Visiting Geoscience Australia public areas

The National Mineral and Fossil Collection

The National Mineral Collection is an impressive selection of some 15 000 gem, mineral and meteorite specimens. 600 specimens are on permanent display in our public gallery at Geoscience Australia.

With the first specimen accessioned in 1929 the collection grew through field work discoveries, purchases, donations and gifts. It initially supported geologists who were, at that time, undertaking fieldwork to gauge the suitability of land for the establishment and development of the Nation's capital. As work programs expanded into other areas across the country, priorities changed and the search began for strategic metals during and after World War II, thus maturing into the museum that it is today.

The Collection includes a number of distinctive and famous Australian specimens, including some featured in the Broken Hill City Council's 1999 publication Minerals of Broken Hill. These, along with 950 other specimens were purchased in 1963 from a notable collector in that region by the name of Albert R. ('Floss') Campbell.

A number of collections that were donated to the National Museum of Australia are held at Geoscience Australia as part of the National Mineral Collection. Among these are the collections of Glen Smith, Colin Chidley, Clem Latz and Doug Boerner.

The National Fossil Collection contains 43,000 important palaeontological specimens collected over the last 100 years. Some of those on display in our foyer include trilobites, ammonites, Australian megafauna and trace fossils.

The collection includes the original wooden cabinets full of specimens collected in the early 1900s by the first commonwealth palaeontologist, Frederick Chapman. His primary focus was on the microfossils known as foraminifera, but he also collected fossils of all kinds from Victoria. From the 1930s until the end of the last century, palaeontological work was directed towards discovering oil in and around Australia, including in Papua New Guinea.

There are also many vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils stored and managed in our archive. Many specimens in the collection are 'type' specimens, which have been published in various scientific journals and now form an essential scientific reference collection.  As with all significant fossils, this collection is safeguarded under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

Explore the architectural and geoscientific features of the building as well as our foyer displays

  • The use of light in the building: the building has a curved metal deck roof, featuring skylights, cowls and light shelves. The light shelves to deflect light into the building and maximise the level of natural light within the building.
  • See the Deakin Fault line, an architectural feature of the building, represented by the shiny black floor tiles made from the igneous plutonic rock Norite. The line of shiny black tiles representing the Deakin Fault, runs through the building north to south and outside the front of the building. This Norite sample was quarried at the Black Hill Quarries near Mannum, northeast of Adelaide. It was formed approximately 475-485 million years old from the Ordovician Period).
  • Olivine basalt (volcanic rock) has been used in the unpolished sections of the foyer floor. These tiles were cut from columnar basalt quarried at Murrays Crossing Quarry, near Tumbarumba, New South Wales. It was formed about 21.5 Million years ago.
  • The pink blade walls in the foyer are Travertine. It is a rather dense banded limestone, formed from hot springs mineralisation and derived from Persia.
  • The Seismograph in the middle of the foyer records disturbances in the Earth. Earthquakes are the main type of ground vibrations that we are concerned with. When an earthquake occurs, it sends shock waves through the earth. These waves are registered by a network of seismometers across Australia and beyond. The signal is sent through cables or via satellite to Geoscience Australia and the disturbance is recorded on the GA computers. This disturbance is not always an earthquake - it could be a nuclear explosion, quarrying or even a kangaroo jumping. The foyer seismograph receives information from seismometers in the basement.
  • Out of the Basement display - currently showcasing a fossillised partial jaw of an Australian Ichthyosaur which was a dolphin-like marine reptile that roamed the Eromanga Sea of inland Australia during the early Cretaceous period (National Fossil collection).
  • The foyer carpet design represents a Geophysical Map. See the swirls and loops.

Geological TimeWalk

Geoscience Australia's Geological TimeWalk is a physical representation of geological time in the landscaped gardens of Geoscience Australia. The TimeWalk leads you on a 1.1 kilometre journey through the Earth's 4600 million year (Ma) history and represents the evolution of the Earth from its formation though to the present day.

Since the TimeWalk's installation in the building in Canberra in 2009, large rock samples have been collected from around Australia and put on display at locations along the TimeWalk that reflect their age. Each rock has a story to tell, with geological, economic, environmental and/or cultural significance. For more information visit the fossils and geological time page.

