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Back to school!

children in costumes

Welcome to the 2019 school year.

We're feeling pretty excited and it’s going to be a big one at the State Library. We would love to share with you some of the great things we have planned.

At the end of 2018 the Library was turned inside out with the opening of six new exhibitions and a fabulous learning centre. The opportunities for deep engagement with extraordinary collections have never been greater and we look forward to welcoming students and teachers to the Library in 2019.

Exhibition highlights include:


This exhibition showcases six collections listed with the UNESCO Memory of the World register and offers a unique opportunity to view the most significant Library collections in one place. First Fleet journals, WWI diaries, the original manuscript for Core of my Heart, the largest glass plate negative in the world – part of the Holtermann collection, and papers from ‘enemy aliens’ interned in camps in Australia are all on display until the 5th of May.

This exhibition marks significant points in our development as a nation and is the perfect history excursion for all stages of learning. Learning Services staff provide age appropriate, engaging and interactive tours of this exhibition as part of our Library adventure tours.

Paintings from the collection

Did you know the Library holds one of the nation’s richest collections of Australian art? Three hundred works from this collection are on display and we have developed a number of engaging programs for this exhibition. Face to Face, a program tailored to all stages of learning, will engage students with the people and places that tell the stories of Australia’s history and develop critical thinking and visual literacy skills. Interactive tours with props bring to life the people and places featured in this exhibition.

Sydney Elders

Curator Jonathon Jones describes Aboriginal elders as ‘libraries’ and in this rich and captivating exhibition we have the opportunity to engage with four elders as they share stories of connection to country, resilience and continuity of culture.

New exhibitions coming later in 2019 include:

Quick March! The Children of World War I

March to October 2019

This exhibition offers an intimate, personal look at children’s lives during the First World War. Built around a remarkable collection of family correspondence, it chronicles the lives, loves and losses of children whose relatives served on the Front. As young adults, these children went on to serve in the Second World War, just 20 years after the jubilation of peace in 1919.

Dead Central

May to November 2019

Dead Central will take you on a journey back to 19th century Sydney, to a place which was then outside the boundaries of the town; a place where Sydney buried its dead. This immersive exhibition is an audio experience and as visitors move through the exhibition, each new chapter will reveal more about the story of the Devonshire Street cemetery.

Waking Up Language

 July to November 2019

In support of the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages, this major exhibition focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The exhibition will be a celebration of the strength and diversity of Australian languages, an opportunity to showcase achievements in language strength from across NSW and the ACT, and a forum for exploring the challenges and issues involved. 


two boys in colonial costumes one holding a newspaper and one holding a hammer

The John B Fairfax Learning Centre

Our new learning centre has been attracting a lot of attention and we are delighted with the way it's working for our audiences. This magical space is truly inspiring, and we look forward to delivering our school excursions in this flexible learning space. Find out about our suite of onsite excursions here. All programs are curriculum linked, include viewing original collection items and are highly engaging, memorable learning experiences. All our educators are highly experienced, qualified teachers.

New programs in 2019 include:

Significant Australians - this Stage 3 program will develop skills of historical inquiry as students research significant Australians such as Caroline Chisholm, Quong Tart and Mary Reibey. Working in small groups, students will explore the contribution individuals have made to the nation, think critically about information and present their findings as a digital animation. 

Stories in Surprising Places - we are delighted to offer, for the first time, a program designed for early learners. Four options are available and all involve engagement with original collection materials in our beautiful exhibition galleries, stories and craft activities. All programs are 45 minutes and suitable for groups of 3-5 year olds.

If you can’t come to us, please consider engaging with exhibitions and collection via video conference. In 2019 we will be launching a new program of video conferences including exhibition tours so stay tuned as we roll that out. Remember the best way to stay up to date with what’s new in Learning is to sign up for our enewsletter.

Online learning activities offer teachers curriculum linked learning activities with no preparation or equipment – just your IWB. If you are working as a stage leader or a casual teacher in 2019 this is a one stop shop so make yourself a cup of tea and explore the many activities available.

If you have any questions about our programs please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 9273 1778 or email us at

Good luck for 2019 - we look forward to welcoming you to the Library!