Close to the bone at Hyde Park Barracks Museum


Archaeology honours student Kim Connor from the University of Sydney is currently studying the archaeology collection at Hyde Park Barracks Museum, and is really getting to know bones for her thesis entitled: ‘Feeding the Confined’.

Patiently and painstakingly classifying, measuring, weighing, counting and photographing animal bones excavated in the early 1980s from around Hyde Park Barracks, Kim is gathering the data she needs to analyse the diet and dining habits of the women and children of the Female Immigration Depot and Asylum at Hyde Park Barracks (1848-1886).  

No stranger to historical gastronomy, Kim is an accomplished cook in her own right, recreating historical recipes every fortnight and posting the results on her blog Turnspit and Table. She’ll soon be a guest writer on our very own blog, The Cook & the Curator too.

Here’s how Kim describes her investigation into eating in the Immigration Depot and Asylum:

“Feeding the women, and their children, who lived at the barracks was no small undertaking. Every day the kitchens provided three meals for the hundreds of inhabitants and there is a lot of documentary and archaeological evidence to show what they ate.

“This project is helping to document the official meals served in these institutions – dry bread and tea for breakfast, soup and meat for dinner and dry bread and tea again for dinner. A few women did domestic work in the depot and asylum to earn a little butter or some extra tea, while others bought supplies when they went out on leave or had friends bring them a few eggs or a bit of bacon.

“By studying the bones, I’m discovering other unofficial ways that the women supplemented and varied their diets. One of the big surprises has been how much evidence there is for meat that wasn’t on the official ration: rabbit, chicken and other fowl, oysters and even crab! Explaining why there is a difference between the archaeological record and the historical sources is key to understanding how these institutions worked, and the experience of the women who lived there.”

About the Author

Fiona seated in hammock in Hyde Park Barracks.
Dr Fiona Starr
The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Fiona claims her love of Australian history, genealogy and world history is hereditary – passed on by her mother and grandmother.

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