Boola Bardip WA Museum - Old meets new

Trace Archaeologist, Will finally had a chance to visit the new WA Museum, Boola Bardip. Will had been eagerly awaiting the reopening since the closure for redevelopment in 2016. The museum’s name, Boola Bardip means ‘many stories’ in the local Noongar language (we acknowledge this is not the only accepted spelling for the language and people). The new, monumental architecture rises high above the old. The site has a long history of successive periods of construction and demolition, but this latest round of redevelopment has sought to preserve and integrate all of the existing built heritage elements (dating from 1856 to 1913).


Joshua Davis


February 19, 2021

Great effort has been expended to conjoin the structures both physically and visually, with elements of the original building deliberately ‘built-in’ to the new. I found these unique perspectives and novel vistas served to enhance my appreciation of the classical architecture and building materials. And for someone like myself who had visited the old museum, seeing the familiar built elements, such as the Old Gaol building and the grand wooden staircase of the Beaufort building, would be nothing short of nostalgic.

The exhibitions also represented numerous themes, concepts and voices that were unrepresented in any substantial way in the permanent exhibits at the previous museum. In particular, I noted a conscious effort to provide a voice to once marginalised Australians. With elements expressing the experiences of non-European migrants in an Australia less accepting, and that of Indigenous Australians who’s land and way of life was forcibly taken from them. The inclusion of these difficult topics not only does the past justice, but provides an important point of reference, with a view to the future. I found this material to be handled in a sensitive manner and in a way that attempts to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Perhaps my only real criticism concerns the use of touch screens in place of traditional labels, in some parts of the museum. In some instances there were displays of numbered artefacts and the only source of information available was from a single touch screen. While this may have an engaging effect on those among us who simply can’t get enough screen time; on a busy day at the museum you might not get the chance to operate the screen and take the time to scroll through to find the artefact of interest. In these thematic exhibitions, where the objects are from different locations and time periods this proved particularly confusing. Rendering the artefacts merely interesting curios free of any context. Thankfully, this setup was only in some places.

On the whole I found the Boola Bardip experience to be thoroughly enjoyable. It is however a completely different experience to that of the previous museum. It operates in themes, freeing its artefacts and specimens from a rigorous sense of order. Gone are the inert objects and extensive glass taxidermy displays, replaced instead with interactive and informing displays.

Entry is free. Walk-in entry is an option although booking is recommended for the busier weekend periods. for more information see:


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