2011 Cultural Heritage Conservation Commendation (for Innovation) – UNESCO
2011 Australian Sustainability Awards, Small Commercial
2010 Heritage Planning Award – Planning Institute Australia
Over 74,000 school students have taken part in archaeological programs about the site since The Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre opened in 2010. The centre enables interactive, multilayered and engaging educational experiences which bring the histories of Sydney and Australia to life for thousands of students each year.
The Big Dig site was a bus depot and car park from the 1950s until 1994, when the bitumen was lifted and the site excavated. The foundations of 46 buildings and over a million cultural artefacts were revealed, providing a rare insight into early urban life in Sydney from the early years of the colony to the beginning of the 20th century.
The Big Dig programs are presented by a dynamic team of educators from Sydney Learning Adventures, the educational unit of Place Management NSW. Sydney Learning Adventures also offer educational programs led by Aboriginal guides, exploring local Aboriginal culture and history, the arrival of Europeans and ‘first contact’ as well as the impact of colonisation on both settler and Aboriginal children and families.
At The Big Dig, students work like archaeologists, following the archaeological process from research and planning prior to excavation, the careful recording of a ‘dig’, the analysis and cataloguing of artefacts, and finally summation and report writing. Questions about the ethical issues involved, and the conservation, interpretation and presentation of archaeological sites are also explored.
Contributions from guests staying at Sydney Harbour YHA support the ongoing conservation and interpretation of The Big Dig site, including its educational role. This approach, along with the hostel’s architectural design, which minimises its impact on the site, contributed to the commendation from UNESCO for cultural heritage conservation.
The Big Dig archaeological site and education centre
Talks, tours & more
A selection of artefacts from the site will be on display in The Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre.
For children there will be a simulated excavation (ages 6–12) and artefacts analysis activities (ages 10–16), along with an all ages friendly animation and pictures slideshow exploring how the site has changed over time.
Please note the laneways of the site are open to the public throughout the day.
Please avoid photographing children in the education centre