Background & Mission

The Western Australian Museum’s long and fascinating history reflects and documents the State’s rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage.

Established in 1891 in the old Perth gaol, it was known as the Geological Museum and its collections were geological, ethnological and biological. In 1897 it officially became the Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery.

During 1959 the botanical collection was transferred to the new Herbarium and the Museum and the Art Gallery became separate institutions. The Museum focused its collecting and research interests in the areas of natural sciences, anthropology, archaeology and the State’s history. Over the 1960s and 1970s it also began to work in the emerging areas of historic shipwrecks and Aboriginal site management.

Thousands of people at the Fremantle Museum looking at the new Welcome Walls

Today the Western Australian Museum comprises six public sites and a collection and research centre and houses more than 8 million objects from rare fossils to the iconic racing yacht Australia II.

The Museum also manages 200 shipwreck sites of the 1500 known to be located off the WA coast and manages eight Aboriginal land reserves.


Inspiring curiosity to explore the past, question the present and shape the future.


To be valued, used and admired by all Western Australians and the world.


An informed and engaged community working together for a better future.



We will respect the views and opinions of others, consider their needs and sensibilities, and work collaboratively to build trust and understanding.


We welcome and engage with people of all abilities, backgrounds and experiences. We will make sure that our workplace, facilities, programs and resources are accessible to all.


We exist for the benefit of all the people of Western Australia, including those in the regions. We hold ourselves accountable to them, and are custodians of their collections. Enterprising

We will be creative, resourceful, imaginative, innovative, agile and entrepreneurial. We will be commercially astute, embrace change and aspire to excellence in all we do. Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia. We acknowledge the primary rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their cultural heritage and will work collaboratively to advance understanding between all peoples.


The Western Australian Museum is a statutory authority within the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries Portfolio, established under the Museum Act 1969. It is a Body Corporate with Perpetual Succession and Common Seal, governed by a Board of seven Trustees, including the Chair and Vice-Chair who are appointed by the Governor of Western Australia.

The Director General of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, or his or her nominee, is a Trustee ex officio. Appointments are made for up to four years and incumbents are eligible for reappointment.

Under section 36 of the Museum Act, the Trustees have established the following branches of the Western Australian Museum:


Council of Australasian Museum Directors
Council of Australasian Museum Directors