Western Australia’s new $400 million museum Boola Bardip in the heart of Perth’s Cultural Centre has officially opened after four years of construction

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Western Australia’s new $400 million museum Boola Bardip, in the heart of Perth’s Cultural Centre, has officially opened after four years of construction.

Key points:

  • The WA Museum has reopened after undergoing a $400 million redevelopment
  • Some of the heritage structures in the museum precinct date back to 1855
  • About 50,000 people are expected to visit the museum before it opens fully

The new Aboriginal name means ‘many stories’ in Noongar language and recognises the significant role of Aboriginal people in WA’s shared cultural heritage.

The new WA Museum building is three times the size of the old museum and includes eight permanent galleries, a 1,000 square metre temporary exhibition gallery, a shop and a cafe.

In officially opening the building, WA Premier Mark McGowan told the assembled crowd the “spectacular” museum would be considered “one of the great public buildings of Australia”.

A child covered in body paint smiles and looks up at another man

The Wadumbah Dance crew perform at the opening of WA’s new museum.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

“It is self-evident from the outside alone that this is a world-class museum,” Mr McGowan said.

“It is simply magnificent, and we cannot wait to share it with the world.

A group of people ride escalators in WA's new museum

Some of the first people to enter WA’s new museum ride the escalators to the first floor.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

WA Museum chief executive officer Alec Coles told ABC Radio Perth the restoration brought together WA’s unique cultural, scientific and historical collections.

“It’s the combination of a lot of years’ work by an incredible number of people and I think everyone who’s been involved should be proud of it,” he said.

“I believe it is going to be a wonderful meeting place for the people of WA and also when the borders open up, it will be a fantastic international attraction.”

Blue whale ‘one of the most spectacular things’: Premier

The new building, designed by international architectural consortium Hassell + OMA, incorporates five distinct heritage structures, with the oldest dating back to 1855.

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A fly-through look at WA’s new museum. Footage courtesy of WA Museum Boola Bardip.

In the central courtyard of the new museum stands the Old Perth Gaol.

Built in 1855 to house convicts, it still has much of the old layout intact, although it was only a prison for 33 years and became the home of Perth’s geological museum in 1891.

The exterior of WA's new museum seen from the Perth Cultural Centre.

The new museum is now a key part of Perth’s expanding cultural precinct in the James Street mall area.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

The four museum buildings that form an L-shape along Beaufort Street and James Street Mall have been joined by new walkways, making it possible to move from building to building without taking stairs or backtracking.

From the new gallery, visitors then progress to the Government Geologists building and then to the Beaufort Street building, which originally housed the State Art Gallery.

People form a queue in the foyer of WA's new musuem

People line up to enter WA’s new museum on its opening day.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

Across a golden walkway in Hackett Hall — once home to the State Library — the museum brings back an old favourite, the massive blue whale skeleton.

“I think it’s one of the most spectacular things you’ll see in Australia or even the world.”

A whale skeleton suspended on the ceiling of an old building

The centrepiece of the new museum is the refurbishment of the skeleton of a giant blue whale that washed up in Busselton.(Supplied: WA Museum)

The museum will also provide a renowned special exhibition of the Indigenous Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters — a culmination of more than five years of collaboration between Aboriginal communities and the National Museum of Australia (NMA).

The Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition features more than 300 paintings and objects, as well as songs, dances, photography and multimedia.

‘The voice of all West Australians’

The name Boola Bardip was chosen in consultation with the WA Museum Aboriginal Advisory Committee and the museum’s Whadjuk Content Working Group.

It was translated and approved by the Noongar Boodjar Aboriginal Language Centre.

Mr Coles said more than 50,000 people from across WA had contributed their thoughts to the development of Boola Bardip’s exhibitions, programs and stories.

The exterior of WA's museum from a street view

The museum has been shut for the past four years as work was carried out to blend the heritage buildings with the new.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

“This is the voice of all Western Australians,” he said.

“They’ve shared stories, they’ve shared photos and objects and I think that’s what makes it so authentic.

“There are many uplifting stories and amusing stories but there’ll be some tough ones, too — it will be an emotional experience for some people and that’s the way it should be.”

A young boy dances wearing body paint

The performance by the Wadumbah Dance group was said to be the highlight of the opening ceremony.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

Arts Minister David Templeman said the museum represented a chance for WA to “tell our story to the rest of the world”.

“I want the people of Western Australia to really understand how unique this is,” Mr Templeman said.

“We’re very proud of our history and our people and this place condenses all of that in one magnificent building that is a celebration of all things Western Australian.”

A man with glasses in a suit speaks at a podium

Arts Minister David Templeman says the museum is “unique”.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

A total of 50,000 free entry tickets for the nine-day opening celebrations have been allocated to successful ballot entrants.

During the opening period, visits are restricted to two hours, with the museum moving to regular visitation hours from November 30.

The museum is free for visitors for the next 18 months and will remain free for children aged under 15.

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