In 1827, the Colonial Office sanctioned an expenditure of £200 a year for the establishment and upkeep of 'a Public Museum at New South Wales , where it is stated that many rare and curious specimens of Natural History are to be procured ' (1). The Museum was known as 'The Colonial Museum' until 1834, when it received its present name (2). It was housed in various locations until 1849 when the collections were transferred to a new site in College Street opposite Hyde Park (3).
An Act to incorporate and endow the Australian Museum, 1853 (17 Vic. Act No.2), replaced the Committee which had been appointed by the Governor to manage the Museum and its collections by a board of twenty-four Trustees entitled 'The Trustees of the Australian Museum.' This board comprised the twelve existing members of the Management Committee and twelve official Trustees consisting of the Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney General, the Colonial Treasurer, the Auditor General, the Speaker of the Legislative Council, the Solicitor General, the Collector of Customs, the Surveyor General, the Colonial Architect, and the President of the Colonial Medical Board (4)
The Australian Museum Act of 1902 (Act No.61, 1902 ) repealed the Australian Museum Act, 1853 and incorporated the Trustees of the Australian Museum. (5) The Trustees were to comprise 12 Official Trustees, - the Crown Trustee named by the Governor, and the Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary, Attorney General, the colony Treasurer, the Auditor General, the president of the NSW Medical Board and five other officers named by the Governor. The other twelve Trustees were elected trustees (6)
The Australian Museum Trust Act, 1975 (No.95, 1975) repealed the Australian Museum Act, 1902 Although the full title of the Act states the purpose of dissolving the Trustees, the Australian Museum Trust was 'a continuation of, and the same legal entity as, the body corporate entitled 'The Trustees of the Australian Museum' (7) The Trust was comprised of ten members eight of whom were appointed by the Governor and the remaining two were elected by the Trustees. (8) The objects of the trust are to propagate knowledge about the natural environment of Australia and to increase that knowledge particularly in the fields of biology, anthropology and geology. (9) The powers of the Trust included
. procuring and preserving specimens and scientific data
. promotion of natural history by providing exhibits, lectures, films, publication and other educational instruction
. provision of scientific information to the public, other museums and scientific bodies
. undertaking scientific research including outside the state
. carrying out surveys and other research
. authorising the use of the museum for educational and cultural purposes
. charging for services (10)
The Australian Museum Trust commenced operation on 21 April 1976. (11)
The Trust is responsible for the general management of the museum and for the acquisition and disposal of property. (12)
1. HRA Series 1 Vol XIII 27 March, 1827, p. 210.
2. Australian Encyclopaedia Vol 6 "Museums" p.212.
4. Australian Museum Act, 1853 s.4
5. Australian Museum Act, 1902 s.4.
6. Ibid. s.5.
7. Australian Museum Trust Act, 1975 s.5(2)
8. Ibid. s.6.
9. Ibid. s.7.
10. Ibid. s.8.
11. Report of the Trustees of the Australian Museum for the year ended 30 June 1976, p.7 in NSW Parliamentary Papers 1976-77-79 Vol. 9, p.809.
12. NSW Ministry of the Arts Annual Report, 1988-89, p.32.
(1) Public Service Lists, 1860 & 1873.
(2) Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 1833 p.89; 1834 p.208; & 1853 pp.545-546.
(3) Parliamentary Papers, 1976-77-78 Vol. 9 "Report of the Trustees of the Australian Museum", p.809.