What's beneath the building?

Beneath the building the bedrock is approximately 430 million years old and is an Ignimbrite rock formed form a volcanic explosion (Pyroclastic flow deposit - hot particles and gases that have erupted and 'rolled' out of the volcano). It is the same type of rock as Mount Taylor. Pieces of Ignimbrite are on display in our foyer near the front entrance and as outcropping rocks in the grounds.

Geothermal Heat Pump System Display

Geothermal energy is literally heat from the Earth. It is a clean, abundant and renewable energy source. Geoscience Australia's geothermal heat pump system is estimated to save $1 million over 25 years.

The system is constructed of four sections of underground pipes at the front of the building. There are 350 bore holes which go down 100m, where the temperature is between 17ºC-18ºC. This temperature is then harnessed by circulating 95 000 litres of water through 70 kilometres of plastic piping. In winter the earth's heat is absorbed by the water which is heated by up to 3ºC. In summer, the system reverses and cools the water by up to 3ºC. The system maintains a constant temperature between 20ºC-25ºC all year round.

3D Bathymetric Map showing Australia's vast landmass, marine jurisdiction and responsibilities

The 3D image depicts the land and sea floor topography of the Australian region and the extent of Australia's maritime jurisdiction. It shows important topographic features associated with the plate tectonic development of the region such as submarine ridges, seamounts, volcanoes and deep trenches.

A Text for Burning

The painting by Liz Truswell is a personal response to the bushfires that devastated Canberra on 18 January 2003. It also reflects the fact that fire has been a part of the Australian environment for geologically significant periods of time, so that the biota of this continent has developed a range of strategies for survival and regeneration.

You can view the artwork above the reception desk.

Sir Harold Raggatt Theatre

Named after the founding Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources (Geoscience Australia's original predecessor dating back to 1946). Sir Harold George Raggatt (1900-1968) was founding Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, a predecessor of Geoscience Australia. The Bureau played a major part in the geological mapping of Australia, the search for oil and mineral deposits and the expansion of the Australian mineral industry.

Scrivener Room

Named after Charles Scrivener (1855-1924), a surveyor who played a significant role in the establishment of Canberra and the formation of a Commonwealth Surveying organisation.

Charles Scrivener played a significant role in the establishment of Canberra as Australia's national capital. In 1903, as a licensed surveyor in the New South Wales Department of Lands, he was instructed to examine the southern Monaro District as a possible site for the fledgling nation's capital city. Over the next few years, he assessed a number of possible sites on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.

Magic Planet Globe

It is a digital video globe that allows you to view and explore dynamic digit al media that helps to explain our world. It significantly increases comprehension, as well as participation and collaboration in understanding things like Plate tectonics, Indian Ocean tsunami model, air quality, temperatures, the planets and moons, etc.

The Giant Clam

Giant Clam is the world's largest species of Tradacna gigas. Its shell is 99cm long and weighs 200 kilograms, it settled on Evans Shoal sometime before World War I (100 years ago) when about 1mm in length.

This Giant clam species is extinct from much of its natural range and Australia and the Solomon Islands are now considered the only countries to have relatively intact populations.

Periodic Table of Mobile Phones

Demonstrates the various metals used in mobile phones.

Satellite Imagery

As part of our Earth observation work: we have a satellite feed of observations in Australia being displayed, there are a number of Satellite models, there is also a stereoscope with some air photos that you can play around with lining them up.

IRIS Earthquake feed

Displays the latest earthquakes worldwide on a map from the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) which is a consortium of US universities dedicated to the operation of science facilities on the acquisition, management and distribution of seismological data.

State and Territory rock collection

Each of the six States and two Territories of Australia donated specimens when the building was opened in 1998. The Western Australia sample is the oldest specimen in the foyer at 3.2 billion years.

New South Wales - Ignimbrite
Australian Capital Territory - Sandstone
Northern Territory - Granite
Queensland - Sandstone
South Australia - Granite
Tasmania - Dolerite
Victoria - Gold-bearing quartz
Western Australia - Banded iron formation