Our favourite images from A Thousand Words

 

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 and stay tuned for the next 20 images released this Saturday 5 September. 


 

Archives Branch, NSW State Rail: NRS 17420 [35] item 18 NSW State Archives

Archives Branch, NSW State Rail: NRS 17420 [35] item 18 NSW State Archives

Adam Lindsay, Executive Director, NSW State Archives & Sydney Living Museums:

There she is, Her Majesty The Queen, alone and cutting a regal figure as she arrives at Leura Railway Station in the NSW Blue Mountains.

In some ways it feels as if we know this person, particularly due to her longevity as Sovereign, and images such as this perpetuate the humanity of the woman that radiates through the asceticism that is often associated with traditional conceptions of the Monarch.

When responding to this image, people posted words like ‘royalty’, ‘elegance’ and ‘Elizabeth’. When I first saw this image, I thought of times gone by, of ceremony, of the seductive face of colonisation, of respect for duty and I experienced lots of responses on an emotional level.

This is a seemingly simple yet potently powerful image. It is the reason the curators chose to feature it in A Thousand Words.


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


 

NSW Government Printing Office: NRS 4481 [7/16379] ST5747 NSW State Archives

NSW Government Printing Office: NRS 4481 [7/16379] ST5747 NSW State Archives.

Bonnie Wildie, Archivist, Engagement & Access Services, NSW State Archives:

I chose this image for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s beautiful, with extraordinary interplay of light and shadow. It is also striking in its capture of gravitas.

We can’t help but wonder about the cause of such a solemn occasion. There is also a wonderful materiality occasioned by the photographer’s choice of lens and the detail and tonal quality associated with glass plate photography.

The words that came to mind when I first viewed the image were ‘sombre’ and ‘separate’. The mood is sombre, and we as viewers sit perched behind the men in the gallery, accidentally part of the serious scene. There is also a definitive ‘separation’ - the hatted women confined to the balcony juxtaposed against the hatless (or wigged) men is compelling imagery. It’s imagery that must have struck our audience as well, as ‘segregation’ and ‘patriarchy’ appear as top responses.

It’s also interesting that while the photograph speaks of a time and place—we are clearly in Parliament House and something is being unveiled—its connection to Australia’s war history as far from apparent.


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


 

NSW Government Printing Office: NRS 4481 [4/8638] item 1084 NSW State Archives

NSW Government Printing Office: NRS 4481 [4/8638] item 1084 NSW State Archives

Anthea Brown, Officer, Engagement & Access Services, NSW State Archives:

One of my favourite photos from A Thousand Words is this early image of Cambridge Street, a working-class area in The Rocks. It feels like an eventful day was briefly paused just for the photo-shoot:

I like to imagine that as soon as the photographer left, the boy to the right with his hula hoop dangling from his feet jumped down to resume his game and the regular bustle and sounds of the neighbourhood returned as daily life continued.

Words that spring to mind are ‘community’ and ‘caring’ with a bit of ‘hectic’ for good measure.

The response to the image was amazing and captured the word ‘community’ as number one. Many similar word submissions such as ‘neighbourhood’ ‘family’ ‘life’ were coupled with ‘poverty’ ‘home’ and ‘tough’. Mothers and children are the subjects of this photo and as tough as life looks there is a real sense of caring in what looks to be a tight-knit community.

‘Waiting’ also rated high as a response – is it the length of time it took to take the photo or perhaps the waiting for ‘something’ to happen?

This photo is from a series taken in 1901, at the time of the outbreak of Bubonic Plague in Sydney. The series depicts the state of houses, ‘slum’ buildings, stores, wharves and streets at the time as well as the subsequent cleansing and disinfecting operations. In an attempt to quickly contain the disease, the NSW Government resumed The Rocks, along with Millers Point and Darling Harbour, under the Observatory Hill Resumption Act 1900.


See how audiences responded and discover the office story behind 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.

Employment

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.