The oddly plain northern wing of the South Australian Museum stands out beside the grand architecture of the East Wing and the Jervois Wing of the State Library. The wing was meant to be temporary, hence its more modest brick façade. It was built during the economic slump of the 1890s, with a promise that when funds allowed it would be replaced. More than a hundred years later it is still part of the museum.
By the 1890s the public library, art gallery and museum were struggling with the lack of space in the Jervois Wing. Work began on a new building for the museum. Tight funds meant a cut-stone building like the Jervois Wing was out of the question. The Superintendent of Public Works, C.E. Owen Smyth, designed this building, which cost £8500. Compared to the Jervois Wing, which cost £36,395 just a few short years earlier, this one was quite modest.
The North Wing opened on the evening of 12 January 1895. While it looked unspectacular, there was excitement over the extra space for the museum’s collection. At the opening, the museum chairman said “It is no exaggeration to say that tonight in this building, affording four times the space available in the Public Library, the collections of the Museum are for the first time properly displayed.”
Despite a promise that there would be an eventual update, the addition of a glass front has been the only major change to the building since.