I have to admit I’m a critical museum consumer. I visit a lot; think about them a lot; and often find myself disappointed. One of the many reasons I love The Nicholson Museum is that it just doesn’t disappoint: it is a jolly fine Museum.
Let’s start with the fact that it is a little gem. It’s not big, so it makes for a nicely-sized visit. We spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour-and-a-half and felt we’d seen just about everything. Put that together with the fact that it’s free and it is great value for money.
In spite of its size, it does a great deal with what it has got. For example, currently it’s got an exhibition on called 50 Objects 50 Stories. It has taken 50 objects from the collection and told a story about each of them. The objects may not in themselves be iconic or ground-breaking but the stories make the objects come to life. It is captivating and simply brilliant.
Then there’s the fact that much of the collection is from a time when being an archaeologist had that Indiana Jones whiff of adventure about it. You can sort of see the archaeologist finishing off his day down a hole in the desert by dressing for dinner with his wife. In one case that wife was Agatha Christie who used her face cream to clean one of the objects on display. The Nicholson makes archaeology seem… stylish and exciting.
Moving on, there’s the fact that in spite of being a museum of antiquities with items in the collection going back several thousand, and in one case half a million, years The Nicholson is making every effort to make history engaging and relevant. The LEGO Acropolis is a fine example of how you can make something that would otherwise be a dry topic fascinating for kids and adults alike. The Museum has a fine architectural model of the Acropolis which, frankly, is worth only a quick look. The LEGO version was crowded with people when we visited. Using LEGO made the stories of the Acropolis come to life, especially when taken with the accompanying information sheet (which is essential if you want to recognise Sigmund Freud, Agatha Christie and Elton John as LEGO minifigs).
Really other Sydney, and international, museums would be well-served by taking a good look at The Nicholson and learning some lessons. It’s an absolute gem and completely worth a visit.