Take a little look

The South Australian Museum’s permanent galleries are full of objects drawn from the Museum’s extensive collections. From different areas of natural and cultural heritage, the Museum’s permanent displays give visitors an opportunity to see examples of the real thing – actual specimens from the collections, that are researched by Museum scientists and are an important piece of South Australia’s past, present and future.

Renpit Nefert sarcophagus and mummy (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Ancient Egypt Gallery

The Ancient Egypt Gallery is one of the most-loved galleries in the Museum. It was originally established in 1939 and has changed very little since, evoking an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in our visitors. The Ancient Egypt Gallery gives an insight into the religion, burial practices and everyday life of Ancient Egypt. It features elements of the collection which is comprised of more than 650 artefacts, most of which are genuine pieces from Ancient Egypt, with only a few replicas and model casts. 

Inside the gallery

The items in the Ancient Egypt Gallery form part of our Foreign Ethnology Collection which holds more than 22,000 items from the Pacific, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Australian Aboriginal Cultures (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery

The Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery celebrates the cultural achievements of Australia’s Aboriginal people, one of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures. This object-rich experience features over 3,000 items across two floors. The artefacts are from communities across the country, drawing from the Museum’s extensive collections. Over thousands of years Australia’s Aboriginal people have successfully adapted to a changing Australian environment and survived the impact of European colonisation. This gallery shows how they have innovated and developed creative ways of life in one of the world’s harshest continents. 

Inside the gallery

The wealth of information in this gallery includes boomerangs, bark paintings, shields, maps, early recordings, photographs, field notebooks and some of the only intact bark canoes still known to be in existence.

Ediacaran Gallery (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Ediacaran Fossils Gallery

The First Life: Ediacara Biota Gallery showcases some of the finest examples of the oldest known examples of complex, multicellular animal life on Earth. The new gallery illustrates the story of the evolution of life, based on new field research where our palaeontologists are excavating areas of fossil seafloors and discovering new fossil sites in the Flinders Ranges. 

Inside the gallery

The gallery includes new examples of fossil specimens, animations and fossil models to show how these creatures may have moved and lived. Clever lighting techniques and augmented reality technology will show how these creatures may have looked in 3D. The ancient seabed displayed as a wall is in pride of place. This iconic collection item is still being used by palaeontologists for further research.

Megafauna skeletons (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Megafauna Gallery

Megafauna refer to a number of large animals including mammals, birds and reptiles that lived during the past 100,000 years. Examples of some of these fossils can be seen in the Museum’s Megafauna display on Level 3. Here in Australia the megafauna included animals such as Diprotodon, a very large marsupial plant eater; Procoptodon, a giant leaf-eating kangaroo; Genyornis, a very tall flightless bird like an emu; Wonambi, a six-metre-long snake; and Thylacoleo, a carnivorous marsupial.

Inside the gallery

South Australia is rich in megafauna fossils including sites at Lake Callabonna, Burra, Kangaroo Island and the World Heritage ListedNaracoorte Caves. 

Minerals display (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Minerals and Meteorites Gallery

The stunning Minerals and Meteorites Gallery quite literally sparkles and shines with some of the most beautiful mineral specimens of South Australia. Stunning colours, shapes and sizes are all on show, handpicked from more than 35,000 specimens in our Minerals Collection, making it one the largest in the country. Many of the specimens on display were originally part of private collections that have been donated or purchased by the Museum. South Australia has a long history of meteorite discovery, dating back to 1875 with the discovery of the Yardea meteorite in the Gawler Ranges. 

Minerals and Meteorites display (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Inside the gallery

The specimens in this gallery give us a direct connection with outer space – visitors can touch meteorites that have passed through the atmosphere and survived impact with the Earth’s surface.

Opal fossils, plesiosaur (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Opal Fossils Gallery

Imagine giant marine reptiles 10m long living and thriving in icy inland seas where there is now only desert. The Opal Fossils Gallery brings these imaginings to life with spectacular opalised fossils from Coober Pedy and Andamooka in the State's north. The centrepiece of the gallery is literally a jewel: the opalised skeleton of a 6m long Addyman Plesiosaur. This priceless specimen was found in an opal mine in Andamooka in 1968. It is the finest known opalised skeleton on Earth. 

