A WINDOW TO HISTORIC SYDNEY

Nestled in the heart of the city, The Museum of Sydney celebrates the people and events that have shaped the character and soul of this beautiful city. 

The Museum of Sydney, managed by Sydney Living Museums, is one of Sydney’s most important properties, showcasing the development of our beautiful city from colonial times.  Nestled in the heart of the city, the Museum of Sydney is a distinctly modern building, set on and around the heritage listed site of Australia’s first Government House.  Steeped in history but with a strong focus on contemporary exhibitions, the museum celebrates the people and events that have shaped the character and soul of Sydney. 

An accurate scale model of Australia’s first Government House takes pride of place in the museum, and remains of the site dating back to 1788 can be glimpsed through glass openings in the museum forecourt and foyer.  

Visitors to the museum can enjoy the latest contemporary exhibitions, take a tour through the permanent exhibitions and marvel at the amazing scale models of the First Fleet ships.

A tour around this deeply significant historical site can be rounded off by experiencing the award winning Edge of the Trees installation– a cluster of 29 poles with soundscape on the forecourt evoking the first encounter between the Indigenous (Gadigal) people and the convicts, sailors and marines of the First Fleet.  

Visitors are welcome to browse the retail offering and make a selection from a range of gifts and publications or enjoy lunch or dinner at The Governor’s Table restaurant, next door to the museum. 

A BRIEF HISTORY

In 1788, Arthur Phillip, the founding Governor of the Colony of New South Wales chose a site, now the corner of Phillip and Bridge Streets, as the place for his official residence. It quickly became the centre of the colony’s administrative and social life and an important focus of first contact between the Gadigal people and the colonisers. 

Built with convict labour on a foundation of Sydney sandstone, using a combination of locally made and imported bricks from England, Australia’s first Government House was typical of the so-called Georgian style then popular in England.

Over the next 57 years, eight successive governors lived at the site, conducting the business of government in the fast growing city. Official, family and social life intersected and with formal dinners, banquets and balls, the public and private lives of the colony’s leading citizens played out.

In Australia’s bicentennial year, 1988, the state government announced a new design for the site that was to include the preservation of the archaeological remains and the construction of a new museum to interpret them. In 1995, the Museum of Sydney was officially opened.

WHAT’S ON AT THE MUSEUM OF SYDNEY

Two exhibitions at the Museum of Sydney offer a broad exploration and experience of mid-20th century architecture and design as an important part of Sydney’s heritage. 

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney
22 July – 26 November

The Moderns is a richly illustrated exhibition that explores the personal stories of our ‘forgotten’ émigré designers during mid-20th century and their distinctly European style and influence in shaping modern Sydney.

In Australia, a large number of Europeans immigrated to Sydney as a result of imminent war and included a significant number of architects and designers. Well educated, urbanised and middle class, Sydney’s émigré designers brought with them a direct experience of European modernism. 

While they often encountered obstacles in resuming their professions in a new country, many designers adapted their skills and went on to have a substantial impact across architecture, interior design, furniture making and in the media. A few of these émigré designers became known for their work during 1950s – 60s but the exhibition also features a number of designers with remarkable European design pedigrees working virtually unknown in Sydney.  

This exhibition is both a social and design history, an acknowledgement of our émigré designers and their substantial achievements and impact on modernist design in Australia.

Marion Hall Best: Interiors
5 August – 12 November

This exhibition celebrates a colour filled career of one of the first independent and most influential Australian interior designers.

Described as electrifying, vital and avant-garde, Marion Hall Best’s interior decorating schemes vibrated with colour through her signature glazed painted finishes at a time when designers preferred a more subdued palette. She claimed that ‘gentle, soft colours … are not restful, but dreary, sapping the energy and the mind’; by contrast, ‘bright clear colours challenge the mind.’ 

Best is attributed with introducing international modernism to the Australian market through importing furniture and furnishings from all over the world.

Her ability to transform space through colour has rarely been matched. The rich objects in the exhibition are drawn from the extensive archive held by Sydney Living Museums. Visit the exhibition and be immersed in a world of colour.