Are you planning to visit Hobart and greater Tasmania? Are you intending to study, work or live in the island state? Check out the wonderful museums and galleries in Tasmania and you’ll find there’s plenty to keep you busy and interested.
Since MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) made its entrance on the cultural scene in Hobart in 2011, it’s made quite a spectacle of itself. Both a gallery and a museum, it does it all exceptionally well, and provides an outstanding space for Tasmanians to be proud of. As a venue, it’s a standout, a unique and popular choice for weddings, corporate functions and fancy parties. As a gallery/museum, it draws mixed reviews from one end to the other.
It often offends, always sparks a conversation and never shies away from controversy. What do you call a museum that has its very own digestive system? MONA has a ‘poo machine’ that takes in food scraps from the café, processes them through a series of hanging vessels connected via tubing and at the other – very smelly – end, something very like poo is extruded.
The fact that there are nearly 6,000 reviews on TripAdvisor should tell you something about the provocative nature of the museum.
MONA’s eccentric owner, David Walsh is a professional gambler, businessman and art collector. The permanent exhibition is, essentially, his very own private collection. It’s eclectic, nonsensical, whimsical and a little difficult to comprehend. There’s a gigantic Sidney Nolan masterpiece, ‘Snake’, the famous Arthur Boyd painting ‘Melbourne Burning’, exquisite sculptures, plaster casts of female anatomy, pop culture items, drawings, sketches, and an endless array of other thought-provoking, confronting and even disturbing displays.
Visiting exhibitions are often not what you would expect to see in any ‘usual’ art gallery or museum. Take the kids but provide plenty of parental supervision. MONA is not your average attraction. Open Wednesday to Monday 10am to 5pm. Closed Christmas Day and most Tuesdays.
Catch your breath and allow yourself to consider other art galleries in Tasmania. Though less provocative, they are every bit as worthwhile to visit.
The TMAG is Australia’s second oldest museum, housed in a beautiful heritage building down near the wharves in Hobart. It boasts a large collection of archaeological relics to do with early colonial life and some of the items were uncovered during the museum’s actual renovation. You’ll find cultural objects from Tasmanian Aboriginal communities and works from contemporary Australian and international artists. View the fascinating photographic collection dating back to the colonial era, visit the Geology section for local fossils and cast your eyes over beautifully preserved objects from the early days including furniture, ceramics, silver and metal work, textiles and clothing. Open 10am to 4pm, entry is free.
The QVMAG in Launceston in the state’s north is the largest regional museum in Australia. the Visual Arts and Design Department features colonial paintings, ceramics, textiles and works on paper. There is also a collection of modern and contemporary Australian art as well as a small collection of international art. QVMAG also has a Natural Sciences department which breaks down further into Zoology, Geology and Botany. Some of the oldest specimens are from earlier than 1891. There’s even a Planetarium dome which provides breathtaking shows and offers seating in the form of former aircraft seats. Split over two sites, QVMAG’s museum is at 2 Invermay Road and the art gallery is at 2 Wellington Street. Open daily from 10am to 4pm.
Linked to the University of Tasmania and the School of Art, the Plimsoll Gallery showcases students’ works and has attracted great critical acclaim. It also showcases national and international contemporary art and design.
There is arguably no more poignant site in Tasmania than the Port Arthur Historic Site. The scene of Australia’s worst mass murder in 1996, it is considered hallowed ground for its recent history. In essence, however, Port Arthur is primarily a preserved penal settlement where convicts were sent for a life of hardship and extreme punishment. Walk through the Penitentiary and learn about the horrific hardships endured by the inmates. Take a night-time ghost tour of the morgue and other facilities. Search convict records and wander around the impressive site where you can enter the various colonial houses. Some are said to be haunted! The grounds are open every day of the year from 9am to dusk; the buildings are open between 10am and 5pm.
On the beautiful Hobart waterfront, Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum provides an insight into how the participants of Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition lived between 1911-14.
Located in Beaconsfield, the centre’s collection features more than 10,000 pieces. It’s an interactive, family-friendly exhibition that takes you on a journey through the history of the area and the old mine itself. Learn how the famous 2006 Mine Rescue unfolded and explore the ruins of the site. Open daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm. closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Step back in time to ‘the olden days’ at the Channel Heritage Museum where the permanent exhibits explore early settlement, boat building, fruit growing, militaria, churches, the 1967 bushfires and more.
The genius ARTBIKES program is a free bike borrowing service for art lovers. With more and more cultural attractions popping up around the Bellerive vicinity, hopping on a bike and cruising around to visit them is a dream day. You’ll receive a helmet, lock and a cultural map to point you in the right direction. Get along to Rosny Barn at Rosny Farm on the eastern shore of Hobart. Available Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 4.30pm. Take a drive out to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in southern Tasmania. The views on the way are gorgeous and the museum is a lovely day out. Open daily 10am to 4pm. Closed major public holidays, entry is free.