Our favourite images from A Thousand Words - July


A Thousand Words presents 100 of the most compelling photographic images from Sydney Living Museums and NSW State Archives in both an online exhibition and an exhibition now on at the Museum of Sydney. Unlike a standard exhibition, images are presented without traditional curatorial interpretation, instead we have crowdsourced responses from the public.

With 20 new images added each month to the online exhibition discover some of our favourite images from the July selection and stay tuned for the next 20 images released on Thursday 6 August. 

This image, created by NSW Police, is a mugshot of suspects in custody.

NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive: DES_COS074 Sydney Living Museums

Adam Lindsay, Executive Director, SARA & SLM:

I picked this image because it makes me think about the growth in acceptance of difference that society has experienced since this photo was taken.

I also love the expressions on the faces of the two people. Positivity in the face of adversity is a hallmark of minorities the world over and the sense of humour and joie de vivre that LGBTIQ+ people have displayed throughout history is a source of inspiration. On top of all that, it is one of the best, most stylish mugshots I have ever seen!

The words that came to mind the first time I saw this image were fashion (a top response from the public too), strength and brave. The responses from the public picked up on the fact that this is actually a police photo. A number of people also responded with the word ‘sisters’, which I though was a remarkably tender word to ascribe to these two humans who would likely have felt bound together, sibling-like, in the face of much adversity.

See how audiences responded and discover the official story behind this image in the A Thousand Words online exhibition.


Photo of three boys reading with bad posture while sitting in school chairs.

NSW Government Printing Office: NRS 4481 [7/15886] MS2856 NSW State Archives 

Dr Penny Stannard, Lead Curator, A Thousand Words:

I loved this image when I first saw it. It’s a picture of studied exaggeration that borders on humour. With their trousers pulled up high, braces down, grubby feet and knobby knees, the three shirtless school boys sit in front of a low slung canvas backdrop to demonstrate their ‘bad posture’.

It’s am image that captured the hearts of the hundreds of people who contributed a response through our #OneWordWednesday campaign. ‘Concentration’, ‘braces’, ‘waiting’, ‘detention’, ‘boredom’ and ‘poor’ were some of the 600 plus responses.

This fabulous photograph is from the State Archives collection of images created by the Government Printing Office in the early 20th century. It was taken in June 1914 for the NSW Department of Public Instruction. The Department had established a program in 1907 to medically examine school children who had been referred by teachers due to suspected health ailments.  To lead the scheme, the Department appointed Dr C.S. Willis as Principal Medical Officer.

By 1910 teams of medical staff were advising on hygiene in schools and lecturing teachers and pupils on home hygiene and medical care. By 1913 the Department decided to carry out medical inspection of school children in all state schools. Each child received a vision and hearing test, and a complete medical examination at least twice during their school life. A travelling hospital visited regional and remote areas where there were no resident doctors or dentists. The Department’s state-wide scheme was part of broader campaign by the government to systematically reduce the high rate of infant mortality in NSW. Attempts to expand the scheme further – including four additional travelling hospitals – were cancelled due to the opposition of the British Medical Association and the advent of the Great War. Dr Willis continued to lead the scheme until his sudden death in June 1919 of ‘Spanish flu’.

See how audiences responded in the A Thousand Words online exhibition.


NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive photo of man in a black hood and gown.

NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive: FP18_0003_013 Sydney Living Museums

Nerida Campbell, Curator, A Thousand Words:

This image is disquieting; a man dressed in a black hood and gown poses with a bludgeon in his upraised arm ready to strike. Although shot in a photographic studio it has a sinister feel hinting at dark activities and faceless violence

The hood is poorly constructed, baggy with tiny eye holes that would hinder the wearer’s vision, but this does not detract from its menacing quality.

Recent commenters on our social media channels have likened the hooded figure to a poor man’s Darth Vader. The hood’s likeness to those worn by executioners has also been noted by contributors. The historical story behind the image sheds light on a tumultuous period in Australia’s political history.

John ‘Jock’ Garden was an ex-communist who was involved in trade unions and Labor party politics. He attracted the ire of the anti-communist, pro-monarchy and anti-leftist organisation the New Guard [1931-1935] which at its height had up to 50,000 members under the leadership of war veteran Eric Campbell. On the night of the 6th May 1932, Garden was lured from his Maroubra home by a group of New Guardsmen who proceeded to assault him. The attackers fled but police were able to identify eight assailants, all members of the New Guard, who later pleaded guilty in court. During their investigation police seized items, including a black hood, from the New Guard’s office and members’ homes. In court one of Garden’s assailants said the black hood had been given to him by the Fascist Legion, a faction of the New Guard. It is assumed that the hood and gown worn by the police officer in this image were found during those raids.

See how audiences responded to this image in the A Thousand Words online exhibition.


Pink tinted image of the Sydney skyline from a roof top. The words 'Sydney Open: reconnect with your city 6-8 November' sit on top.

Sydney Open

Meet our patron and ambassadorsFriday 16 October 2020

Meet our Sydney Open patron and ambassadors showcasing expertise across our key themes of city, garden and home. 

Employment opportunity preview tile.


20/DIR002 Executive AssistantFriday 16 October 2020

Artworks on sideboard

Media release

Meroogal Women’s Art Prize 2020 Winners’ AnnouncementWednesday 23 September 2020

The Meroogal Women’s Art Prize celebrates the creativity of female artists in NSW. The 2020 Winners were announced at a modest event at the Meroogal house museum.

Group of people in front of historic house.

Rouse Hill Estate

Play along with us: House Music at Your HouseMonday 17 August 2020

We invite you to join us in a new musical experiment, bringing the music of the 19th century into the 21st century. We’ve delved into the hundreds of popular songs that survive in the collection at Rouse Hill Estate and we’ve also asked some brilliant musicians to help you explore these pieces of music from their homes and in our historic houses.