The Western Australian Museum is a state museum, and the largest of its kind in Western Australia. It is so big, that the museum is spread over six sites, three in metropolitan Perth – Perth Museum, Maritime Museum and Shipwreck Gallery – and three in rural Western Australia – Albany, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The museum’s collection is expansive, containing more than 4.5 million individual items. Each branch of the museum offers a range of permanent exhibitions and exhibits, along with temporary showings of collections and a variety of onsite activities.
- Perth – The main branch of the Western Australian Museum, located in the Cultural Centre on James Street, is home to popular Discovery Centre. The Discovery Centre is a chance for visitors to get up close with items from the museum’s collection, and learn about Western Australia’s environment, people and history. The Perth branch of the museum also houses the Western Australia Land & People exhibit, the Diamond to Dinosaur exhibit, an exploration of Katta Djinoong, the first people of Western Australia, and bird, butterfly and mammal galleries.
- Car: The Perth branch of the Western Australian Museum is located in the Perth Cultural Centre on James Street, paid parking is available on site.
- Train: Take any train and alight at the Perth Train Station, then walk a short distance down Beaufort Street until you see the museum.
- Bus: The free Blue CAT bus stops at the Perth branch of the museum on its loop. Alternatively, take a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.
- Maritime Museum – Located on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Fremantle, the Maritime branch of the Western Australia Museum is representative of the history and future story of the coastal city. The museum is home to several unique galleries that educate visitors on Western Australia’s relationship with the ocean. Visitors to the site will find some historical vessels including the yacht that won America’s Cup, Australia II, and the HMAS Ovens, an Oberon class submarine.
- Car: The Maritime branch of the museum is located in Fremantle, on Victoria Quay. Paid parking is available on site.
- Train: Take any train and alight at the Fremantle Station to access the museum. After exiting the station, just walk down Phillimore Street and onto Peter Hughes Drive.
- Bus: The free Fremantle bus service stops at the Maritime branch of the Western Australian Museum. It is stop number 24 on the buses loop.
- Ferry: Captain Cook Cruises offer a number of ferry services from Perth that stop at the nearby B-Shed terminal, a short walk from the Maritime branch.
- Shipwreck Galleries – The Shipwreck Galleries branch of the Western Australia Museum has been recognised as one of the leading maritime archeology museums in the Southern Hemisphere. The museum houses more than one hundred ship wreck relics collected from ships beached on the dangerous coast of Western Australia. These relics include the original timbers from the 1629 wreck of the Batavia, the de Vlamingh plate and a number of items from famed Dutch wrecks the Zuytdorp, Zeewijk and Vergulde Draeck.
- Car: The Shipwreck Galleries branch of the Western Australian Museum is located in Fremantle on Cliff Street. Visitors will find paid parking available outside the museum, as well as at the nearby Maritime Museum branch.
- Train: Take any train and alight at Fremantle Station, walking down Phillimore Street and turning right onto Cliff Street.
- Bus: The Shipwreck Galleries is located on the free Fremantle Cat Service loop, at stop number 23.
- Rural Sites – The rural sites of the Western Australian Museum are each unique, and aim to showcase the unique history of each of the locations. The Albany branch explores the history of the Princess Royal Harbour, where European settlement started in Western Australia, as well as the stories of the area’s Indigenous Noongar peoples. The Geraldton brand, located overlooking the Indian Ocean, explore the rich cultural remnants of the Mid West region of Western Australia, including the maritime history. Finally, the Kalgoorlie-Boulder branch educates visitors on the history of the Eastern Goldfields and the mining history that shaped the town and the region.
Entry to all sites except the Maritime brach of the Western Australian Museum is free, but donations of $5 per person are appreciated and go towards the upkeep and continued development of the site. Occasionally, some travelling exhibits will be held at various museum sites with entrance fees, but the majority of the museum will always be available free of charge.
Prices for the Maritime branch are as follows.
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- Eating and Drinking – The Perth branch and the Maritime branch of the Western Australian Museum both offer cafe facilities on site. The cafes, known as the Muse Café and the Caffissimo at Maritime respective, offer a range of casual dining options as well as a variety of snacks and beverages for visitors.
- Travelling Exhibits and Events – To get the most out of your visit to the Western Australian Maritime Museum be sure to check in advance online to see what events and exhibitions might be on. Some of these may involve a fee, but they often represent a unique opportunity to view and learn about interesting periods in Australian or global histories and traditions.
Not surprisingly, considering the long and rich history and cultural traditions of the state, the Western Australian Museum has had an interesting life. It was established in 1891 in the old Perth gaol, and was initially known as the Geological Museum. At the time, its collections were geological, biological and ethnological. Just six years later, in 1897 it became officially known as the Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery.
In 1959, the Museum underwent the first of many changes. The botanical collection was moved to the new Herbarium, and the Museum and Art Gallery were split into separate institutions. With a more focused aim, the Museum continued collection artefacts and researching natural science, archeology, anthropology, and the history of Western Australia. During the 1960s and 1970s, it started to focus more on the growing interest in historic shipwrecks, and the management of sacred Aboriginal sites and artefacts.
Now, the museum is housed in a number of locations all over WA, and houses objects ranging from rare fossils, to the famous Australia II racing yacht. The museum also manages 200 of the 1500 shipwreck sites located off the Western Australia coast, along with eight Aboriginal land reserves.
- The building that houses the Shipwreck Galleries branch of the museum was built by convicts in 1851.
- The State Government of Western Australia has recently set aside nearly $430 million to build a new museum for the Western Australian Museum. This new museum will replace the ageing Perth branch, while integrating all of the existing historic buildings on site, and is due to be completed and open in 2020.