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National Museum of Australia

George Serras

Photo: George Serras

Celebrating Australia's centenary with flamboyant colors and more curves than a boomerang, the long-awaited National Museum of Australia has opened in Canberra, the nation's capital. Outside, a red metal loop that roller-coasters up from the entrance suggests an amusement park, but inside it's serious business, as curators grapple with Australia's tangled social fabric and culture. The excursion begins at the revolving Crossroads Theatre, where dazzling video installations introduce the themes of land, nation, and people. Ordinary and extraordinary artifacts fill every corner: a lawn mower (symbol of suburbia), the preserved remains of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, the black lace dress of the famous dingo-snatched baby. Perhaps most vital is the Gallery of First Australians, which explores indigenous history, art, and culture without mincing words about social injustice. We're talking 40,000 years of history — that's survival. National Museum of Australia, Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula, Canberra; 61-2/6208-5000.

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