Next to the art gallery, a huge whale skeleton guards the foyer of the South Australian Museum (daily 10am–5pm; tours Mon–Fri 11am, Sat & Sun 2pm & 3pm; free; wwww.samuseum.sa.gov.au). The museum’s east wing houses the engrossing Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery, home to the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal artefacts. Amongst the exhibits are a 10,000-year-old boomerang and the Yanardilyi (Cockatoo Creek) Jukurrpa, a huge painting by a collection of artists from across the continent recalling four important Dreaming stories.
The west wing focuses on natural history and geology, including an extensive collection of minerals from around the world. There’s also a permanent exhibition on local geologist Sir Douglas Mawson (1882–1958), who was commissioned by the museum to explore much of Australia in the early 1900s and who undertook the historic Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911. Some of the animals he brought back from this expedition are still on display, along with others from around Australia. The fossil gallery includes a skeleton of Diprotodon, the largest marsupial ever to walk the earth, plus the Normandy Nugget (at the east wing entrance on the ground floor), the second-largest gold nugget in the world, weighing 26kg. For those wishing to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the museum’s treasures, the Science Centre (Mon–Fri 10am–4pm) holds the museum archives (booking essential: t08/8207 7500) as well as the entire Douglas Mawson Collection.
Around the corner at 82 Kintore Ave is the Migration Museum (Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat & Sun 1–5pm; free; wwww.history.sa.gov.au), which takes you on a journey from port to settlement in the company of South Australia’s settlers, through innovative, interactive displays and reconstructions – the “White Australia Walk” has a push-button questionnaire to allow you to see if you would have been allowed to immigrate under the guidelines of the White Australia policy, which was in force from 1901 to 1958.