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The first temporary exhibition at the Australian Museum was a display of objects destined for the Paris Exposition – set up to display the productions of the Colony prior to the transmission of them to Paris’. The exhibition opened on 14th November 1854 and was divided into four components: Mineral Products, Animal Products, Vegetable Products, Arts and Manufacture.

Since then, temporary exhibitions have been a continuous feature of the museum.

Many of the exhibitions have been displays of natural history or anthropological specimens, but after 1970 the museum broadened its focus to include exhibitions featuring the NASA Moon Landing, American Glass Sculpture and Body Art, among many others.

Initially, permanent exhibitions at the Australian Museum were displayed in large glass cases, but in the 1920s less formal arrangements became the norm and displays often took the form of dioramas, including the Lord Howe Island diorama which can be seen in the Skeleton Gallery. Glass cases are still used to display small, fragile or particularly rare or precious exhibits but the modern versions include more information than those of the 1800s, and more robust exhibits are not enclosed in glass at all.



More recent 'past' exhibitions