Unlocked SLM

Unlocked Winter Edition 2014

Welcome to the Winter 2014 online edition of the Sydney Living Museums' Gazette: Unlocked.

Here at Sydney Living Museums we are passionate about discovering the hidden histories of 12 historic houses and museums. Objects lost below the floorboards, a coat of paint or even a mark on a wall can potentially tell us so much about the everyday lives of people who called our places home long ago. 

These stories are shared in Unlocked, our new quarterly magazine. Within each edition, tales from inside our homes and gardens will be told by staff throughout our organisation. 

In our latest issue we look at the life of Governor Arthur Phillip, check in on our wonderful team of volunteers and head underground to discover what lies beheath the Hyde Park Barracks Museum. And in our feature story, 'If these walls could talk' our curators peel back the layers from the walls and floors of our properties to reveal some suprising stories. 

These are just some of the great articles on offer, so jump right in and read the stories of your city.

Looking through doorway at table with white tablecloth and old fashioned iron on top, with pale green chairs behind and view of fireplace with light fitting above.
View through door into the kitchen, 60 Gloucester Street, Susannah Place Museum. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

From our director

Portrait of Mark
Mark Goggin. Photo © Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums
Our colonial history and contemporary architecture share a special, everchanging relationship.

This connection was particularly clear as I walked around our Iconic Australian Houses exhibition and was struck by the poignant words of architect Richard Leplastrier, who suggests, ‘When a house is first of all inhabited, that is not its most beautiful stage at all. It is only after it has been used with love that something gets to be deeply beautiful’. He talks of the ‘fit’ of a building with its client, and poetically describes houses as ‘outer garments’ for our lives.

The theme of this issue, ‘If these walls could talk’, captures the spirit of Leplastrier’s idea that architecture shapes our lives and that we transform our buildings in return. We explore how, over time, a place becomes imbued with the layered stories of the lives that have been lived within its walls.


Sharing stewardship of Throsby Park

View of front verandah and door with white columns, flagstones and garden beyond.
North-east face of Throsby Park House, Moss Vale (detail). Serenely sited on top of a low rise, Throsby Park homestead looks out across rich farmlands towards distant rolling hills. Photo © Giddy Design and Photography
In April we announced that Throsby Park - one of the Southern Highlands' most significant historic places - would be offered to the market for long-term lease.

A colonial homestead and farming estate near Moss Vale, about 140 kilometres south of Sydney, Throsby Park was transferred to Sydney Living Museums from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in 2010. It is one of the state's best surviving colonial rural complexes and is listed in the NSW Heritage Register.

Red Brick Home

Grey scale illustration of brick house with fence behind and chimney with smoke.
Illustration from Design book: brick dwellings (detail), State Savings Bank of Victoria, 1936. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums
As part of our year-long Home & Architecture program, we're asking the question, 'What is the truly iconic Australian home?'

From the Hyde Park Barracks to the Californian bungalow, bricks have been fundamental to how Sydney architecture has developed.

Beauty in brick

When we take a bird’s-eye look at Sydney, we see rows of red-tiled roofs atop humble brick homes. It’s how most people live; in fact brick has featured as a building material since the 1800s. Our Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection holds numerous 19th-century catalogues, including Suburban & Rural Architecture: English and Foreign (1867), all rich in colourful designs for elaborate brick archways, columns and window ledges. And by the 1920s, the Californian bungalow style, which was built of brick and timber, had become very popular. In 1952 a brick feature wall proudly made the cover of Australian House & Garden, and a State Savings Bank of Victoria housing catalogue enticed homebuyers with designs for ‘Beauty … in brick.’ The second-half of the 20th century saw brick secured as the primary material of choice for our homes.

Building the future

Has this love of brick now gone, relegated to the dustbin of Australian cultural history? Not at all. Look around and you can see the signs of a brick revival. The new Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology Sydney, designed by Frank Gehry, which incorporates 320,000 custom-designed bricks, is a fine example, as is the work of award-winning architect Hannah Tribe, who takes little red brick boxes and transforms them into something special. Her design for House Maher at Willoughby reimagines the traditional brick gable shape against a fresh modern palette. So what types of homes will fill the vacant suburban blocks of tomorrow? Is it possible that brick will transform its aesthetic, maximise its sustainable properties and remain an economically viable building material for Australians in the future? This is the question we pose in our new design competition.

Design competition

27 Smith Street: the home of tomorrow

In partnership with Austral Bricks, Sydney Living Museums presents architects and architecture students with a unique design challenge. Our competition calls on entrants to make brick the new black and design a brick home for 27 Smith Street, a hypothetical suburban block. The competition is divided into two categories: professional and student. The prize pool is $10,000, with the winning student also given the opportunity of a mentorship with Hannah Tribe, founder of Tribe Studio Architects. Entries open on 2 June and close on 25 July 2014. 


