Sydney at Federation

The exhibition, Sydney at Federation, focused on the 1890-1910 period in Sydney and traced the transition of Sydney from a Victorian city combining houses, retail, industry and grand public buildings to a twentieth century city of movement, rapid transport and specialised urban infrastructure.

’This period saw attention being given to the creation of a template for modern Sydney with a focus on major public works such as the city railway, the Harbour Bridge and modern wharves, altering Sydney irrevocably’, said Curators of the exhibition, Caroline Mackaness and Caroline Butler-Bowdon.

’Just as 1901 brought constitutional maturity to Australia, Sydney at federation traced its urban equivalent, as Sydney overtook Melbourne as Australia’s largest city and became the first to confront the modern urban problems of congestion and public squalor’, said Caroline Mackaness and Caroline Butler-Bowdon.

Many of Sydney’s landmarks had their genesis in the Federation decade. These include the Circular Quay railway, Central railway and the Harbour Bridge. Sydney’s urban development and growth mirrored the growth in colonial confidence and affluence where investment in urbanity and public spaces became crucial elements of civic pride and identity. Under the management of Government Architect James Barnet significant buildings like the GPO, The Town Hall and Sydney Hospital were built.

Sydney at Federation immersed you in the streetscapes and public spaces of Victorian Sydney using over 60 archival photographs and film footage and interactive panoramas of Sydney’s turn-of-the-century cityscape. The centrepiece was a set of detailed models of 1880s King Street that provided a rare glimpse of the lost world of Victorian Sydney contrasted against images of Sydney at the start of this new millennium.

Sydney at Federation also paid tribute to the pageantry of Federation through a display of filmic images, photographs and mementos of the events that Sydneysiders revelled in during the 1901 celebrations. These celebrations were reinterpreted by artist Gary Carsley with the creation of a modern-day Triumphal Arch for the Museum of Sydney viewing cube.

Sydney at Federation was an official event of the New South Wales Centenary of Federation.

23 December 2000 - 17 June 2001

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