6 unusual museums to visit
From obscure to offbeat, these quirky museums display the most unusual historical artefacts around town. By Juliana Yu
Sydney Bus Museum
A huge collection of vintage buses is kept at the 100-year-old Leichhardt Tramshed. Poke around everything from the 1924 Ruggles, a cute, boxy little thing for only 22 people, all the way up to those white-and-blue Mercedes-Benz buses. You can peer into, climb on and nose around exhibits to your heart’s content, and the space is manned by knowledgeable volunteers, many of whom are bus industry retirees who just couldn’t keep away. Included in the ticket price is a ride to or from the QVB on a vintage double decker bus. Sit upstairs and enjoy the view as you whirr (at a low speed) over the ANZAC Bridge. 25 Derbyshire Rd, Leichhardt 2040. 02 9572 6789. www.sydneybusmuseum.info. First and third Sunday of the month, 10am-4pm. $10-$15.
May Gibbs’ Nutcote
There’s plenty of happy nostalgia for young and old on a visit to the authorillustrator’s home overlooking Neutral Bay. Relive the adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie featured on the watercolours, postcards and prints scattered throughout the mini-museum. The house is a carefully maintained example of Spanish mission architecture filled with mid-century furniture and knick-knacks. After the tour you’re welcome to enjoy the gardens, perhaps with a cup of tea and a scone from the Nutcote’s café. Wallaringa Ave, Neutral Bay 2089. 02 9953 4453. www.maygibbs.com.au. Wed-Sun 11am-3pm. $4-$10.
Museum of Human Disease
Hypochondriacs and WebMD enthusiasts, this specialist museum housed within the UNSW is for you. In its possession are 2,000 specimens of human disease, obtained from autopsied patients who have donated their bodies to science. You’ll see appetite-busting specimens of everything from tapeworms and typhoid to tuberculosis and teratoma, an alien-like tumour that grows its own hair, skin and teeth. Exhibits are accompanied by a detailed clinical history of the ill-fated donor patient, giving the weird fleshy bits you’re looking at some (sad) humanity.
Ground Fl, Samuels Building, University of New South Wales, College Rd, Randwick 2052. 02 9385 1522. diseasemuseum.unsw.edu.au. Mon-Fri 10am-4pm. $5-$10.
Museum of Fire
Be prepared for the full frontal assault of super-eerie life-sized dioramas illustrating the horrors of home fires. We’re talking flame-blackened bedrooms, shredded curtains, melted appliances on gloriously ’80s retro fitouts, and even burnt dolls and teddy bears to really drive fear into the depths of the heart. If you can fight the urge to rush home and check you’ve turned off the stove, the rest of the museum swaps trauma for awe, with an extensive collection of historical fire trucks. There are some seriously regal vehicles here, stretching as far back as horse-drawn fire carts from the 1800s. They’ve also amassed a catalogue of ornate brass helmets and uniforms. 1 Museum Dr, Penrith 2750. 02 4731 3000. www.museum offire.net. Daily 9.30am-4.30pm. $6-$12.
Sydney Tramway Museum
Melbourne may be known for them, but Sydney was the OG tram city, with an extensive network that operated until the mid-1900s. The Sydney Tramway Museum operates vintage tram rides every Wednesday and Sunday over four kilometres of track to the Sutherland and Royal National Park. We recommend going for the latter option – you’ll end up at a picturesque little picnic spot, so bring a spread (there’s a tiny kiosk for ice creams and sausage rolls), before heading back into the 21st century. Back at the museum you’ll find an extensive collection of tram cars lovingly restored by an army of volunteers. Cnr Rawson Ave & Pitt St, Loftus 2232. 02 9542 3646. sydneytramwaymuseum.com.au. Wed 10am-3pm; Sun 10am-5pm. $10-$18.
Australian Museum of Magical Arts
The Magicians Cabaret Theatre is known for flashy dinner shows, but it also keeps a side hustle, operating the Australian Museum of Magical Arts by day. Those who still dust off their David Copperfield or Penn and Teller DVDs every Christmas will get a kick out of seeing tonnes of magic paraphernalia up close. And yes, you’ll learn the mechanics of a few entry-level tricks (after you sign a ‘magician’s oath’ of secrecy).
91 Riley St, Darlinghurst 2010. 02 9267 4747. sydneymuseums.com.au. Tours Tue-Fri 11.30am & 1.30pm; Sat, Sun 1.30pm. $31-$41.
Museum of Human Disease Sydney Tramway Museum
Australian Museum of Magical Arts