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Stories from our exhibitions

Current exhibitions

'Demonstrations were our internet'

Fifty years after the first gay rights organisation was founded in NSW, the activism of the 1970s still resonates.

Eight Days in Kamay

On 29 April 1770, the Gweagal people of Kamay (Botany Bay) discovered James Cook and his crew. 250 years later, those eight days and their impact are still being debated, contested, felt.

Curating Eight Days in Kamay

In 1770 the Gweagal people of Kamay (Botany Bay) discovered James Cook and the Endeavour. The Library’s new exhibition explores the eight days that followed.

Paintings from the Collection More than 300 original artworks from the Library’s unique collection of landscape and portrait paintings on permanent public display.

Americans on campus: part of the Works in Focus series

Sydney Teacher’s College was co-located on the grounds of Sydney University where American Military Police units were billeted, describing the impact of the Americans on campus. Part of the Works in Focus series.

A hint of eccentricity: a beautifully rendered, somewhat playful portrait

One of Australia’s most influential artists, George Washington Lambert (1873–1930), as part of the Works in Focus series.

After life: Maurice Felton’s portrait of 21-year-old Sophia

Looking at the portrait of this young woman, so full of life, you would never think it was painted after her death. But we know the sitter, posed so serenely in this picture, had died six months before it was exhibited at the artist’s Sydney studio. Part of the Works in Focus series.

‘A degree of neatness & regularity’: part of the Works in Focus series

Sydney — Capital New South Wales was painted around 1800 — its solid buildings and carefully laid out gardens refute the idea that it was a cesspit of depravity at a time when the city was associated with 'the awful depravity of human nature'.

Arresting gaze

A compelling portrait of a young colonial woman has been given new life. 

Behind the scenes in our new galleries

We’ve almost doubled our gallery space to show more of the Library’s collection and give exhibition visitors a chance to make their own connections.

An unknown warrior: mysterious portrait of an unknown, handsome young Aboriginal man

This mysterious portrait of an unknown, handsome young Aboriginal man is believed to have belonged to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, described as ‘One of the NSW Aborigines befriended by Governor Macquarie’. Part of the Works in Focus series.

Past exhibitions

Mythical country: Vietnam in 1950s posters

Looking through Vietnamese art posters collected in the 1950s elicits complicated feelings all these years later.

Reclaiming our story

A contributor to the Library’s Living Language exhibition reflects on Indigenous resistance, survival, and the New England linguicide.

Stories in the sun

The Library holds vast collections on Australian children’s book publishing in the ‘golden age’ of the 1970s and 80s.

Electric image: 1980s poster art and one Sydney band

An eye-catching poster got the message out for an emerging Sydney band in 1980.

Living language: Aboriginal languages in New South Wales

A major exhibition opening in July at the Library will celebrate UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Flash mob

Photographs from the Deadly Awards by Jamie James.

Dead Central: the Devonshire Street cemetery

Established in 1820, this cemetery became the final resting place for many Sydney-siders throughout the 19th century. The land was finally cleared in 1901 to make way for Sydney's new Central Station.

Arthur Moon, prisoner of war, 1943

Records of life in a Japanese POW camp, buried in 1943.

Quick march! The children of World War I

To mark the centenary of the peace year, 1919, we take an intimate look at the lives of children during the ‘war to end all wars’.

Stories from our migrant and refugee communities

The interviews delve into the personal stories of recently arrived migrants and their new lives in New South Wales, starting from birth and childhood and covering the (often harrowing) reasons they were compelled to leave their homes and seek safety in another country.

Armistice and peace: 'now that the war is over we realise what we’ve been through'

‘The Armistice – agreeing to cease hostilities’ was signed between Germany, France and Britain at 5 am on the morning of 11 November.

Memories on glass: extraordinary images of late 19th and early 20th century Sydney

In the days before digital and film photography, images were often taken on glass. But from the 1880s, development of ready-to-use 'dry plate' negatives and simpler cameras saw the rise of amateur photography.