17 June 2021

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

| Ian Bushnell
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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.

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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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