Museum storage: the ultimate treasure trove

 

The Museums Discovery Centre showcases incredible objects from the collections of Sydney Living Museums, the Australian Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, on display throughout the week for public enjoyment.

Behind the scenes, however, is a special area that is normally off-limits to visitors. This is the museum’s collection store, a space that has been custom-designed to accommodate a multitude of items, from archaeological artefacts, delicate costumes and artworks to furniture, building materials and machinery. Nothing enters this climate- and pest-controlled space without first being rigorously assessed.

Recently, Sydney Living Museums members were given a tour of the store at the Museums Discovery Centre by SLM’s Head of Collections Care, Sarah-Jane Rennie. Unlike in exhibition galleries, here objects can be found placed together for practical reasons and not curatorial rationale, meaning that objects from different times and locations and created for altogether different purposes sit side by side.

Wandering through we discovered a mid-century Paul Kafka dining chair sidling up to the hardworking bentwood chairs used in the criminal courts at the Justice & Police Museum during the 1920s. Handmade bricks from the Hyde Park Barracks stamped with their convict maker’s thumbprints were carefully housed in bespoke boxes, as were luxurious dresses of silk and lace from Meroogal. There was even a wardrobe cleverly concealing a foldaway cedar bed made in Parramatta in the late 19th century.

Sarah-Jane explained the variety of conservation methods and techniques used for different materials across different restoration projects. She also showed off the breadth of the collection, which not only relates to the 12 museums and historic houses that Sydney Living Museums cares for but also includes many extraordinary items that have come into our collection after being saved from demolished buildings across Sydney.

The Museums Discovery Centre's public galleries are open weekdays, 10am–5pm. 

Entry is free for Sydney Living Museums members.

To visit Sydney Living Museums' collection store make sure to keep an eye out for the next members tour later in the year.


 

About Sarah-Jane

As Sarah-Jane Rennie, Head of Collections Care at Sydney Living Museums, reminds us, ‘at SLM, it’s less glamorous, more grimy, although never mundane’. 

From battling outbreaks of mould and polishing antique silver to smoothing out wrinkles in a tattered doll’s dress, her workload is nothing if not varied.

Read more about Sarah-Jane.

Photo © Katrina James for Sydney Living Museums

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  • Collection of chairs at the MDC storage facility.

    Collection of chairs held in storage at Museums Discovery Centre.

    Photo © Sydney Living Museums.

  • Cedar bed wardrobe c.1867-1885.

    Cedar wardrobe with bed, c.1867-1885, held in storage at Museums Discovery Centre.

    Photo © Sydney Living Museums.

  • Detail of costumes held in the storage at Museums Discovery Centre.

    Detail of dresses held in storage at Museums Discovery Centre.

    Photo © Sydney Living Museums.

Three women holding bouquets outside house.

Meroogal

Announcing this year's Meroogal Women's Art Prize winnersTuesday 25 September 2018

Meet our three Meroogal Women's Art Prize 2018 winners: Tamara Dean (First Prize), Kim Davies (Second Prize) and Beth Norling (Highly Commended).

Black and white photograph of exterior.

Vaucluse House

Vaucluse House arch works beginFriday 19 October 2018

Essential maintenance work has begun to ensure the longevity of this significant architectural feature of Vaucluse House.

Exhibition cases being worked on.

Exhibition

How exhibitions workTuesday 16 October 2018

Our 3D Design intern, Isabelle Edwards shares insights into the development of How Cities Work, a children’s exhibition opening at Museum of Sydney this December.

 

Three fruit marmaladeThursday 11 October 2018

Looking up at tall glassfronted buildings from below.

Sydney Open

Sydney Open TrailsWednesday 10 October 2018

Get the most from our exciting program with our newly curated trails, shortlisting key buildings not-to-be-missed with your Sydney Open Pass.