Child with illustration of rockets blasting of and words On the Move above.
On the Move. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums; Illustrations © James Gulliver Hancock
Fly, sail, zoom or roll into the Museum of Sydney to learn about all things transport-related with our new family exhibition.

Ever wanted to design and build your own dream vehicle out of LEGO®? Or test your skills flying paper planes? Do you want to find out how vehicles have changed over time, from the earliest steam locomotive to the fastest magnetic levitation train?

This summer, kids can explore the evolution of transportation and let their imaginations run wild at our new interactive exhibition, On the Move. After the success of last year’s collaboration How Cities Work, we’ve teamed up again with illustrator James Gulliver Hancock, whose fun, dynamic images bring these ideas to life. James has applied his unique style to the creation of vivid streetscapes, sky-scapes and space-scapes, and illustrated lots of different forms of transport, from people-propelled vehicles to those that need engines, and others that soar and fly; from horse-drawn to rocket-powered, and everything in between.

Getting around

We all need ways to get around. Australia is a huge country with vast distances between places. This creates challenges but also paves the way to exciting innovations. Many forms of transport have been developed out of necessity – for instance, the rugged and hostile terrain of the Australian outback was initially too difficult for the construction of roads or rail, and so camels were imported in the 1860s to transport commodities and equipment. Today, Australia’s distinctive road trains – the longest and heaviest trucks in the world – follow in the paths of camel trains, transporting freight and livestock enormous distances across the country.

You’ll encounter some great local inventions, like the ute, or coupe utility, invented in 1934. Ubiquitous on Australian roads and farm tracks today, the ute was designed by Lewis Bandt for Ford Australia. He was responding to a request from a Gippsland farmer’s wife who wanted a vehicle that could take her to church on a Sunday in her best clothes, and take the pigs to market on a Monday.

Design and discovery

Essential to innovation and discovery is the human element. Even the most state-of-the-art vehicles, those pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for space or speed, began with an individual person and their idea. The process of design is never simple or linear: failure is a crucial part of the process, and designs must be repeatedly modified as unexpected problems arise. On the Move explores this concept of trial and error, of tweaking and making changes before success. The ‘Test Drive’ activity gives kids the chance to design and construct a futuristic LEGO® vehicle, and trial it on a space track. ‘Take Flight’ challenges them to construct increasingly complex paper planes, and test their flight capacity and range.


Guiding visitors through the activities are our trailblazers – inspirational Australians such as aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave, known for inventing the box kite (a square kite big enough to carry a person). Many of these people rebelled against the stereotypes of their day – for example, friends and motoring pioneers Jean Robertson and Kathleen Howell, who travelled great distances across the outback in their sports car, breaking records and overturning assumptions about women and adventure; and Nancy Bird Walton, then the youngest Australian woman to gain her pilot’s licence, at the age of 19. Alongside these remarkable historical figures are some contemporary trailblazers, such as Professor Richard Brown, who researches alternative and sustainable fuel sources, offering our planet a brighter future.

Questions for the future

As well as revealing how transportation has changed over time, the exhibition encourages visitors to consider important questions. How can we make transport networks flow in increasingly busy, congested cities? And how will we power the vehicles of the future? ‘Fuel Up’, an interactive service station, poses questions about renewable and green fuel options, and gets kids thinking about how the choices we make impact our environment.

On the Move is just the ticket for families looking for engaging fun these holidays, with facts to fuel the imagination and activities to spark creativity.

Q. What do you call someone who draws funny pictures of motor vehicles?

A. A car-toonist!

About the Author

Woman standing in front of colourful mural.
Mel Flyte
Assistant Curator
City Museums Portfolio
Mel relishes the opportunity to get hands-on with the treasures in our collection.

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