Installation shot of the exhibition installed in the Focus gallery of the Museum of Sydney. Photo © Sydney Living Museums

Skint! Making do in the Great Depression

How did people in Sydney survive the tough times of the 1930s? Will we ever see the same levels of hardship again, and is there anything we can learn today from looking at how people coped in the past?

While it was a period of terrible hardship for many, the Great Depression was also a time when people showed incredible ingenuity to survive and make ends meet: thrifty ways of reusing and recycling commodities, growing vegetables and raising chooks, bartering, sharing recipes and resources, with increased levels of community and charitable support for others.

The city of Sydney was hit harder than other parts of the country, with nearly a third of our workforce unemployed in 1933. Evictions were rife as out-of-work families failed to meet their rental payments and newspapers reported pitched street battles between police and anti-eviction protesters. Soup kitchens were set up in school yards, and many hundreds of families were forced to shelter in caves or build their own humpies on the city fringes and along the coast.

Skint! Making do in the Great Depression explores the spirit and flavour of life in Sydney in the 1930s: the community spirit and political activism, everyday life and key events and personalities of the period. It brings together evocative images, objects, oral histories and film to help us understand the story of Sydney in the Great Depression.

Thank you to the Brotherhood of St Laurence who generously allowed us to include film footage in the exhibition.

27 March 2010 - 25 July 2010