Museum gives a sneak preview of its new dinosaur garden for kids

The dinosaurs are on the march at Melbourne Museum. First came Horridus the Triceratops fossil and now the museum is opening a $5 million dinosaur adventure garden.

The planned new addition will be called the Gandel Gondwana Garden, a nod to retail billionaire philanthropists John and Pauline Gandel, who helped fund it with the state government.

The museum’s newest exhibit, the 67 million-year-old fossil Horridus, and its accompanying exhibit Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs opened this month.

Construction of the garden should finish this year, connecting the existing Gandel Children’s Gallery and the triceratops exhibit through a new 900 square metre outdoor play-based learning gallery.

The garden will take children on a palaeontological expedition across five different ecosystems, reconstructing the habitats that shaped Victoria’s environment over time.

Gondwana is the name for the ancient supercontinent that connected most of the southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, South America. Madagascar, India and the Arabian Peninsula.

Artist’s renders of the proposed Gandel Gondwana Garden at the Melbourne Museum.

A path that snakes upwards will allow children to explore models of prehistoric flora and fauna, including giant amphibian and Victoria’s state fossil emblem Koolasuchus and marsupial megafauna, such as the predatory Thylacoleo and giant kangaroos.

The museum’s real fossil collection will be kept safely indoors.

First People’s stories of creation will also be featured throughout the garden.

The Gandel Gondwana Garden will be constructed on the north side of the museum, taking over mainly disused outdoor space in the Sidney Myer Amphitheatre, was named after another prominent Melbourne philanthropist.

Minister Danny Pearson with John and Pauline Gandel in the children’s garden at Melbourne Museum. Credit:Jason South

The Gandels, who own half of Chadstone Shopping Centre, have put in $1 million while the state government will contribute $4 million.

Mrs Gandel said the Gandel Children’s Gallery at the museum, which the family funded and opened in 2016 was a runaway success. She hoped the new garden would be similarly embraced by slightly older children aged 6 to 12 years.

“It came about through my grandchildren. There was really nothing available for them like this,” she said. “It’s such an important age when they learn and develop so much.”

Mrs Gandel said her 12 grandchildren and eight great-grand children were a constant source of inspiration.

She said the immersive space would encourage children to develop their skills and inquisitiveness, which was crucial for their future success in life.

“They can absorb information, and they can learn through playing,” she said. “We need to give them the best start in life we can.”

Creative Industries Minister Danny Pearson said the garden would encourage more visitors to the museum.

“Its about trying to make sure that our great creative institutions and great cultural institutions continue to refresh and continue to develop new connections with the next generation of attendees,” he said.

“You can’t rest on your laurels. You’ve got to constantly be coming up with new initiatives and new ideas to keep people engaged.”

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