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.

Promo image for school holiday programs with kids dressed in warm gear in outdoor setting.

School holidays

Winter School Holidays 2018: opening hoursTuesday 12 June 2018

To make the most of these holidays we’ve extended our trading hours, with many of our properties now opening for the entire school holiday period.

Woman in red shirt outside glass entrance to museum building.


Exhibition Volunteer opportunity: Museum of SydneyMonday 18 June 2018

Do you love interacting with people? Would you love to be a museum ambassador and gain hands-on experience in the museum environment? We’re looking for Museum Volunteers to join our team and play a role in engaging with visitors in our museums.

Brianna Library Research


Colonial CaledonianFriday 15 June 2018

A new short film, ‘Colonial Caledonian’, follows Dr Brianna Robertson-Kirkland, from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, on her exploration of early Scottish sheet music held in SLM’s collections.

Bearded man in workshop with bucket.


Centuries-old cooper’s craft proves evergreenThursday 14 June 2018

Our video of sixth generation cooper, George Smithwick, has proved our most popular on YouTube, with over half a million views.