Located in Perth’s cultural centre, the Western Australian Museum, Boola Bardip (Many Stories) showcases the state’s natural and cultural collections and the many stories of Western Australia. We designed five of the eight new permanent galleries in the new complex: Ngalang Koort Boodja Wirn, Reflections, Origins, Connections and Innovations.
The exhibition design brief was multidisciplinary and thematic and was underpinned by the philosophy of ‘people first’ envisioned as a collaboration with the people of Western Australia. This suited our approach to interpretive design of multisensory, participatory, playful, respectful and emotionally resonant design that connects and engages all audiences.
While the galleries are physically separate with each space holding its own particular identity, themes are interwoven throughout the museum to create a connected, whole-of-museum journey. Ngalang Koort Boodja Wirn, welcomes people to Whadjuk Nyoongar Country and grounds the visitor experience. Over multiple sites, stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Western Australia are shared with cultural safety.
Origins explores the relationship between people, space, place and time and draws inspiration from the ancient landscapes of Western Australia. Curved surfaces and textures soften the rectilinear gallery by obscuring boundaries and shifting visual horizons.
Reflections reaches across a diverse range of subject areas by highlighting personal stories of being a Western Australian. We tread lightly to create structures that can showcase the rich collection and many stories yet reveal the heritage space of the Jubilee building.
Connections explores the different ways global networks have shaped Western Australia and Innovations showcases the imagination and ingenuity of Western Australia.
Careful consideration was made from spatial planning, to choice of materiality, lighting and acoustics, to best articulate the various identities of the five galleries. As largely experiential and narrative spaces, the purpose of each designed element was to convey an overarching idea or story with a focus on end user experience.
Origins aims to create a sense of awe and wonder. Amongst other elements, visitors can move through an immersive Crystal Portal and are transfixed by the beautiful patterns and electric colours of magnified minerals under cross-polarised light.
Reflections has a democratic display of stories, where no one voice is more important than another. It was important to move people organically through the space with a natural flow, yet still be in keeping with the formal structure of the heritage building. A sculptural element of white Corian helped define the circulation and was a counterpoint to the formal architectural language.
From the onset it was important to create a space that would be culturally safe for all visitors to meet and share, with a focus on well-being through the lens of Liyarn and Koorndarn Wirrn – an Aboriginal world view of healing in both traditional and contemporary practice.
At the entry visitors are welcomed to Country by the Whadjuk Nyoongar host peoples and learn the Museum is on Whadjuk Nyoongar Country. Stories are presented in bi/multi-Aboriginal languages wherever possible. Multimedia and physical interactives are seamlessly threaded throughout the traditional display of museum objects, with visitors encouraged to connect with content in new and surprising ways.
Client The Western Australian Museum and their stakeholders. Project partners iredale pedersen hook architects, media designers Mental Media and Eye Candy and lighting designer Illuminated Design.
Photography by Peter Bennetts