|South Australian Institute|
|Location||Adelaide, South Australia|
|Collection size||4.84 million objects|
|Owner||Government of South Australia|
|Employees||<90 fte, >200 volunteers, students and Honoraries|
The South Australian Museum is a natural history museum and research institution in Adelaide, South Australia, founded in 1856 and owned by the Government of South Australia. It occupies a complex of buildings on North Terrace in the cultural precinct of the Adelaide Parklands. Plans are under way to move much of its Australian Aboriginal cultural collection (the largest in the world), into a new National Gallery for Aboriginal Art and Cultures.
There had been earlier attempts at setting up mechanics' institutes in the colony, but they struggled to find buildings which could hold their library collections and provide spaces for lectures and entertainments. In 1856, the colonial government promised support for all institutes, in the form of provision the first government-funded purpose-built cultural institution building.The South Australian Institute, incorporating a public library and a museum, was established in 1861 in the rented premises of the Library and Mechanics' Institute in King William Street while awaiting construction of the Institute building on the corner of North Terrace and Kintore Avenue.
In June 1856 the South Australian Legislative Council passed Act No. 16 of 1855–6, the South Australian Institute Act (An Act to establish and incorporate an Institution to be called the South Australian Institute),which incorporated the South Australian Institute under the control of a Board of Governors, to whose ownership all materials belonging to the old Library and Mechanics' Institute was immediately transferred. The Act provided for a library and a museum as part of the new organisation.
Frederick George Waterhouse offered his services as curator of the South Australian Institute Museum in June 1859 in an honorary capacity. When the Institute building was completed, the Board appointed him as the first curator, a position he held until his retirement in February 1882. He was succeeded by Wilhelm Haacke, who in January 1883 recommended the South Australian Institute Museum be renamed the South Australian Museum (which did not happen then), and the position of Curator be changed to Director. Haacke was appointed the first Director,but only held the position until he resigned in October 1884 after a series of disputes with the Museum's management
The Museum Act (1939) gave the South Australian Museum autonomy from the Art Gallery and Library, and the South Australian Institute Museum was officially renamed the South Australian Museum.This legislation was superseded by the South Australian Museum Act (1976). At some point between 1996 and 2002, the Museum became part of Arts SA.
In 1997, championed by state Arts Minister Diana Laidlaw, the SA Museum was funded to develop its ground floor Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery.
The following decade, Mike Rann, Premier and Arts Minister from 2002 to 2011, funded the redevelopment of the Pacific Cultures Gallery and the development of the South Australian Biodiversity Gallery.In October 2005, a piece of public art incorporating water, 14 Pieces, situated on the forecourt of the museum, was officially unveiled by the Premier. Created by artists Angela and Hossein Valamanesh and commissioned by the City of Adelaide, it replaced the Lavington Bonython fountain that had occupied the site from 1965. Its form is based on the vertebrae of an extinct marine reptile, the ichthyosaur.
In 2011 Mr Rann appointed former Adelaide Lord Mayor and Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith AM as chair of the Museum Board.
In November 2020 Mr Kim Cheater was appointed as Chair of the Museum Board.
The official role of the museum, as per the 2017/8 annual report, is:
...the conservation, study and appreciation of nature and culture for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. The Museum's exhibitions, collections, programs and science research activities contribute to global understanding of human cultures and the natural world as well as supporting life-long learning in the community.
Its vision is to "...use [its] world-class collections to create and share new knowledge, focusing on Australian Aboriginal and Pacific cultures, Earth and Life Sciences".
The Director is as of April 2019 [update] Brian Oldman (appointed December 2013).
As a statutory corporation, management of the museum is prescribed under the South Australian Museum Act 1976 and State and Federal Government regulations. The museum was a division of Arts South Australia (previously Arts SA) within the Department of State Development until 2018.After the election of the Marshall government in March 2018, the Arts Ministry was removed, Arts SA was dismantled and its functions were transferred to direct oversight by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
The Board of eight people appointed by the Minister, chaired by Mr Kim Cheater, oversees the management of the Museum.
