The Museum can be found in Gay’s Arcade, a small shopping area off the main Adelaide Arcade. Enter Gay’s Arcade via Twin Street, or via either end of the Adelaide Arcade from Rundle Mall (by the fountain) or Glenville Street. Take the small flight of stairs from Gay’s Arcade and then follow the pictures and stories up to the balcony level.
The museum features many photographs, newspaper clippings, documents and artefacts telling the story of the Arcade’s establishment, its first shop keepers as well as the disastrous fire that gutted Gay’s Arcade in 1980. You can see the original flag pole from the building’s Italianate cupola and various fascinating relics discovered during recent renovations. There is a press button interactive at the beginning of the exhibition that plays the Adelaide Arcade Polka, composed for the occasion of its official opening on 12 December 1885 by Signor Raffaello Squarise, an Italian violinist, conductor and composer who had recently settled in Adelaide.
Opened by South Australia’s then Governor Sir William Robinson, the Arcade was proclaimed to be the biggest and the best in the Southern Hemisphere. Adelaide Arcade originally comprised of 50 shops on the ground floor with workrooms above and an internal staircase. 200 workmen worked on the site using mainly locally-produced materials: ornamental cast iron from GE Fulton’s Kilkenny foundry; Metropolitan Company-made bricks and Portland cement while the Italianate entrances on Rundle and Grenfell Streets used marble from the Kapunda Quarries. The plate glass, however, was imported from England.
The Arcade was one of the first buildings in Adelaide to be lit by electricity and 16 lamps originally illuminated the luxurious central promenade of Carrara marble and black and white encaustic tiles formed in elegant designs as well as three fountains. Learn about the underground tearooms, the Turkish Baths, the resident ghosts and the history of the magnificent coat of arms on the Rundle Mall entrance.
It’s a great way to start your Adelaide Arcade experience by wandering through the museum – it is open during the Arcade shopping hours and there is no charge– just spend some time! You can then enjoy a unique shopping experience surrounded by elegant 19th century architecture and old world charm; browse through over 70 specialty retail outlets – offering everything from fashion and footwear to coffee and chocolates.