Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Australian museum shows in 2022

Celina Lei, 2022 museum shows to spark curiosity, ArtsHub, 10 January 2022

Whether your interest lies in robots or turtles, there are plenty for everyone in Australia’s beloved museums, even without leaving the house.

Museums across Australia are staging shows with a range of themes this year, exploring our natural history and untold stories of the nation alongside spectacular permanent exhibitions and programs.

ArtsHub rounds up what’s on in the museum sector in 2022, highlighting shows worth a trip or even return visits for the whole family.

National Museum Australia (ACT)

Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes explores competition through sport, politics, drama, music and warfare, illuminated by more than 170 objects from the British Museum and on view until 1 May. In the First Australians Focus Gallery, Inbetween: Cultural connections through design will be presented until 12 June, an immersive filmic experience reimagined from an exhibition in Australia’s pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale of Architecture. In development is the Great Southern Land Gallery due to open early 2022, marking the museum’s most significant redevelopment.

Melbourne Museum (VIC)

Current temporary exhibitions include Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality inspired by Gurindji/Malngin leader Vincent Lingiari on the national land rights movement until 15 May; and Fight for Survival, the story of the Northland Secondary College until 11 July.

The museum will also be welcoming Horridus the Triceratops with the blockbuster exhibition Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs, opening 12 March. Melbourne visitors will be able to witness the world’s most complete triceratops fossil, telling an incredible story of when the land giant was alive. Tickets are free with museum entry but pre-booking required.

Powerhouse (NSW)

Several major exhibitions are being held at the Powerhouse Museum, and while they were launched late last year their run is significantly through 2022. Eucalyptusdom (until 28 August) presents over 400 objects in association with the gum tree alongside 17 newly commissioned works across design, architecture, film, applied arts and performance. Robert Rosen: Glitterati (until 19 June) spotlights one of Australia’s foremost social photographers over his four decade career mingling among the fame and wealth with an observant eye. Clay Dynasty (until January 2023) celebrates studio ceramics in Australia as shaped by three generations of makers: from the 1960s pioneers who transformed the functional pottery tradition to contemporary ceramic artists who continue to push the medium.

Others include Electric Keys (until 12 June), an important private collection of keyboards; Graphic Identities (until 24 July) highlighting eight ground-breaking Australian design archives from the Powerhouse Collection; The Invisible Revealed (until 22 May) in collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to gain new insights into material culture; and 창령사 터 오백나한 | Five Hundred Arhats of Changnyeongsa Temple (until 15 May) in collaboration with the Chuncheon National Museum of Korea.

South Australian Museum (SA)

Closing 6 February, there is still time to catch Thin Ice VR, a 20-minute historical virtual reality experience presented by modern day adventurer Tim Jarvis AM of the legendary 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Also showing as part of Tarnanthi is Balgo Beginnings, marking the 40th anniversary of the Balgo art movement – a tiny community on the fringe of the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia (closes 6 February). From 5 March – 8 May is Illustrating the Antipodes, drawing together nearly 200 artworks, sketches and books by colonial artist George French Angas, as well as items relating to his life and the places he traveled to.

Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory (NT)

Just one of the examples showing at Turtle Territory, Museum and Art Gallery NT. Photo: Etienne Littlefair.

Don’t miss the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) exhibition until 6 February, featuring finalists and 2021 winner Timo HoganExit Art Contemporary art from 2021 NT Year 12 Students is a celebration of the talents and creativity of the next generation of NT artists and designers, to be held 12 March – 26 June. Also on permanent display are Cyclone Tracy on the day that changed the urban landscape and the lives of Darwin’s residents forever and Turtle Territory, images of turtles in their underwater habitat from a ‘never before seen’ perspective.

Western Australian Museum and branches (WA)

Early in 2022 at Western Australia Museum, you can step into the realm of the videogame in a series of playful and immersive installations that will take you on a journey through new sonic landscapes and exciting kaleidoscopic worlds. Virtual Realms pairs six of the world’s most acclaimed videogame developers with six leading media design studios to create a series of large-scale, experimental spaces. (26 March – 22 May).