The South Australian government is committed to splitting the Museum, retaining a natural history museum on its existing site and creating a new gallery for Aboriginal art and culture on the site of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital,now known as Lot Fourteen. In early 2019 a consultation process was begun, involving the state government, the Museum, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the State Library, Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute and South Australia's Aboriginal communities, in particular the Kaurna.
An update on the Lot Fourteen gallery was announced by Premier Steven Marshall in February 2020, with a scheduled completion date of 2023.
The museum houses over four million objects and specimens. Permanent galleries include:
The museum contains the most significant collection of Australian Aboriginal cultural artefacts in the world,housing about 30,000 objects. This collection, along with several others in the museum, is being digitised, with many images and a great deal of data about each item now available for online browsing.
In 2016, a private benefactor, Margaret Davy AM, provided funding for a new position for an Indigenous curator for five years, which she requested be named in honour of her late husband, William Geary. This position is known as The William and Margaret Geary Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art and Material Culture, with the first appointee being Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, a Wadjarri, Nhanda and Nyoongar man from Western Australia with a background in art curating.This was the first time in the history of the museum that a lead curatorial role had been designated for an Indigenous person, and it is hoped that the collection will be developed in a way informed by Indigenous voices and worldview, and also help to make it, in the words of Iseger-Pilkington, "more relevant and accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities".
The museum holds the biggest collection of carvings by Arrernte artist and anthropological interpreter Erlikilyika, also known as Jim Kite, who lived at the tiny and remote European settlement at Charlotte Waters telegraph station.It also holds a bound sketchbook of 24 pencil drawings of native trees, created during the Spencer and Gillen expedition and bought by Herbert Basedow before being acquired by the Museum, as well as photographs of "Jimmy Kite" and other related materials.
A new museum policy has committed to the repatriation of returning the ancestral remains of about 4600 Old People, currently held in storage at the museum, to Country. Some of the remains now being returned from overseas institutions were "collected" by men like former Museum Director Edward C. Stirling, University of Adelaide Professor Archibald Watson and physician and city coroner William Ramsay Smith (who also bought remains stolen from burial grounds at Hindmarsh Island). However these numbers are small when compared with the vast majority of the remains, which were disturbed by land clearing, construction projects or members of the public.
An Aboriginal heritage and repatriation manager, Anna Russo, was appointed in 2018 as part of a wider restructure to make repatriation and Aboriginal agency a priority for the museum.Kaurna elder Jeffrey Newchurch had been lobbying the museum for years, and SAM Head of Humanities John Carty said the Museum was one of the last cultural institutions in Australia to return ownership and management of ancestral remains to Aboriginal people.
On 1 August 2019, the remains of 11 Kaurna people were laid to rest at a ceremony led by Newchurch at Kingston Park Coastal Reserve. Carty said the museum was "passionate" about working with the Kaurna people to repatriate their ancestors, and would also be helping to educate the community about what it means to Aboriginal people. The Museum continues to receive further remains, and together with the community would need to find a good solution to accommodate the many remains of Old People, such as a memorial park.
Partnerships and sponsorships help the museum facilitate events, conduct research and develop exhibits.
Public sector partners have included the University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Flinders University, the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, CSIRO and SARDI.The museum also collaborates with national and international universities.
Corporate partners have included the Adelaide Festival, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, the Adelaide Film Festival, Australian Geographic, BHP, Beach Energy, Newmont and Santos
The Kaurna people are a group of Aboriginal people whose traditional lands include the Adelaide Plains of South Australia. They were known as the Adelaide tribe by the early settlers. Kaurna culture and language were almost completely destroyed within a few decades of the British colonisation of South Australia in 1836. However, extensive documentation by early missionaries and other researchers has enabled a modern revival of both language and culture. The phrase Kaurna meyunna means "Kaurna people".
The State Library of South Australia, or SLSA, formerly known as the Public Library of South Australia, located on North Terrace, Adelaide, is the official library of the Australian state of South Australia. It is the largest public research library in the state, with a collection focus on South Australian information, being the repository of all printed and audiovisual material published in the state, as required by legal deposit legislation. It holds the "South Australiana" collection, which documents South Australia from pre-European settlement to the present day, as well as general reference material in a wide range of formats, including digital, film, sound and video recordings, photographs, and microfiche. Home access to many journals, newspapers and other resources online is available.
