Sydney Living Museums, with NSW State Archives, announce a bold, expansive and thought provoking program for 2021 - combining contemporary with historical to create new perspectives and new ways of presenting our properties and collections.

This year, Reflections on Identity is the theme underpinning an integrated program of exciting installations, exhibitions and public programs across 12 SLM properties along with exploring the immense collections held within both SLM and the State Archives.

“We want people to be stimulated and inspired when they visit our properties. Whilst exploring our history, we also want visitors to feel they have had experiences that are relevant to their lives today,” said Adam Lindsay, Executive Director, Sydney Living Museum and NSW State Archives.

“This year’s Reflections on Identity theme along with our commitment to creative and authentic programming invites us to take a fresh look at our history, our identity and social belonging. The 2021 program celebrates the broad spectrum of innovative and imaginative responses that this theme inspires.”


2021 Reflections on Identity program details:

After Dark

Hyde Park Barracks, 25 February and once a month until November

A monthly late night series at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks. Featuring live music, performances, ideas, access to the Museum experience and a pop up bar, After Dark will become ‘your go to’ for an evening dose of culture in 2021.

Throughout the year Sydney Living Museums will collaborate with a range of festival partners with the launch of the series coinciding with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 25 February.

FBi Radio will curate queer-friendly acts on the atmospheric outdoor stage in the Barracks courtyard and audiences will discover the fascinating, tragic story of bushranger Andrew George Scott (aka.Captain Moonlite) - one of Australia’s earliest LGBTQI+ figures through talks and mesmerising hand-drawn animation projections on the walls. Visitors can enjoy a free signature cocktail on arrival at the Archie Rose pop up bar and delicious food from Oz Harvest throughout the night.

After Dark is generously supported by City of Sydney and forms a part of the Culture Up Late program.

Narcissus Garden, by world renowned Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama

Museum of Sydney, 20 February – 18 April | Vaucluse House, 24 April – 23 May

Following the theme of Reflections on Identity, Narcissus Garden (2002) is an installation of a carpet of mirrored balls that not only reflect one another but also reflect the viewer creating an infinitely recurring web in which the surrounding visible world is trapped and perpetuated. Displayed at two properties, Museum of Sydney and Vaucluse House, Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama is a unique opportunity for visitors to also reflect on the impact of this beautiful contemporary work at each historical site. This artwork is on loan from QAGOMA.

Commission: Who goes here? Fiona Hall

Hyde Park Barracks, 3 April - 30 May

One of Australia’s most prominent and influential artists, Fiona Hall has been commissioned by SLM to create an outdoor art installation, Who goes here? at Hyde Park Barracks.

Who goes here? centres on the many people who lived and worked at the Barracks from 1819 to 1887: convicts, immigrants and asylum inmates and the officials who controlled their lives. A broad-range, emotional selection of these people will be represented by a series of painted wooden signposts profiling each individual's story and the distance travelled from their ‘home’ to come to this place.

Made possible by meticulous colonial recordkeeping of the day and today's GPS technology, Who goes here?  will become a ‘forest of signs’ (more than 300) - totems telling individual stories and asking us to reflect on how these people influence our lives today. Public participation is central to Who goes here? with a week-long program of community volunteers helping to create the art.

The Queen’s Album exhibition

NSW Parliament House, 4 May - 27 May

The Queen’s Album explores the unique story of a series of photographs gifted to Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1882 on behalf of the people of NSW. The album contained 64 photographic images of sites and scenes in Sydney and regional NSW that were constructed to promote the state as a progressive and desirable place and to consolidate its position within the British Empire. 

At the time, the album was described as a ‘graceful tribute of loyalty’ to Queen Victoria. Today, its whereabouts is unknown. The Queen’s Album gives us a rare glimpse of a young colonial nation seeking to establish its identity in the world.

Walking through a Songline

Museum of Sydney, 3 July - 3 October

Walking through a Songline is an immersive light installation where visitors make their way through projections that create a representation of what a Songline is: one of many paths that cross Australia. Paths made from a union between geographic space, cultural storytelling and identity from Australian Aboriginals and their world views. Commissioned by the National Museum of Australia as part of the Aboriginal-led exhibition Songlines: Tracking The Seven Sisters, it is a celebration and welcoming experience that gives visitors the feeling of walking through Songlines themselves.

History Reflected

Museum of Sydney, 3 July – 21 November

History Reflected is an exhibition featuring a diverse selection from the SARA collection which has been ‘reimagined’ through a contemporary, creative lens. Centred around a core curatorial and historical narrative, the exhibition will be layered with multiple perspectives of the selected items and their personal meaning. With contributions from artists, musicians and social commentators, each treasure is its own Reflection on Identity.

Cutter & Coota at Hyde Park Barracks

SLM has commissioned Bruce Pascoe - one of Australia’s most influential Indigenous writers and historians – to develop a children’s performance. Pascoe uses two characters – Cutter, the colonising rat and Coota, the Indigenous bandicoot to address issues of sustainability, introduced species, colonial impact on Aboriginal people and the human ability to grow and change. 

Cutter & Coota doesn’t ask people to value one story over the other rather it asks people to reflect on the duality of Australia’s history from the colonialist and Indigenous perspectives. It asks people to recognise history as a complex story, a human story and to recognise places like the Hyde Park Barracks as a symbol that can say one thing for many people and yet for Aboriginal Australians, it tells an entirely different story.

Photos of the fires

Online, NSW State Archives website

The devastating bushfires of 2020 gave us all cause to reflect on the fragility of our environment. SARA will release a curated exhibition of photographs from the 2020 Bushfire Parliamentary Inquiry never seen before. Whether harrowing or gentle, showing human kindness and resilience, all the images provoke emotion and remind us of our identity in the complex environment we live in.

Also returning in 2021 are the hugely popular regular SLM offerings:

  • Eel Festival at Elizabeth Farm (March)
  • Easter Trails at Vaucluse House and Elizabeth Farm (April)
  • Autumn Harvest at Rouse Hill Estate (May)
  • NAIDOC Week at Elizabeth Farm and Rouse Hill Estate (July)
  • Family Fair at Rouse Hill House Estate (August)
  • Spring Harvest at Vaucluse House (September)
  • Sydney Open weekend long celebration of Sydney’s most significant landscapes, buildings and spaces (November)
  • Christmas Market at Hyde Park Barracks (December)

“This is a jam packed year for Sydney Living Museums and NSW State Archives and we are looking forward to sharing it with our audiences,” concluded Adam Lindsay.

Internship Opportunity promo tile


Design internship – Sydney Open 2022Thursday 2 June 2022

Reconstructing dinner in the Hyde Park Barracks destitute asylum

The Cook and the Curator

Reconstructing dinner in the Hyde Park Barracks destitute asylumThursday 10 November 2016

Bread and dripping, an ‘institution’

The Cook and the Curator

Bread and dripping, an ‘institution’Wednesday 14 September 2016

Kim Connors, intern, Hyde Park barracks

The Cook and the Curator

Kim Connors, intern, Hyde Park barracksWednesday 14 September 2016