Be part of Sydney Open 2 November 2014

Looking up at rose window at front of synagogue, with ironwork and lamps below.
The Great Synagogue, Castlereagh Street, Sydney Open 2012. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

As we prepare to throw open our doors for the 10th Sydney Open, we’re once again relying on the support of hundreds of volunteers. This popular biennial event is back for one day only, giving curious Sydneysiders the opportunity to see the city’s award-winning contemporary designs, much-loved heritage buildings and architectural treasures. We’ll shortly be recruiting volunteers to welcome visitors, marshal queues and lead tours at the event. Volunteers are also needed to perform more senior planning roles, such as liaising with building owners, organising logistics and managing volunteers.

Dream Home, Small Home

Cover of book, with title Home Plans. Illustration of man sitting at desk drawing plans.
68 page book of plans for post-war homes edited by Eve Gye. For further details see CSL&RC library catalogue. Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums

Today most new homes in NSW are bought ready-built, but life was very different in the decade after World War II. For many people, do-it-yourself construction was the only way to achieve the dream of home ownership. Our Dream Home – Small Home exhibition, curated by staff from the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, will transport you to a time when bookstalls, department stores and daily newspapers provided the blueprints for Australian homes. The Australian Home Beautiful, for example, worked with the Small Homes Service of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects to publish a new plan in every issue of their magazine. The designs were modern and adapted to the Australian climate, and the watchwords were economy, space saving and convenience.



Ambition and adventure: the early life of Arthur Phillip

Portrait of man in uniform with black hat, standing on beach with ship and small boat in background.
The pioneer, in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip R.N. proceeded from Botany Bay to Port Jackson, Henry Macbeth-Raeburn, 1936, hand coloured mezzotint. National Library of Australia
As we approach the bicentenary of Arthur Phillip’s death we look back at the early life of this intriguing man, who had enjoyed an extraordinary career before he even set foot on a boat bound for Botany Bay.

As dawn broke on 13 May 1787, Governor Arthur Phillip(1738–1814) gave the signal to weigh anchor, and the 11 ships assembled at Portsmouth – carrying 1500 convicts, officers and marines – set sail on a remarkable journey to the ends of the earth.

If these walls could talk...

Interior of kitchen showing window, fireplace, table and chairs and shelving, with props including hanging towel, food canisters on mantelpiece and other household items.
No 58 kitchen recreated to the 1950s, when it was home to the Anderson family, Susannah Place Museum. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
Our curators peel back the layers from the walls and floors to reveal the humble histories of our places and the stories of the everyday people who lived there.

Here at Sydney Living Museums, the longer we work in our history-filled places, the more we discover about the people who, quite literally, shaped them. We read their stories in the marks and stains, the layers of paint and wallpaper, the objects lost below the floorboards and the changes that come with time.

As our curators question, research and tease out the real stories of these places, we invite our visitors to experience something of the lives of the people who once lived there.



Tracing family connections

The dining room at Rouse Hill House
The dining room at Rouse Hill House Photograph Scott Hill for Sydney Living Museums
Using treasured objects from our collections, we chart the unique relationship between Rouse Hill House (c1813) and Meroogal (1885).

On first glance at the photo here you’ll see an 1890s-style table setting re-created in the dining room at Rouse Hill House; however, take a closer look and you’ll find clues to the Rouse family’s fascinating friendships with the residents of Meroogal in Nowra.

Curator profile

Dig a little deeper

Woman seated on hammock in middle of row of other hammocks, holding convict shoe.
Curator Dr Fiona Starr with a rare convict shoe that was found beneath the floorboards of Hyde Park Barracks. Photograph © Scott Finneran
Fruit seeds, fragile fragments and family history – archaeologist and curator Dr Fiona Starr shares her discoveries.



Turning the leaves of Australian garden history

Picture from the Yokohama Nursery Company
TC 635 YOK/2 Front cover of the Yokohama Nursery Company's descriptive catalogue for 1903 featuring a chromolithographed illustration of Prunus pseudo-cerasus (Flowering cherry). Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection, Photograph (c) Jamie North, Sydney Living Museums
The Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection comes into bloom with a beautiful collection of rare Yokohama Nursery Company catalogues.

In the second half of the 19th century, a craze for Japanese arts and culture swept through Western literary and artistic circles, resulting in an aesthetic style that came to be known as ‘Japonisme’.