The Adnyamathanha are a contemporary Aboriginal Australian people of the northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia, formed as an aggregate of several distinct peoples. Strictly speaking the ethnonym Adnyamathanha was an alternative name for the Wailpi, but the grouping also includes the Guyani, Jadliaura, Pilatapa and sometimes the Barngarla peoples. The origin of the name is in the words "adnya" ("rock") and "matha".
John Mawurndjul is a highly regarded Australian contemporary Indigenous artist. He uses traditional motifs in innovative ways to express spiritual and cultural values, and is especially known for his distinctive and innovative creations based on a traditional cross-hatching style of bark painting technique known as rarrk.
The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), established as the National Gallery of South Australia in 1881, is located in Adelaide. It is the most significant visual arts museum in the Australian state of South Australia. It has a collection of almost 45,000 works of art, making it the second largest state art collection in Australia. As part of North Terrace cultural precinct, the gallery is flanked by the South Australian Museum to the west and the University of Adelaide to the east.
Richard Bell is an Aboriginal Australian artist and political activist. He is one of the founders of proppaNOW, a Brisbane-based Aboriginal art collective.
The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize, formerly the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, is a biennial competition for artists, with a science theme, organised by the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, South Australia.
Kathleen Petyarre was an Australian Aboriginal artist. Her art refers directly to her country and her Dreamings. Petyarre's paintings have occasionally been compared to the works of American Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and even to those of J.M.W. Turner. She has won several awards and is considered one of the "most collectable artists in Australia". Her works are in great demand at auctions. Petyarre died on 24 November 2018, in Alice Springs, Australia.
The Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, usually referred to as Tandanya, is an art museum located on Grenfell Street in Adelaide, South Australia. It specialises in promoting Indigenous Australian art, including visual art, music and storytelling. It is the oldest Aboriginal-owned and -run cultural centre in Australia.
Yanggarriny Wunungmurra (1932–2003) was an artist, yidaki player and leader of the Dhalwangu clan of the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Christian Andrew William Thompson, also known as Christian Bumbarra Thompson, is a contemporary Australian artist. Of Bidjara heritage on his father's side, his Aboriginal identity has played an important role in his work, which includes photography, video installations and sound recordings. After being awarded the Charlie Perkins Scholarship, to complete his doctorate in Fine Arts at Oxford University, he has spent much time in England. His work has been extensively exhibited in galleries around Australia and internationally.
Lola Greeno is an artist, curator and arts worker of Aboriginal descent. She studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Tasmania in Launceston, finishing her degree in 1997.
Julie Gough is an artist, writer and curator based in Tasmania, Australia.
Brenda L Croft is an Aboriginal Australian artist, curator, writer, and educator working across contemporary Indigenous and mainstream arts and cultural sectors. Croft was a founding member of the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in 1987.
Megan Cope is an Australian Aboriginal artist from the Quandamooka people of Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah. She is known for her sculptural installations, video art and paintings, in which she explores themes such as identity and colonialism. Cope is a member of the contemporary Indigenous art collective ProppaNOW in Brisbane, but lives and works in Melbourne.
Jared Thomas is an Australian author of children's fiction, playwright and museum curator. Several of his books have been shortlisted for awards, and he has been awarded three writing fellowships.
Tarnanthi is a Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art held in Adelaide, South Australia, annually. Presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in association with the South Australian Government and BHP. It is curated by Nici Cumpston.
The artist known as r e a is an Aboriginal Australian artist, also known as r e a Saunders, sometimes written Rea Saunders. As of 2019 r e a is a lecturer within the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Unit at the University of Queensland.
Maringka Tunkin is a Pitjantjatjara artist from Central Australia.
Yhonnie Scarce is an Australian glass artist whose work is held in major Australian galleries. She is a descendant of the Kokatha and Nukunu people of South Australia, and her art is informed by the effects of colonisation on Indigenous Australia, in particular Aboriginal South Australians. She has been active as an artist since completing her first degree in 2003, and teaches at the Centre of Visual Art in the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.