Join us for an exciting program of talks and seminars on literary, historical and contemporary issues, together with presentations about, and showings of, the Library's rich collections.

You can also listen to selected talks online.

Arthur Phillip

Wednesday 20 August, 12.30 PM

Talk: Admiral Arthur Phillip: The Man (SOLD OUT)

Admiral Arthur Phillip holds a unique place in Australian history as the first governor of New South Wales. While we know of his achievements and have numerous official records on his public life, as we approach the bicentenary of Phillip’s death, author Lyn Ferguson discusses the man behind the public persona. She will walk us through his family background, early life, and his impressive career. In doing so, Phillip the man will be fleshed out, clearly illustrating this fascinating character.
Paul Lancaster

Thursday 21 August, 12.30 PM

Talk: Bitesize talk with Paul Lancaster “Sydney doctors in the Great War”

Among more than 2,000 graduates, academic and general staff, and students from the University of Sydney who served in the Great War, about one-third were from Sydney Medical School. When war was declared in August 1914, many doctors soon volunteered for service. These doctors served at Gallipoli, Palestine and Egypt, on the Western Front in France and Belgium, and in New Guinea and the Pacific. Biographical sketches will illustrate their varied war service and facets of their subsequent careers.

In association with the Life Interrupted exhibition.


Thursday 21 August, 6.00 PM

Special event: The Australian Poetry Slam: Life Interrupted

This Australian Poetry Slam heat is a special one-off response to the idea of "Conflict" using material from the Library's latest exhibition Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from World War 1 to inspire our new generation of wordsmiths. They tackle war, loss, refugees, families, misguided leaders and more; interpreting the Conflict in their own words. With only two minutes and judges picked from the audience, who will win the hearts and minds of the crowd?

In association with the Life Interrupted exhibition.


Saturday 23 August, 2.00 PM

Talk: Honouring Thea Astley

In its annual Honouring Australian Writers series, the NSW Writers’ Centre and the
State Library pay tribute to writers who have made an important contribution to our literary culture.

Tuesday 26 August, 12.30 PM

Talk: Bitesize Lunchtime Talk: "Almost Invincible" with Suzanne Burdon

Suzanne Burdon talks about her new book, Almost Invincible: A Biographical Novel of Mary Shelley. Join Suzanne as she charts the unconventional life of Shelley, author of the ground-breaking novel Frankenstein. Burdon charts Shelley’s life as she travels across Europe with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and her stepsister Claire, an ever present third person in the relationship.

Justice Michael Pembroke

Wednesday 27 August, 6.00 PM

Talk: Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy With Justice Michael Pembroke (SOLD OUT)

On the bicentenary of Admiral Arthur Phillip’s death, author Justice Michael Pembroke discusses Phillip’s extraordinary life. In his time Phillip journeyed across the world from England to France, crossing Spain to Brazil and onto Australia. Along the way he was employed by the English government as a spy and travelled far and wide on secret missions. Join Michael as he tells the unique story of this fascinating historical figure.

Arthur Phillip

Thursday 28 August, 6.00 PM

Special event: Out of the Vaults: Governor Arthur Phillip (SOLD OUT)

Appointed as the first Governor of the colony of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip died on 31 August 1814. Join us as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of his death. Curator Louise Anemaat will present a selection of items from the Library’s collections which document Phillips’ role in the early years of the colony. Included will be a letter dated 3 July 1788 from Arthur Phillip to the Marquis of Lansdowne, in which he states that Port Jackson is ‘a more eligible Situation for the Colony, & being without exception the finest Harbour in the World’

This event is part of the Out of the Vaults series.

Image: family history tree

Friday 29 August, 2.00 PM

Talk: Newspapers for family history (BOOKED OUT)

This talk is fully booked.

Newspapers contain a wealth of information for family history, you can find birth, death and marriage notices, shipping intelligence and court news. Learn what newspaper resources the Library has and how to access them.

This event is part of the National Family History Month series.

John Macarthur

Tuesday 2 September, 11.00 AM

Talk: Scholarly Musings - Patrick Dodd: 'John Macarthur - Visionary or Villain'?

