The Wild State Gallery at the Queensland Museum
We say it all the time. How very fortunate our Brisbane Kids are to grow up where they do. But do they (or we for that matter) really understand and appreciate in full just how diverse and unique this land we are lucky enough to call our home really is? Do you, for instance, know that Australia is one of only 17 mega-diverse countries in the world thanks to its impressive range of environments and creatures? Or that our state, Queensland, has more animal species than anywhere else in Australia and is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth? These are things to be proud of and, thanks to the Queensland Museum, there is now a place where you can share and experience our rich diversity with your children.
Queensland’s fauna greats
This week I attended the launch for the Queensland Museum’s new gallery, Wild State, a dedicated celebration of Queensland’s diverse habitats and beauty and one that I think all Brisbane families should try to visit. Taking six years to complete, the gallery’s impressive display of taxidermy on over 300 animals and specimens within the five broad habitats found in Queensland is a true testament to the museum’s dedication to honouring our amazing state and all that thrives within it.
Spread out generously over the fourth floor of the museum the exhibition is an assault on the senses from start to finish. A wide range of audiovisual techniques have been employed such as wall to floor imagery, sound effects, interactive flooring and even a large forest-like creation in the centre – all of which draw the viewer easily to each new section. Surrounded by glass cases displaying the supreme efforts of their research, collection and on-site taxidermists, Wild State has been set up as an almost open maze of exploration where visitors can choose to start at one end and move from one habitat to another or go in and out of different areas as they please.
My recommendation would be to fight the urge to jump from space to space and instead move through it from left to right starting at the Arid Outback (found at the far left when you first enter the floor). The start of each new habitat is marked by a print of text on the wall giving you an overview of what it is. Cleverly, the creators have designed it so that a speaker has been set up nearby to where you must stand to read it and this plays sounds of the animals that are found within the habitat you are about to enter. This is a simple but effective touch that helps draw you deeper into the experience and allows you to leave one space behind as you then immerse yourself into the next.
Our Ancient, Unique and Vulnerable Land
As you move through the five habitats, Arid Outback, The Bush, The Rainforest, The Coast and The Ocean, you can see and read about the environment and animals that live within each one specifically. These habitats are ancient, unique and highly vulnerable though and the information boards tell the visitor not just about the different environments and the species but also explore how we need to protect and preserve them for future generations. Rather than just have the animals displayed with a few facts the creators have worked hard to engage visitors further by finding “stories” about them as a group. For example, the reef plague speaks of its “hidden workforce” of animals that keep the environment clean. Under this they then list certain animals that can be seen in the display and their role within that workforce.
From the smallest parasite to giant dugongs the museum has displayed as much as possible to help illustrate our diverse natural environment. Kids will marvel at spiders, bugs, birds and lizards. At emus, kangaroos and even a section of the Great Barrier Reef – an impressive structure that is actually the combination of two main sections that were retrieved and that cleverly displays all the different and complex species that survive together within in.
Why your kids will love it
Aside from the fact your children will excite and exclaim out loud at the amazing display of animals and the information they discover about them there are so many other really great elements to this gallery that were designed with the kids in mind.
Most obvious are the small “crawl spaces” hidden within the gallery. These are small boxed holes between walls that when found encourage little people to get down on all fours and crawl effectively through the glass wall. Even better, within the walls of these holes there are small animals to be found as well as a small speaker set into the roof which allows the child to listen to the sound they may make. Don’t be surprised when you go if you see children laying down inside these looking up at the ceiling within! Oh and watch out for their stray legs!
Another big hit are floor sections that are lit up with moving displays – especially the areas that are interactive. Particularly popular was the section in front of the reef display that, when stood on at certain points, sent what seemed like ripples of water spiralling out. It was funny to watch the children who had previously been walking along start jumping around when they realised what it did. Most kids actually spent quite a while here, jumping and laughing – all while reading about the animals of that habitat as they did.
In the Rainforest habitat, right in the centre of the gallery, are a series of rows of long, wooden poles – effectively representing our forest tree lines. Not only visually impressive with a cassowary encased delicately at its centre, the children all seemed to be drawn to this part of the display and moved swiftly between them regularly. Every child who went near the “forest” seemed compelled to reach out and touch them and they all then, of course, wanted to swing around them. This was actually allowed by the museum as the creators wanted the children to feel as though they were standing within the environment it depicted. One by one kids moved amongst them, swinging out around them before grabbing on to the next pole with their other hand and then swinging around it the opposite way….and so on and so on. They loved it and honestly there was something quite hypnotic about watching them do this too.
Overall I think this is a brilliant new addition to the museum and a fun way to teach your children about biodiversity, habitats and how amazing Queensland really is. Whilst school aged kids will learn a lot from this (the site says it is best suited for children from year 3 upwards) I think any aged child will love the display with its huge range of animals, intriguing sounds, interactive floors, videos and crawling spaces. If anything they will just love all the lights and crazy creatures surrounding them!
The gallery is a permanent fixture now, which is great, and is free for anyone who is interested to go along and experience it. My opinion? It is an important display for the world to see. One that celebrates the unique habitats and stunning diversity of our beautiful state. And one that, after six years in creation, is well worth the wait.