Experience the sheer size of titanosaurs and walk with herbivores and carnivores from the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic! Dinosaurs of Patagonia features 15 dinosaurs, incredible fossils, 3D animations and video and interactive fun for all the family. (2 July – 23 October) It is followed by ACMI’s super successful Wonderland, touring to WA (17 December – 23 April 2023), enabling audiences to delve into Lewis Carroll’s timeless stories and Alice’s adventures via an immersive experience.

Deep Light: Illuminating the Wrecks of Sydney and Kormoran at Museum of Geraldton runs until 2 February. It follows Australia’s most tragic naval disaster through remarkable images and footage captured during the expedition, interviews with the research team, and personal reflections from descendants and family members of Sydney’s crew. Young visitors can also catch Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in LEGO® Bricks at the WA Maritime Museum.

Museum of the Great Southern presents A Portrait of Australia: Stories through the lens of Australian Geographic, celebrating the bush, the outback, the coast and the people who live there. Until 6 February.

Museum of Brisbane (QLD)

Kicking off the 2022 program is In Transit (28 January – 1 May 2022 ) presented in partnership with BrisAsia Festival. Explore our capacity to adapt, the exhibition and residency offer a platform for conversation and reflection, using themes of intersectionality, language, displacement and reclaiming history as an opportunity for growth and healing. Filipino-Australian artist Rhanjell Villanueva will create a captivating entrance to the Museum, while Indian artist Naavikaran will be Artist in Residence.

It is followed by, Making Place: 100 Views of Brisbane, which presents both historical and contemporary depictions of the region, drawn from the Museum’s collections and will question the city’s ever-changing landscape through new eyes. It is expanded with a newly commissioned sound artwork by Lawrence English. Opens 5 March.

Then in June, a lifetime dedicated to luxury by Australian jewellery designer Margot McKinney, is examined in the exhibition World of Wonder: Margot McKinney. The one-of-a-kind pieces are coveted by an international clientele and stocked by the prestigious Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores in the USA. The exhibition unearths the stories behind the brand, and the miracles of nature that make up Margot’s designs.

Newcastle Museum (NSW)

Oh yeah, I forgot about that channels a decade of change seen through the eyes of the artist Trevor Dickinson, through to 27 February. Another show to get kids and adults alike roaring in excitement is The Great Baby Dinosaur Show, where visitors can cast their votes for the best baby dinosaur, on view until 13 March.

Chau Chak Wing Museum (NSW)

Housed in the University of Sydney, the Chau Chak Wing Museum presents thought-provoking exhibitions for the public. Just opened, Light & Darkness unites 70 artworks from the Power Collection, exploring luminosity, colour, movement, race and politics across three decades of late modernism. Also showing are Sarah Goffman: Applied Arts of ‘objet d’art’ museum replicas from waste materials and Pacific views of historic photographs from the pacific region during a time of colonisation among many other exhibitions ranging from motifs in Chinese art to Mediterranean identities. The original MUMA exhibition of Dale Harding: Through a lens of visitation is also scheduled to travel to the museum this year.

Queensland Museum (QLD)

Now showing until 30 January is Brickman® Wonders of the World, showcasing history’s greatest masterpieces brought to life by LEGO professional Ryan ‘Brickman’ McNaught. From the Great Wall of China to the Empire State Building, visitors will be delighted with more than 50 lego displays and behind-the-scenes of how they were built. Also on display is Island Futures: What lies ahead for Zenadth Kes? Until 25 April, exploring contemporary Torres Strait Islander identity with more 200 objects, images, Islander perspectives and contemporary artworks.

The Museum hosts World Science Festival Brisbane in March – the only global extension of the World Science Festival in New York which now includes Curiocity Brisbane as part of its offering.

Also part of the Queensland Museum Network is The Workshops Rail MuseumCobb+Co Museum, and Museum of Tropical Queensland, each jam packed with programs especially suited to the school holiday season.


Sick of the well-trodden path? Well it’s time to try something new and here are a few museum recommendations that might spark your interest or raise an eyebrow.

