Below you’ll find a changing selection of highlights from our collection and past exhibitions, plus fascinating stories and hands-on activities for your next crafternoon session.
We hope you will check in regularly to gain inspiration and discover something new.
Reproduction of a workbox said to have belonged to Elizabeth Macarthur
The ivory original of this reproduction workbox - which includes internal compartments, velvet pincushion and thimble - is said to have belonged to Elizabeth Macarthur (1840 – 1911; the grand-daughter of John and Elizabeth Macarthur, daughter of James and Emily nee Stone). Its whimsical shape represents a small rustic cottage with a gable roof compete with chimney. Epitomising the ethos “idle hands are the devils playground”, workboxes, and their larger counterpart the worktable, were a ubiquitous element in the Victorian domestic interior. They were designed in an often bewildering range of sizes, shapes and materials.
The original box survives in the Macarthur Onslow Family. Elizabeth Macarthur married Captain Arthur Onslow (1833 – 1882), a union that gave rise to the Macarthur-Onslow line of the family. The hyphenated name was granted by Royal Licence in 1892. The box was created by Ray Gurney, Sydney 1998, in conjunction with the Historic Houses Trust, for the furnishing of Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta.
Sewing box or work box, early 19th century
This sewing box or work box with needlework accessories was a much loved personal item of Anna Walker (nee Blaxland), who married Thomas Walker of Rhodes on the Parramatta River, NSW.
This workbox of octagonal plan, is comprised of a lac filled engraved ivory veneer exterior secured to a sandalwood base. It features black floral motif borders to the exterior. An octagonal removable tray lifts out from the interior and contains nine compartments. Each compartment has a decorated lid with brass handle with four oval-shaped miniature aquatints secured to the underside of hinged lid. Several needlework accessories are held within these compartments.
John Gollings: the history of the built world
Constantly innovating with photographic technologies, and investigating new subjects with a restless enthusiasm, Gollings has developed a distinctive visual style. Rather than documenting buildings in a way that reproduces the impersonal elevation plans of an architectural diagram, this style typically conveys a personal or physical connection with the structure being photographed, embedding the viewer in dramatic face-to-face encounters with built environments. Using a range of compositional techniques and visual effects to invest architecture with personality, he portrays buildings as lively habitats rather than static monuments. Read on.
Painting the Rocks: the loss of old Sydney
Against the backdrop of slum clearances, wharf rebuilding and debates about working-class living conditions, a group of artists set out to capture 'Old Sydney' before it disappeared in the city's transition to a modern metropolis. The first decades of the 20th century saw countless buildings from our colonial past torn down and whole streets disappear as Sydneysiders embraced the march of progress. Remarkably, in the midst of this change a conservation movement began to arise. Read on.
Eat your history: a shared table
What we eat and how we choose, prepare and consume our food reveals a lot about us. This exhibition celebrated our shared culinary past, from the early days of the colony through to the modern 1950s. From days of scarcity to abundance, the simple to the grandiose, the toil of servants ‘below stairs’ to the theatre of a lavish Victorian banquet, we explore lost and forgotten practices, ingredients and techniques, manners and etiquette, tastes and trends. Read on.