Australia - Libraries and museums

The National Library of Australia traces its origins back to 1902, but it was not until 1961 that it was legislatively separated from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library and made a distinct entity. The National Library is now housed in modern facilities in Canberra and has over 4.7 million volumes. Three other libraries in Australia of comparable size are the library of the University of Sydney (over three million volumes), founded in 1852; the State Library of New South Wales (over 1.9 million volumes), founded in 1826; the State Library of Victoria (over 1.5 million), founded in 1854, and the Library Information Service of Western Australia (2.7 million). The state capital cities have large noncirculating reference libraries, as well as municipal public circulating libraries. The university libraries of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Monash, New South Wales, and Queensland all have sizable collections. Recent years have seen programs with increased cooperation between libraries, which has resulted in increased service. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Acton has a specialized collection of 15,000 volumes, and dozens of museums and cultural centers house other specialized collections.

There are about 2,000 museums in Australia, of which over 200 are art museums. A national art collection has been assembled in the Australian National Gallery at Canberra, which was opened to the public in October 1982. The National Museum of Australia, founded 1980 in Canberra, exhibits Australian history and social history. In 2001 the museum opened new facilities in a stunning architectural structure on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. There are eight other major museums, two each in Sydney and Melbourne and one in each of the other state capitals. Of note in Melbourne are a Performing Arts Museum (1978); the Ancient Times House (1954); and the Jewish Museum of Australia. The Melbourne Museum, completed in 2000, became the largest museum in the southern hemisphere. Sydney houses the Australian National Maritime Museum (1985), the Museum of Contemporary Art (1979) and the Nicholson Museum of Antiquities (1860). Some of the smaller cities also have museums. The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne has a fine collection of paintings and other artworks, and the South Australian Museum in Adelaide has excellent collections relating to Australian entomology, zoology, and ethnology. Botanical gardens are found in every capital city.

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