How Cities Work: Meet your kids’ (and your) favourite exhibition of 2023 | HerCanberra

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How Cities Work: Meet your kids’ (and your) favourite exhibition of 2023

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“How are cities built? What’s under a city? What’s inside that building?”

If you have kids, there’s a good chance you’ve answered some of those questions—or tried to. But the latest exhibition at Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) aims to explore all these questions and more, giving visitors big and small a glimpse into the magic behind our built environment.

Based on beloved children’s book How Cities Work by James Gulliver-Hancock, which uses cross-sections of homes, buildings and businesses to give readers a birds-eye view of our cities, the exhibition of the same name brings these rich illustrations to life through life-size installations and interactive play.

This touring exhibition created by the Museums of History NSW, How Cities Work is on show at CMAG until 8 October, giving little ones oodles of opportunities to visit. Did someone say ‘ultimate school holiday activity?’.

James Horan for Museums of History NSW.

With plenty of tactile and sensory play activities across the exhibition—including a hands-on construction site, a station where kids can design their own cities and a two-metre-high cityscape to explore—it’s no surprise the exhibition has been an instant success since it opened.

“It’s a great, family-friendly exhibition, a new way to see the city and a new way to imagine what your perfect city might look like,” says ACT Galleries, Museums & Heritage Director Dr Anna Wong.

Dr Wong, who first saw the exhibition in Sydney, says she knew it would be a natural fit for Canberra audiences.

“We brought this exciting exhibition to Canberra because of our history as a planned city,” she explains. “Young visitors and visitors that are young at heart can design and create their ultimate building or make a future Canberra of their dreams.” For her, the large-scale format of the exhibition is the ideal way to bring Gulliver-Hancock’s illustrations to life.

“The artistic impressions of how we think a city might work—what might be going on under our feet, what’s going on inside people’s apartments or houses—really expresses the book in this sort of three-dimensional way. It’s fun, interactive, and I just thought that Canberra would love it. And they do!”

James Horan for Museums of History NSW.

Naturally, James Gulliver Hancock worked closely with the creators to bring the exhibition to life, stating that “This exhibition is a dream project for me. There is something for everyone from ages five – 500.”

Dr Wong echoes this sentiment, adding that there’s something to suit all abilities and ages.

“There are sections where kids can be builders and construct skyscrapers, there is a really fun space for younger kids with a play mat where they can build their own roads and towns and there are roleplay areas if you want to build a zoo or go to a museum.”

If you can’t get to How Cities Work before 8 October, you’re in luck because another interactive exhibition for children and families, ON THE MOVE, opens at CMAG on 28 October!

Created by the Museums of History NSW in collaboration with illustrator James Gulliver Hancock, On the Move offers hands-on discovery of incredible journeys, unique inventions, amazing vehicles and intrepid explorers across the country.


What: How Cities Work
When: Until 8 October 2023. Open seven days a week, Monday-Friday 10am­­–4 pm, Saturday-Sunday 12–4 pm
Where: Canberra Museum and Gallery, 176 London Circuit, Canberra
Cost: Adults: $10, Children: $7, Children under 3: Free, Family (2 Adults and up to 4 children) $32.00.
CMAG Members: Free – present your Membership card to the Front of House team for admission

Photography: James Horan for Museums of History NSW.

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