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This is kiddie heaven.
The National Museum.
Catriona has a ball at the Questacon.

Questacon & National Museum

Thursday, November 22, 2001
Catriona finds a sure-fire holiday hit for the kids where the earth moves!

For those whose image of Canberra is one of dryness and nothing else but politics, one visit to Questacon and the family-friendly National Museum will dispel those thoughts.

Questacon is actually an interactive science centre with more than 200 exhibits that change all the time. It has many exciting things to see, and the three that have proven to be most popular are the Earthquake House, the Lightning Display and The Tornado and El Niño exhibit.

Ten people enter the Earthquake House together, and once inside, the house begins to shake, giving the occupants a very real feeling of being in an earthquake. The "quake" measures five on the Richter scale or seven on the modified Mercalli scale, which is not as steep and is more sensitive.

The occupants enter through the living room as a television news broadcast announces volcanic activity in the Canberra area. The television flashes to a newsbreak, at the same time as the shaking begins. Vases wobble, books begin to fall, the refrigerator opens, a crack appears in a wall, the floor shakes violently and lights go on and off.

The earthquake experience, apart from being fun, is intended to generate an interest in geology and to teach people how to prepare for earthquakes.

Nearby is the glass case where lightning bolts flash every 15 minutes. The 20-30 second display is very realistic, without the danger of being struck!

The tornado is another great exhibit, and visitors can see how pockets of very low pressure in the atmosphere create these devastating winds.

You can experience weightlessness, get close to a guillotine, understand the science of cooking a meal, throwing a ball or making a telephone call. Learn about volcanoes, take cover in a cyclone shelter, watch a mini Tsunami and watch mud pools forming. Questacon proves that science can be fun!

The National Museum of Australia opened in March 2001 and while it has been designed to strongly appeal to young people and families, it attracts and interests people of all ages.

The large, colourful building was designed by computer graphics and barely has a straight line. It is very metallic with lots of aluminium panels, and wraps around the edge of the crescent of Acton Peninsula. It has expansive views across Lake Burley Griffin, the city's centre and the Parliamentary zone.

The museum has five permanent exhibitions that have free entry. They are Nation, Horizons, Eternity, Tangled Destinies and First Australians.

Nation is a virtual tour looking at things from the kangaroo to the Hills Hoist clothes line. It is full of recognisable symbols and events that go towards making Australia Australia and what they mean to the nation.

Horizons concentrates on the populating of Australia since 1788. Whatever their origin, all Australians will find a part of themselves in this exhibit. It captures the hopes, fears, joys and disappointments of migrant Australians, and shows how the culture they brought with them has influenced the formation of the country as it is today.

Eternity covers 50 stories anchored to a single object, supported by quotations, interviews and letters. The themes are diverse — the mystery of Prime Minister Harold Holt's disappearance, one woman's passion for football, fear of sharks, cyberspace and the colour of Mardi Gras.

Tangled Destinies is all about the relationship between people and the land. It explores how people have responded to the Australian environment over tens of thousands of years, and how the environment has responded to them. It covers European response to the uniqueness of Australian nature, introduced species, innovations born of necessity, agricultural ups and downs, histories of cities, images and artefacts.

The First Australians Gallery is dedicated to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, showing the diversity of their languages and cultures. It shows their attachment to land and sea and their history of contact with other cultures.

All areas of the museum are accessible by lift or ramp, and the main hall is perfect for a grand, elegant function for up to 1000 guests. There is a shop with an emphasis on Australian-made products such as books, glassware, artefacts and ceramics.

The Axis Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Cuiseum Cafe opens from 9.30am to 5pm each day and the Backyard Cafe opens from 10am to 5pm each day.

The Circa Theatre shows the museum's key themes of land, nation and people and rotates as it does so. Its program runs for around 12 minutes. The SAS Visions Theatre has a "What's Next?" theme, taking an imaginary look into the future. There is an amphitheatre for outdoor performances, and the Peninsula Room has views across the lake. The Garden of Australian Dreams at the heart of the museum has been designed around antipodean discovery, coastal exploration, desert, suburban dreams, Great Australian Bight, Lake Burley Griffin and Uluru Axis.

There is so much for children to look at and take part in at the museum, it could be hard to get them moving on.

kSpace is in a sophisticated 3-D virtual reality theatre and children can design vehicles and buildings for a future Australia. It is all backed with a vibrant soundtrack.

Our Place has cubbyhouses, a treehouse with python and footprints, a tankstand hideaway and a magic wardrobe cubby.

The boab tree is lined with favourite children's stories and there are puppets, videos and storytelling.

Six information kiosks will help you on your journey through this amazing fun, educational space.


Australia's Capital Territory, three hours south of Sydney.


Questacon costs $10 per adult and $5 per child.
National Museum of Australia entry is free.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

King Edward Terrace, Canberra 2600
Ph: (02) 6270 2800 Fax: (02) 6270 2808
National Museum of Australia
Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula 2601
Ph: (02) 6208 5000 Fax: (02) 6208 5099
The Questacon & The National Museum is a wheelchair friendly environment.

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