Museum of Sydney

If you want to know more about Australia's largest city, the Museum of Sydney is an excellent place to start. It retraces Sydney history and tells about its present and the great people that shaped it.

It tells the story of the First Fleet and the colony, it acknowledges the culture of the Gadigal people, the Aboriginal inhabitants of the place. It follows Sydney's past and present and brings to life its ordinary people and its great visionaries.

museum of sydney, view of the entrance

The museum is close to Circular Quay, at the corner of Bridge and Phillip streets. It is open every day from 9 to 5, except Christmas day and Good Friday.

museum of sydney, government house

In 1788 Arthur Phillip, the first governor of New South Wales had a Government House built on the site.

Foundations of this old house are still there and you can have a look at the archaeological digs, under the floor.

And here is the new Government House, not far from the museum and overlooking the harbour, next to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

What Will You see Inside the Museum of Sydney?

The museum of Sydney houses permanent collections and various exhibitions.

The First Fleet Models

You can admire the models of the 11 ships which arrived in Botany Bay in January 1788 and then moved further north to Port Jackson to claim the territory for Britain.

Read the explanations to see what were their roles during the long voyage. Some carried food and supplies for the first two years of the new settlement, others carried military equipment and then others transported convicts and settlers.

The First Governors

Move on to see the exhibits and information about the first governors of New South Wales, who inhabited the first Government House, on the site where the Museum of Sydney stands today.

Documentaries about Sydney History

Enter the movie hall to see short films about Sydney and how it changed with time.

The Trade Wall

The wall, right next to the cinema hall, has glass cases with samples of goods coming from various countries across the world. They show that Sydney was a busy commercial port with lots of ships bringing in all the goodies people of the time needed.

Gadigal Gallery

The Gadigal people are the Aboriginal inhabitants of Sydney. The gallery provides information about their way of life, culture and history.

Sydney Visionaries

Browse the display that reveals the genius and stories of ten strong visionaries who influenced the development of Sydney and its urban footprint. Among them:

  • Arthur Phillip, the founder of Sydney
  • John Bradfield, the engineer who designed the Harbour Bridge
  • Jorn Utzon, the brilliant architect of the Opera House. You can see a model of his original concept and then compare to the actual building.
  • The multiple award winning architect Harry Seidler, the architect of the Australia Square building, an office tower, which was the tallest building in Sydney in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

australia square, designed by architect Harry Seidler

There are many more galleries with various exhibits that educate you about the largest city in Australia.

But what I really found fascinating were two panoramic images of Sydney, the first taken in 1864 and the second one, matching the first, but taken in 2008 from Sydney Observatory. What a huge transformation from a small commercial harbour with a lot of empty spots to the energetic tourist city packed with architectural and cultural icons!

If history is your hobby, then don't miss the other Sydney museums that revive Sydney history: Susanah Place and The Discovery Museums, both in the Rocks.

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