After being closed for almost four months due to extensive fire damage, the Museum of Australian Democracy will officially reopen to the public today.
- The Museum of Australian Democracy has reopened after months of repairs to the building’s damaged façade
- The damage occurred when the front doors of Old Parliament House were set alight in December last year
- Museum director Daryl Karp said reopening in the lead-up to a federal election was important for Australia’s democracy
Daryl Karp, director of the museum at Old Parliament House, said she was most excited about “the idea of having people in the building”.
“An empty museum is really not a fun place to be,” she said.
On December 30 last year, the front doors were set alight during a protest held at the front of the building. It resulted in a large police presence and multiple charges laid against protesters allegedly involved.
The blaze also forced the museum to close, as repair work costing $5 million got underway.
At the time, Ms Karp said entering the building broke her heart, as all surfaces were “covered in this grimy soot, and there’s just this overwhelming … grey, dusty, smelly residue”.
Although visitors will be welcomed back into the museum today, repairs to the front doors and steps are continuing.
Ms Karp said the works will not be finished for at least the next few months, so visitors will need to use the alternative entrance where the Terrace Cafe used to be.
“But we really felt it was important to have a Museum of Australian Democracy, one that explores these really big issues about what it means to be an engaged citizen and particularly in the lead-up to an election, we really thought it was important that we got open as quickly as we could,” Ms Karp said.
Putting citizens at the centre of a new exhibition
The museum will also be opening with a new exhibition called Democracy DNA: The People, Prime Ministers, and Their Times.
Ms Karp said the new permanent exhibition will explore the roles of previous prime ministers of Australia in the context of their time leading the nation.
“And with an election coming up, what a great way to have our voices heard.”
Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, who are two of the five new patrons of the museum, will also be attending the reopening, and will be answering questions from primary and high school students.
Ms Karp said they will be having a conversation about “what it is like being a prime minister and leading the nation, and the difficulties of the decisions they have had to make”.
“And any advice they would give to them as young people who might be considering ways they can engage with democracy,” she said.