Australian Museum

Reconciling Heritage and Revitalization

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Australian Museum

Bridging the New and the Old

The Australian Museum (AM) opened in 1857, becoming the nation’s first museum accessible to the public. Recently, the AM completed a large-scale modernization and redevelopment. The upgrade expanded the space available for the public and for exhibitions, and unified the centuries worth of modifications and additions to the AM’s facilities to create a cohesive experience. As a museum, it was imperative that the AM’s renovations incorporate and complement its historical character. Entro designed signage and wayfinding materials that not only guide visitors through the space, but through time as well, linking past and the present. To create a sense of unity, the fully bespoke signage was built with reclaimed and domestically sourced materials that are themselves worthy of inclusion in a museum. Visitors making their way through the AM enjoy best-in-class accessibility while remaining fully immersed in the experience.
  • Client

    Australian Museum

  • Location

    Sydney, Australia

  • Sector


  • Discipline


  • Architects

    Cox Architecture Neeson Murcutt + Neille

  • Photography

    Brett Boardman

  • Awards

    14th Grand Prix Du Design Gold Winner Sydney Design Awards, Gold World Design Award

Meaningful Materials

Like many of the building’s interior features, the signage is made from Blackbutt hardwood, which is endemic to eastern Australia. We collaborated with the Museum’s First Nations team to create an aesthetic that reflected the land and waterways on which the Museum stands. Our team drew inspiration from natural landscapes, such as mountains, trees, and rivers. Scarred trees, which provided wood or bark for the creation of cultural objects, were an influence as they have played a part in sharing knowledge and living in balance for millennia on the lands now known as Australia.


Customization and attention to detail were central to the realization of this program: most of the signs are bespoke to accommodate their individual placements, with carefully crafted joinery and cut forms, all contributing to a cherished and living sense of place.

The Australian Museum’s elegant new wayfinding not only helps visitors navigate the Museum’s old and new spaces, but it also incorporates native Australian materials that complement the Museum’s heritage architectural features. Aside from seeing the gorgeous end result, my favorite part of working with Entro was mapping out the visitor journey and determining the best signage program to create a seamless experience for all visitors when enjoying the transformed Australian Museum.

Kim McKay AO, Australian Museum Director and CEO

Wherever possible, we repurposed heritage materials. Visitors ascending the new stairwell are guided by signs of stunning bronze, reclaimed from the balustrades that used to line the central staircase in one of the wings.
Wall-mounted directional sign detail showing tactile signage and braille

The AM strives to be welcoming and accessible for all visitors, and signage is an important contributor to this experience. Following global best practices in accessible wayfinding, all identification and many directional signs are tactile and braille. These were evaluated by the project’s accessibility consultant to ensure that information is accurate, clearly described, strategically positioned, and wheelchair accessible.

Floor maps at the Australian Museum were drawn to scale with identical footprints for each floor in order to facilitate future implementation of indoor Google Maps. In addition, digital maps were calibrated to display on mobile phones in a way that ensures fonts and graphics remain legible despite their small size.

In a museum space, visitors like to meander and to discover, and so the wayfinding design is intuitive — encouraging people to enter and exit various gallery spaces at their own pace. Our intention was not to rush people from point A to point B, but to provide little breadcrumbs that allow patrons to choose their own path and shape their own journey through the space.

Learn more about the Australian Museum here and in Archinect.

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