Macarthur is remembered by most people for laying the foundations of the great Australian wool industry. In fact he spent so much time away from home fighting Governors and facing a court martial in England his practical achievements owe a very great deal to the persistence and loyalty of his wife and sons. He was a complex character. Some saw him as scheming and devious with disdain for any official who dared to thwart his ambitions. Others saw him as a brilliant publicist and organiser who did much to focus and promote attention to the potential of the colony. He achieved a great deal but his combative temperament, and a debilitating illness contracted on his way to Australia, prevented him from achieving much more.

This event is part of the Scholarly Musings series.


Thursday 4 September, 5.00 PM

Talk: The Price of Independence

Independent Scholars Association of Australia, NSW Chapter, in association with The State Library of NSW, present a conversation between Tony Windsor and Cheryl Kernot.

Thoreau writes: 'I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion.' But does independence always betoken freedom and does it come at a price?


Friday 5 September, 6.00 PM

Special event: 2014 NSW Premier's History Awards Presentation and launch of History Week

Join shortlisted authors, historians, publishers and producers in a glittering celebration of excellence in the interpretation of history through the written word and non-print media.
Image of Princess Fawzia, sister of King Farouk

Tuesday 23 September, 6.00 PM

Talk: The Fall of the last Royal House of Egypt and the First Revolution, July 1952

King Farouk of Egypt's cataclysmic last 3 days is the subject of this hour long journey back to a now mythical, lost, forgotten world, even to the Egyptians. The first Egyptian revolution in 1952 saw the end of the last royal house of Egypt, the most glamorous court in the East or anywhere since Versailles. Lorenzo Montesini takes you back to that exotic country called the past, when Egypt and the Middle East changed direction impacting history in the wider world.

South Sea Whale Fishery

Tuesday 7 October, 11.00 AM

Talk: Scholarly Musings - Stephen Martin: The work and papers of Dr William Dawbin, whaling historian and cetacean scientist.

Stephen Martin talks about the work and papers of Dr William Dawbin, whaling historian and cetacean scientist. For the last half of the twentieth century, Dawbin was a respected and authoritative member of the scientific community, contributing information and analysis on whaling history and biology to his colleagues and to the formal institutions then controlling whaling. For many years he was a member of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission, and worked to provide accurate assessments of the whaling catch and its viability. Perhaps his most significant contribution was the plotting of the tempo and make up of the humpback whale migrations that annually embrace the coasts of New Zealand and Australia. After the banning of whaling, Dawbin was a central figure in the flow of information about the surveys and sightings that described the slow return in numbers of humpback whales in Australasian waters.

This event is part of the Scholarly Musings series.

Mr Howard Vernon

Tuesday 4 November, 11.00 AM

Talk: Scholarly Musings - Dr Kevin Hewitt: Howard Vernon (1848-1921)

Howard Vernon (1848-1921), the stage name of John Lett, was a major star of the Australasian musical stage. His professional career took him overseas in the late 1870s, primarily to Asia, while garnering some experience with companies in the United Kingdom and California before he returned to Australia and was contracted to JC Williamson, with whom he would be associated mainly in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas for most of the next twenty-five years.
Vernon's career offers a prime example of the energy and adaptability required to survive in the colonial theatre. Kevin Hewitt has been retired for some 12 years in which time he has been able to indulge his passion for Gilbert and Sullivan which culminated in the conferring of a PhD in 2012 through Sydney University on the life of Vernon. He has been a volunteer at the State Library since his retirement.

This event is part of the Scholarly Musings series.

Celebrating 75 Years

Tuesday 18 November, 9.00 AM

Seminar: Libraries for the People: the 11th Australian Library History Forum 18 - 19 November

2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the NSW Library Act 1939. The Library Act 1939 was passed by State Parliament on 3 November 1939 and led to the provision of free public library services for the people of NSW.

In recognition of the anniversary of the passing of this landmark legislation, this year’s forum will focus on the development of public libraries in Australia. Topics will include governance and legislation, personalities, services to indigenous communities, library referenda and public library predecessors and competitors.

Please note this seminar runs over two days.

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