Large group in bright pink shirts in courtyard.
Adam Lindsay with the Sydney Open project team in 2019. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
In his first 12 months as Executive Director of both Sydney Living Museums and its partner agency, NSW State Archives, Adam Lindsay has overseen remarkable achievements and unprecedented challenges. He sets out his vision for the year ahead, with a particular focus on creative and community partnerships. 

The past 12 months have been enormously rewarding as SLM has fascinated the public with its vast knowledge, expertise, superior hosting abilities and many notable achievements. This year, like cultural organisations around the world, we face uncertainty – and inevitable change. Consequently, we’re taking a lot of care and consideration in how we plan for the future. Central to this planning are partnerships, delivering new content, creativity – underpinned by a strong sense of scholarship and responsiveness to the contemporary – and an unwavering commitment to caring for the significant places and collections within our portfolio. 

Living history at the Hyde Park Barracks 

A wonderful example of partnership was the opening of the renewed Hyde Park Barracks museum in February, showcasing research and innovation from local and international talent, and accompanied by a stunning installation by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones. Seeing this installation take shape was one of the highlights of my year so far and signals our commitment to showcasing diverse voices and stories. 

We were also proud to forge a new partnership with the History Council of NSW, now operating out of the Justice & Police Museum. Then, in April, we announced our first resident artist based at The Mint. Florist Dr Lisa Cooper’s practice and research are beautifully matched with our properties, gardens, and the skills of our museum and horticulture staff. We’re pleased to support this leading not-for-profit organisation and talented Sydney-based artist, who both personify our commitment to contemporaneity, creativity, history, heritage and thoughtful research. 

We’re continuing to build new partnerships, and as we examine how COVID-19 impacts our flagship programs, such as Sydney Open, there will be many exciting announcements throughout the year ahead. We’re also supporting a diverse range of emerging artists, performers and creatives so that we can continue to bring our dedicated members and audiences authentic and interesting content and experiences, both onsite and online. 

Combining our talents 

The next 12 months will see our partnership with NSW State Archives deepen significantly. We’ll share more resources – building on the combined Finance, Human Resources, groundskeeping and Workplace Health & Safety teams – delivering sustainable outcomes for both organisations, as well as varied and meaningful development opportunities for team members. We’ll leverage the amazing NSW State Archives Collection to provide our members and audiences with more stories than ever before through our museums, online platforms and, of course, Unlocked. We’re creating a new interpretive display at Vaucluse House – focusing on the life of Sarah Cox before she married William Charles Wentworth – and navigating the complexities of mental illness in a new interpretation at Elizabeth Farm. These subject matters demonstrate our bold, creative content direction, establishing contemporary entry points into history for our audiences. The partnership between SLM and NSW State Archives, through the dedicated staff and expansive collections of both institutions, is integral to achieving this curatorial vision, which is sure to delight our members and visitors. 

The power of the collaboration between SLM and NSW State Archives is further demonstrated in the new online exhibition A Thousand Words. As curators Dr Penny Stannard and Nerida Campbell explore overleaf, the central philosophy of this exhibition is a bold one, founded in the belief that history belongs to everyone; we’re all living it as every moment fades into the next. Extending that further, we all have agency to interpret history, and this exhibition invites everyone to do just that. Engaging audiences from all over the world in a social media campaign, the user-generated content will be a featured component of the exhibition experience. Another highlight is the crop of artists, writers, illustrators, thinkers and performers who have contributed new works in response to the images featured in the exhibition – images drawn entirely from the collections of SLM and NSW State Archives. This creative and democratic approach to history exemplifies our ambitions and our potential in bringing engaging content to you. 

Leading the way 

The visibility and accessibility of the Senior Executive team is another significant feature of both the year that was, and the year that will be. As leaders, we aim to be continuously learning from our team, our visitors, members and donors, as well as our online audiences. An integral part of this is the ongoing presence of the Senior Executive team across our 12 sites, so that we can continue to have meaningful and diverse conversations – something I’ve enjoyed thoroughly over the past year. 

Finally, I want to congratulate the SLM staff, our family of donors, members and supporters, and our partners, old and new, on a truly superb set of achievements. Thank you all for your dedicated support thus far, and we look forward to sharing the exciting year ahead with you.

This story originally appeared in Unlocked: The Sydney Living Museums’ Gazette, our quarterly members’ magazine.

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About the author

Portrait shot of man in suit against wall.

Adam Lindsay

Executive Director

Adam Lindsay joined NSW State Archives and Records (SARA) in April 2017, becoming Executive Director in August 2018. From 1 July 2019, Adam also began leading Sydney Living Museums (SLM) as its Executive Director, signalling the start of a very exciting partnership, one that has enormous potential for both institutions.

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