Inside the gallery

Other exhibits in the Opal Fossils Gallery include a piece of ancient seabed with several hundred opalised shells, fossils from the Moon Plain north of Coober Pedy, and the largest ammonite ever found in Australia, which was originally mistaken for a truck tyre. 

Pacific masks (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Pacific Cultures Gallery

The Pacific Cultures Gallery is the largest display of Pacific material in Australia, with around 3000 bows, arrows, spears, shields, utensils, ornaments, masks and ritual objects on display. It showcases artefacts from the Pacific Cultures region – Papua New Guinea, the Solomon and Santa Cruz Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and New Zealand. 

Inside the gallery

This remarkable display of material cultures from the Pacific had its origin when the North Wing of the Museum opened in 1895. The gallery is being preserved as an example of 19th century museum displays and forms a striking contrast to other galleries in the Museum.

Mawson display (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Mawson Gallery

The Mawson Gallery focuses on the achievements of Sir Douglas Mawson, a remarkable man who was also Chair of the South Australian Museum Board from 1951–1958. Sir Douglas was a man of great vision and determination, responsible for a legacy of scientific knowledge of the Antarctic region. The gallery uses artefacts and specimens — many of which were Mawson’s personal belongings, including his sled, scientific tools, boots, camel-hair sleeping bag, mittens and balaclavas — to give some insight into his achievements. There are also letters, papers, photographs and a model of the hut where he and his team lived.

Inside the gallery

Mawson’s half sledge and knife which are on display in the gallery were included in the BankSA Heritage Icons list in 2005. Following the death of his two companions during a surveying expedition in 1912 and finding himself in a seriously depleted physical state, Mawson used the knife to saw his sledge in half  to lighten his load. He then dragged the sled with geological specimens but minimal food 160 km back to the base at Cape Denison.

South Australian Biodiversity displays (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

South Australian Biodiversity

Take a walk through a transect of South Australia, from the hot and dry north to the deep oceans of the south. This gallery tells the unique story of our state’s diverse wildlife and environmental regions: arid, temperate, coastal and marine. More than 12,000 individual models were hand-made to create this gallery, along with historical taxidermy specimens from the Museum’s mammals and birds collections. 

South Australian ocean biodiversity (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Inside the gallery

More than 12,000 individual models were hand-made to create this gallery, along with historical taxidermy specimens from the Museum’s mammals and birds collections. The gallery also features touch screen resource libraries, film clips, electronic labelling, interactive specimen draws and vibrant displays.

Whale skeletons on dsplay (2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Whales and Dolphins Display

Whales and dolphins are a favourite with many Australians as they symbolise our love of the ocean and its amazing marine life. The whales and dolphins display is alongside the Museum Café. The articulated skeletons include an 18m sperm whale — one of the largest ever collected — and is not to be missed.

Inside the display

The waters of South Australia are a rich and abundant source of food for these cetaceans (whales and dolphins). The Museum has the largest collection of cetaceans in Australia, most of which is stored at our Bolivar Facility. 

World Mammals Gallery

The World Mammals Gallery is an old family favourite and one of the first most people see, as it is located on the ground floor. Many of the specimens in this gallery are over 70 years old; Miss Siam, an Indian elephant, is over 100 years old. Her articulated skeleton is in the Science Centre. She lived at the Adelaide Zoo and died in 1904. 

World mammals display (2016/2016) by South Australian MuseumSouth Australian Museum

Inside the gallery

 Take a walk around the geographic regions of Eurasia, Tropical Asia, Africa and the Americas and learn about different mammals.

Credits: Story

Most visitors to the Museum’s Galleries and Exhibitions on North Terrace, in the heart of Adelaide’s cultural precinct, will be totally unaware of the dedicated team of Collection Managers, Scientists and Technical Assistants and unpaid Honorary Research Associates and Volunteers who are actively caring for, conducting research on and publishing their discoveries in peer-reviewed national and international journals, book chapters and scholarly books. Our research activities not only benefit, inform and inspire the Galleries and many of the Exhibitions on display at the Museum, but have an impact that reaches far beyond the buildings we occupy in Adelaide. Our collections and research staff have strong links and collaborations with colleagues and students at institutions elsewhere in Adelaide, in Australia and overseas, thereby extending our reach internationally.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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