Big donation enables museum’s Discovery Centre to open in October

Ian Bushnell 17 June 2021 16
NMA Discovery Centre

An artist’s impression of the new Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre at the National Museum of Australia. Image: Arterial Design and ARM Architecture.

A new children’s space being built at the National Museum of Australia has received a significant but undisclosed donation from philanthropists Tim and Gina Fairfax that will allow the long-envisaged project to open in October.

The $8.8 million Discovery Centre will be located just off the Garden of Australian Dreams and will be named in honour of the Fairfaxes.

The Museum says it will be a ground-breaking curated learn and play space where children and families can discover Australian history through storytelling and play, building a lifelong love of museums in the process.

The Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre will feature two key areas, a curated Play and Learn Space for children under six years and their carers and a digitally networked multipurpose Maker and Shaper Space for children and adults, community and access groups.

The curated Play and Learn Space aims to foster young children’s learning through self-guided and facilitated play and crafts themed around animal characters and landscapes in Australia’s history and collective imagination including the Bunyip, the Torres Strait Island legend of Gelam, explorer Mathew Flinders’ cat, Trim and Chris the sheep – the woolliest sheep in the world.


READ MORE: Chris, the sheep with the heaviest fleece, lives on at the National Museum of Australia


The Maker and Shaper Space will be a digitally networked, multipurpose area designed for children and adults, community and access groups.

The space will host a mixture of facilitated programming, self-guided maker and digital activities during museum opening hours and after hours.

Experts from rural and remote communities will have the opportunity to lead classes onsite at the National Museum, and museum staff will be able to connect digitally with those communities.


READ ALSO: CSIRO proposes $70 million National Collections building at Black Mountain


NMA director Dr Matthew Trinca said the new Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre would encapsulate the National Museum’s vision to engage children of all ages in Australia’s remarkable story and to foster understanding and curiosity through engagement and play.

“The launch of this centre in 2021 would not have been possible without the generous support of Tim and Gina Fairfax and we thank them for their advocacy of this project and the museum,” he said.

“After the challenging times we have faced as a nation, it is fantastic and humbling to receive such a public endorsement of the value of the arts and cultural sector to all Australians.”

The Fairfaxes said they were delighted to support the Discovery Centre.

“This new centre will inspire and engage children of all ages providing interactive educational play onsite and facilities to reach regional and remote communities,” they said.

The centre has been designed in collaboration with Arterial Design and ARM Architecture.

It has been in planning for some time and was expected to open last year.


READ MORE: Kennedy collection selection a history-making exhibition


The museum has been the beneficiary of a number of donations recently.

John and Pauline Gandel donated $1.5 million to the Australian Defining Moments Digital Classroom launched last October, which takes Australian history into classrooms across the country.

In September 2020, the museum received a $7 million donation of thousands of objects of historical and cultural significance from the Trevor Kennedy collection, as well as purchasing an additional $8 million of items of Australian historical and decorative arts from the collection.


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16 Responses to Big donation enables museum’s Discovery Centre to open in October
Renae Hambrook Renae Hambrook 9:23 am 20 Jun 21

Dani Kate I know you like getting out and about with Mr H - this looks good 😊

    Anne Goodman-Shaw Anne Goodman-Shaw 11:44 am 20 Jun 21

    Renae Hambrook hope you take them all to this…

Patrick Bugg Patrick Bugg 4:31 pm 19 Jun 21

Ammie Ashford, Mark Ashford, Tim Thicknesse, we will have to put this on the list for the kids

Allison Correa Allison Correa 2:31 pm 18 Jun 21

So glad this is finally coming to light. I was part of the focus group for this and it’s been years and years in the making. Cant wait to see it all put together! 🙂

Ashlie Caldwell Ashlie Caldwell 2:31 pm 18 Jun 21

Meleah Hampton we will have to take the kids

    Meleah Hampton Meleah Hampton 5:48 pm 18 Jun 21

    Ashlie Caldwell sounds awesome. We're in.

Mary White Mary White 9:03 am 18 Jun 21

Been a while since we visited National Museum of Australia

Emma Treadaway Emma Treadaway 8:57 am 18 Jun 21

Christine Kefford this will be awesome for the kids! 🥳👌

    Christine Kefford Christine Kefford 9:12 am 18 Jun 21

    Emma Treadaway amazing, I was wondering why they had the kid discovery area closed for so long!

Em Carters Em Carters 6:25 am 18 Jun 21

Celia Pollydee we should take the kids when it’s open!

Virginia Loizou Virginia Loizou 10:48 pm 17 Jun 21

Lindy how good will this be

Caitlin Cook Caitlin Cook 10:19 pm 17 Jun 21

Anastasia Zvargulis would tag Reuben but he doesn’t have FB

    Anastasia Zvargulis Anastasia Zvargulis 10:26 pm 17 Jun 21

    Caitlin Cook a much needed space. I’ll let Reubs know

Lisa Usher Lisa Usher 10:06 pm 17 Jun 21

Kate and Luka, a new place to visit with Spencer. 🙂

Kate Jennings Kate Jennings 9:44 pm 17 Jun 21

fantastic - and definitely much needed!

Renee Rosin Renee Rosin 9:21 pm 17 Jun 21

Marco Rosin!! How cool! Like the VIC one!

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