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Weirdest artefacts you’ll find in Canberra

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Many of Australia’s most interesting stories are told at national attractions across Canberra.

Find some weird and wonderful artefacts hidden inside the city’s historic walls.

HAUNTED HALLS

According to a local legend, Tim the Yowie Man, the National Film and Sound Archive is one of the most haunted buildings in Canberra. For spine-tingling explorations, walk the halls and look for the intriguing Picnic at Hanging Rock exhibition or be mesmerised by the case of missing Prime Minister Harold Holt, who vanished without a trace in 1967.

PHAR LAP’S HEART

Phar Lap's heart

Phar Lap’s heart is one of the icons of the National Museum’s collection.

The unusually large heart of legendary racehorse Phar Lap, who died in mysterious circumstances, can be viewed at the National Museum of Australia. Phar Lap won many races including the 1930 Melbourne Cup, but died unexpectedly in 1932.

The heart weighs 6.35 kg, which is more than 1.5 times the weight of an average thoroughbred racehorse heart.

THE BARBER’S CHAIR

Take a peek at the inner workings of Old Parliament House at the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) and you’ll discover an unexpected chair. Back in the day when politicians wandered the floors of the provisional Parliament House, they were able to book a trim with the in-house barber. The state-of-the-art barber’s chair, manufactured by Koken Barber Supply Co. in St Louis, Missouri in the United States of America, was used by both male and female politicians from around 1960.

The chair was moved to Australian Parliament House in 1988 and remained in service until the early 1990s. See it for yourself at MoAD.

MINIATURE BOOKS

In the Treasures Gallery at the National Library of Australia, you can see Fanny Durack’s Olympic medal, Henry Lawson’s fob watch, and a Chinese-English Phrasebook from 1892. But for those who love miniatures, keep your magnifying glass handy to explore the collection of about 300 mini books.

There are children’s books, 18th–century almanacs and works in foreign languages. There’s even a tiny 1901 Holy Bible chained to a tiny wooden lectern.

EINSTEIN’S ANGLES

Einstein sculpture at questacon

Einstein sculpture at Questacon. Image: Peter Ellis, Wikipedia.

At Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre there’s an impressive 3D sculpture of famous scientist, Albert Einstein. But look at it from a different angle and you’ll discover a completely different image.

BUSHRANGER’S DEATH MASK

The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) features thousands of works – but not all portraits are painted or photographed. There are sculptures in ceramic, wax, bronze, vellum (animal skin) and even real human hair.

Notorious Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, who was hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1880, had a death mask made after his death and it’s on display at the Gallery. The mould of his face – with shaved hair and beard – is an eerie portrait of a well-known criminal.

But you’ll have to be patient—the NPG will reopen after renovations in late August.

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