Meet our members: Dr Lisa Murray & Dr Mark Dunn

For our Autumn edition of Unlocked, we sat down with historians and members Lisa and Mark to chat about their love of history and Sydney Living Museums.

When did your interest in history begin?

LM: My parents were always interested in culture, taking my sister and me on driving holidays around NSW, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, visiting galleries, museums, historic spots and cemeteries – as well as ‘big’ things (such as the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, the Big Prawn in Ballina, and more recently the Giant Murray Cod in Swan Hill)! My appreciation of history evolved from this. I also had some excellent history teachers in high school who really encouraged me in my studies.

MD: Both my parents are descended from convicts (one of whom spent a night or two in the Hyde Park Barracks), a fact that was often part of family stories and reunions. My father was also a great storyteller, and regaled us with tales of his and his two brothers’ antics in the 1930s and 1940s. These stories drew me into the family and local history, which in turn sparked my interest in Australian history more broadly.

What inspired you both to become members?

SLM has always offered a range of exhibitions and programs that educate and break new ground in our understanding of Australian history. The mix of lectures and more interactive events are appealing to us as historians and we want to support the work of the organisation. We also respect the work of SLM in conserving private historic dwellings and selling them under covenant to protect their heritage values. What’s so good about SLM isn’t just the range and types of properties in the collection, but also the historical rigour that goes into presenting each place. The collection held in the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection is invaluable to understanding the properties, as well as architecture and interiors more broadly, and is an important resource for us as historians.

Of our 12 museums and historic houses, is there one you’re particularly drawn to and why?

Each of the properties has something special to offer and each interests us in different ways. We collect contemporary furniture, so Rose Seidler House is an inspiration. We go regularly to the exhibitions at the Museum of Sydney, as we’re both urban historians. We only recently visited Rouse Hill House & Farm (even though we’ve been members for years!) and were blown away by the collection of buildings and their contents, as well as the gardens and farm landscape. 

What do you love most about being a member of SLM? 

We look forward to receiving the Unlocked magazine each quarter and Sydney Open is always a highlight for our extended families each year. Of course, SLM membership gives us unlimited access to the properties, and opportunities to attend innovative events and informative lectures.

Dr Lisa Murray is the City Historian at the City of Sydney Council, and Dr Mark Dunn is the Deputy Chair of the Heritage Council.

If you’re a member and want to share your experience with us, please email

Dr Mark Dunn and Dr Lisa Murray at The Mint.
Dr Mark Dunn and Dr Lisa Murray at The Mint. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

Sydney Living Museums cares for 12 of the most important museums, historic houses and gardens in New South Wales. 

Becoming a member is one of the best ways to experience our museums with year-round free entry, exclusive events and more. You’ll also be helping support our conservation work. 

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

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