School students, university students and the general public are all invited to experience a new, free natural history museum at the University of New England.

Story Ken Eastwood

The University of New England has blown the dust off its eclectic collection of specimens and artefacts to open a public, modern natural history museum. According to curator and manager Narelle Jarry, apart from a few small geological exhibitions, it’s the only natural history museum in the region. 

“We had a group of year 10 students in here from Gunnedah and I asked who had been in a museum before and not one of them had,” Narelle says. “Even if it’s tiny in comparison to something like the Australian Museum in Sydney, it’s offering an experience they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Opened in March by Deputy Prime Minister and local member Barnaby Joyce, the museum brings together the university’s geological, palaeontological, zoological and botanical specimens. Narelle says it replaces a small, dated zoological museum, which had been started in 1969 so that the zoology department had specimens to use in classes. “The collection had grown in particular areas, but not others,” Narelle says. “If a researcher was interested in parrots, you’d wind up with a lot of specimens of parrots ... It was very dated, very 1960s – lots of dioramas and those sorts of things.”

The collection is now housed next to a cafe in the $27 million Agricultural Education Building, which opened this year. “It’s a modern installation and it looks fantastic,” Narelle says. “It’s a really nice space and it’s a terrific resource. It’s a gateway for young people to understand what happens at the university. For example, you can see the equipment used for radio-tracking animals, and it helps demystify some of those things.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #113

Outback Magazine: June/July 2017