Sea Museum (NSW)

One Ocean, Our Future invites visitors to discover, manipulate and inspect 3D visualisations of five extraordinary deep-sea specimens, ponder on the climate record contained in a real Antarctic ice core, hear about the impacts of a changing planet and ocean from witnesses, and learn how two centuries of analysing and examining the ocean have given us the knowledge to make things change for the better. On view until 31 October.  

National Wool Museum (VIC)

Two exhibitions are running at the National Wool Museum: Necessity: waggas and the art of making do until 14 February and Wildlife Photographer of the Year from London’s Natural History Museum until 15 May. In an earlier interview on Necessity, Director Padraic Fisher said ‘quilts are our stories made in cloth’ and invites visitors to embark on an experience of this unique legacy.

Fabrics tell a story at Necessity: waggas and the art of making do Exhibition. Photo: Pam Hutchinson.

Santos Museum of Economic Botany (SA)

The last of its kind in the world, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany is home to an amazing permanent collection, much of which dates back to the original museum display 130 years ago. Permanent showcases include Germany-made papier-mâché fruit and fungi models, a cabinet of curiosities by artist Fiona Hall and installation by designer Khai Liew. Also presented until 30 January are Plant Notes highlighting human and plan relations; and Pollen in 3D, a new display highlighting why pollen is critical to plant and human survival.

Scienceworks (VIC)

Apart from epic science activities, the Planetarium and permanent exhibitions, Born or Built? Our Robotic Future until 30 January, featuring interactive exhibits, an epic battle of the brainwaves, a robot obstacle course and the most human-like robotic arm you’ll ever meet.

Museum of Underwater Art MOUA (QLD)

This museum is dedicated to the underwater artworks by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor specialising in the salty medium. Visitors will need to take a deep dive to the John Brewer Reef to discover the eccentric museum, catered to both beginner and experienced divers. MOUA was created to inspire and educate the globe about reef conservation with the artworks built to allow for coral planting to support reef restoration.

Australian Centre for Moving Image ACMI (VIC)

Apart from the award-winning centrepiece exhibition The Story of the Moving Image, ACMI presents the 90-minute video commission Jason Phu: Analects of Kung Phu which packed life lessons into wuxia films and martial arts in his humorous style. Another blockbuster until 23 January is Disney: The Magic of Animation showcasing original sketches and rare artworks from 1928 to the present day.

The David Roche Foundation House Museum (SA)

The David Roche Foundation collection of the late prolific collector David J Roche AM (1930–2013) is one of the greatest decorative arts collections in a private institution in Australia. Apart from its permanent display of lavish objects, the museum is also opening Silhouettes: Fashion in the Shadow of HIV/AIDS from 29 January – 18 June with over 100 pieces sourced from collections from the UK, USA and Australia. Showcasing household names like Halston and Moschino, Silhouettes also features work from revolutionary black designers Patrick Kelly, Fabrice Simon and Willi Smith, and forgotten talents like Clovis Ruffin and Chester Weinberg.


For some the prospects of going out might not be on the agenda right now but thankfully our museums offer a breadth of engaging online programs that can be enjoyed from the comforts of the couch (or bed).

Museums Victoria offers a breadth of online content available year-round on Museums at Home, including scheduled online events categorised for adults or families. Virtual visits to Melbourne MuseumScienceworks or the Immigration Museum might just be what’s needed to get the brain juices flowing.

Installation shot of UNMASKED at Her Place Women’s Museum. Photo: courtesy of the museum.

Her Place Women’s Museum Australia is also presenting a digital iteration of the exhibition UNMASKED: Celebrating Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria and Beyond. Learn about more than 230 years of history, the role these women played in political and social contexts, as the contribution of First Nations women to Australian health care that has largely been unrecognised.

Check out the National Museum Australia’s YouTube page featuring live-streamed events, Q&A sessions, hand-sketched bites of history, and family activities to keep the little ones busy.

NATSIAA at Museum and Art Gallery NT is accessible virtually and the SA Museum and ACMI also offer a variety of online content.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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