State Library of South Australia logoThe Foundation of South Australia 1852 - 1883
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future


  • Adelaide Botanic Garden opened on present site.
  • March: Inauguration of Responsible Government - First South Australian elections under Responsible Government - House of Assembly and Legislative Council both fully elected. Secret ballot system used for elections.
  • 5 October: Adelaide-Gawler railway opened.
  • Waste Lands Act allows SA's Governor to reserve land for the use and habitation of Aboriginal people.
  • South Australia passes an anti-Chinese Restriction Bill and anti-Chinese taxes: head tax of £10 on Chinese arrivals to the colony.

For more information see The Foundation of South Australia: 1852-1883, Key events and issues.

Museum of Economic Botany
Title : Museum of Economic Botany Museum of Economic Botany
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Creator : Gall, Ernest, photographer
Source : B 1623 Botanic Gardens, Adelaide
Date of creation : 1889
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 15.1 cm x 10.2 cm
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Description :

The Museum of Economic Botany at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens photographed in 1889.

The Museum of Economic Botany is considered to be the first purpose-built museum building in South Australia and is now the last colonial Museum of Economic Botany in the world. Although originally set up as a resource for the state's horticulturalists, agriculturalists and pastoralists, the museum's collection later grew to include papier-maché fruit and fungi, as well as art and craft items from Australia, the Pacific Islands and Guyana.

Construction began on the Museum in 1879 and it was opened to the public in May 1881. The Museum was designed in Greek Revival style by the then Architect-In -Chief, EJ Woods. The building was constructed from random masonry and then rendered in thick cement to imitate ashlar. The front is enhanced with a portico and steps. Six windows eight feet high stand on either side of the entrance.

The exterior and interior have changed very little since the museum was first built. It was closed for renovations and conservation from late March 2005, and re-opened in October 2006 as part of the Garden's 150th anniversary celebrations. In 2009 restoration was completed at a cost of one and a half million dollars.

The interior has been returned to its original colour scheme and features a highly decorative wooden ceiling which was stencilled and painted in a Greek design by WJ Williams. The initial cost of the building, fixtures, glazing and decorative painting was 2,900 pounds (approximately $7,000 in today's currency).

A large number of original exhibits are back on display and a new area for temporary exhibitions has been created at one end of the building.

The Museum is listed on the Register of the National Estate and the South Australian Heritage Register.

Related names :

Adelaide Botanic Garden. Museum of Economic Botany

Coverage year : 1889
Period : 1852-1883
Place : Botanic Gardens, Adelaide
Region : Adelaide city
Further reading :

Aitken, Richard Seeds of change: an illustrated history of Adelaide Botanic Garden Adelaide: Board of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium, 2006

Conservation plan for the Museum of Economic Botany, Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, Adelaide, S. Aust.: Lothar Brasse, 1997

Heritage of the city of Adelaide: an illustrated guide edited by Susan Marsden, Paul Stark and Patricia Sumerling, Adelaide: Corporation of the City of Adelaide, 1990

Internet links :
Exhibitions and events :

State Library of South Australia: Mortlock Wing. From the ground up August 2004-



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