning activities Years 7-12 students will investigate how the buildings and exhibits of the Australian Museum have changed through time.

Exterior of the Museum c.1924

S. C. Clutton © Australian Museum

Before your visit

Syllabus links

The activities are specifically designed for students studying the New South Wales Board of Studies History Years 7-10 Syllabus. The students:

  • use inquiry-based learning strategies to examine an historically and culturally significant location
  • undertake the process of historical inquiry
  • communicate their understanding of history.

Pre-visit activities

Your students will have a more effective learning experience at the Museum if their visit complements their school based learning. Before the students visit the Museum it would be useful if they had considered the following:

  • What is a museum?
  • What type of museum is the Australian Museum?
  • What do they expect to see there?
  • Why museums collect cultural objects and natural science specimens.
  • The Australian Museum Guide Map.
  • The history of the Australian Museum.
  • The use of technology and text (panels and object labels) in exhibitions.
  • Their preferred style of learning in a museum.


Please photocopy:

At the Australian Museum

The program provides an opportunity for students to understand and actively engage in the past and appreciate the significance of the Australian Museum in the history of Sydney and Australia.

A. The History of the Australian Museum - A Presentation (Half hour)

Students view a slide presentation by a Museum educator about the Museum, its historical significance and heritage value.

B. Heritage Tour (One hour)

The first half of the Heritage Tour (Activities 1 and 2) is led by a Museum educator and the second half (Activities 3 and 4) is self-guided.

  • Activity 1. Students are taken behind the scenes to areas not normally open to the public.
  • Activity 2. They analyse the sandstone buildings and look for evidence of change.
  • Activity 3. Using historical photos they make their own observations about how the Barnet Wing has changed through time.
  • Activity 4. They observe how the top floor of the Vernon Wing has been recently restored, preserved and reconstructed.
C. Museum Exhibits Activity (One hour)

This activity is self-guided and is an optional part of the Museum as a Site Study program.

Students observe and evaluate past and current exhibitions and infer how the Museum's exhibits have changed through time. Through these activities they gain an understanding of the how Museum's exhibitions reflect changes in technology and society's values.

Post-visit activities

Independent research

To consolidate what they have learnt during their visit to the Museum students could complete an essay, oral presentation, poster, video or photographic presentation. Suggested topics:

The history of the Australian Museum:
  • A time-line of major events in the Australian Museum's history.
Buildings of the Australian Museum:
  • How have the Australian Museum buildings changed through time?
  • The Lewis Wing
  • The Barnet Wing
  • The Vernon Wing
The exhibitions of the Australian Museum:
  • How have the Australian Museum's exhibits changed through time?
  • How and why do exhibition styles change through time?
  • How and why does the content of exhibitions change through time?
  • Gerard Krefft, Curator of the Australian Museum 1860-1874
  • Dr George Bennett - First Curator of the Australian Museum.

Other activities

My experience of the Australian Museum:

- Students do a presentation on what they found interesting about the Museum.


Have a class debate about the Australian Museum or museums in general. Possible topics:

  • All cultural artefacts should be returned to their traditional owners
  • Museums are the best place for cultural objects to be conserved and viewed
  • The public should have open physical access to all of a museum's collections
  • The public should have free digital access to all of a museum's collections
Exhibition design:

Design an exhibition for the future about a natural or cultural history theme of their choice.

They could draw an annotated diagram to show the content of the exhibition and the technology they would use. They should think about how they would:

  • make a first visual impression
  • make visitors interested in finding out about the content
  • make information easy and fun to access
  • use the technology available today (and invent some for the future!).
News from the past:

Students could present a radio, TV or newspaper news item about a significant event in the Australian Museum's history e.g. the day the Museum opened.

Advertising Brochure:

Students could design a brochure to promote the Australian Museum or one particular exhibition to teenagers.

Ms Helen Wheeler , Education Project Officer
Last Updated:

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