Openbook online

The Library's quarterly magazine has had makeover and is now called Openbook. Read a selection of articles here.

Spring 2023

Elisabeth Cummings

Elizabeth Fortescue on the great artist who has two major exhibitions happening this year.

The Clift edge

Caroline Baum thinks about writer Charmian Clift’s legacy on the centenary of her birth.

A second home

The libraries that made me.

40 boxes

Inez Baranay reflects on her complicated biographical subject, Sasha Soldatow.

Winter 2023

The Bard of Eccentricities

The centenary of writer Elizabeth Jolley’s birth prompts a literary biographer to revisit her complicated life and work.

What Pip did next

The bestselling writer of The Dictionary of Lost Words has a new book.

When Sydney came to town

Architect Nino Sydney gave his adopted city high-end design at an affordable price.

All the Will in the world

The 1623 volume, Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories & Tragedies, aka the ‘First Folio’, is 400 years old this year. Why is it so special?

Autumn 2023

Peter Kingston’s kingdom

Elizabeth Fortescue writes about the late artist’s Lavender Bay home, a work of art itself.

Library tourism

Mark Dapin’s wish-list of the most beautiful libraries in the world to visit.

The Flying Pieman of Sydney, en pointe

Rediscovering costume drawings for a ballet that never was.

A boy’s devotion to books and love

The library that made me.

Summer 2022

Send for Nellie

Singer, performer, toast of the town.

William Yang and Sydney

A landmark 1977 exhibition was a snapshot of the city.

Betty jumps high

Fifty years ago, a group of women made history on and off the stage.

I feel like a Tooheys ... or two

Research in the Library’s manuscripts collection can be thirsty work.

The Blue Road

The untold story of French novelist Hélène Bessette and her poetic novel, La Route Bleue, a love story set in 1940s Sydney.

One library that began a story.

The library that made me.

Enemy aliens

Artworks — never before seen — by some of the ‘Dunera boys’ go on display in Orange, the place where many of the works were created.

A capital idea

Decorated initials — artworks in themselves — have a long history.

Spring 2022

Fit for a queen

A luncheon inspired by the Queen’s 1954 visit.

Desert Trees

The Larapinta Trail shifts what a nature writer thought she knew about trees.

A capital idea

Decorated initials — artworks in themselves — have a long history.

Rain and Blood

A poem.

The recalcitrant priest

The little-explored Therry papers are a window into the early penal colony of NSW.

The future is fungi

Without nature’s alchemists, the world as we know it would not exist. Now we are beginning to understand fungi’s restorative role.

The flat roofs of Sydney

A design feature used by big-name modernist architects appeared first in a handful of houses on Sydney’s lower North Shore.

Winter 2022

The life & death of Smith's Weekly

The death of a newspaper plays out in a box of cartoons.

The writer & the archivist

Rose de Freycinet, a nineteenth-century French woman, stowaway and diarist, unites a writer and an archivist 200 years later.

All well & good

Twenty-first-century notions of wellness have a long lineage.

Before I get to the good bits

The library that made me.

The printer’s mark

That curious penguin on the spine of your favourite paperback isn’t there just for decoration.

A changing world

Children’s picture books reflect the world that makes them, but must try to remake that world too.

The Fighting Sands Brothers

Sport — including boxing — has long been one arena where First Nations talent has been celebrated.

Autumn 2022

Allen Ginsberg in Australia

Fifty years ago, the Beat poet and living symbol of the counterculture toured Australia, during a time of personal, spiritual and political awakening.

On literary merit

We may find it easy to give a book one star, or five, but what do we really mean by the phrase ‘literary merit’?

Self-portrait: Andrew Pippos

We asked award-winning author Andrew Pippos to write something personal for our autumn issue of Openbook magazine.

Sweet and sour

Steamed, stir-fried or roasted, Chinese food in Australia has a long and evolving history.

The graphic design of Donald Fish

Boxes filled with artwork, illustrations, posters, photographs and advertisements mark an acclaimed designer's life.

Grand vistas

Sixteen panoramas will displayed in the inaugural exhibition of the Library’s new Drawings, Watercolours and Prints Gallery.

The sound of words

What’s the process for turning words on a page into words in your ear?

Embracing the uncertainty

Science writer Jackson Ryan travels to Antarctica, via Mars, distant asteroids and tardigrades.

Summer 2021

A global view

The artistry of centuries-old globes is only one aspect of their continuing allure.

And the winner is …

What impact do prizes have on Australia’s literary ecosystem?

See also

The library that made me.

Wildest dreams

Emily Bitto's second novel raises compelling questions about writing and living.


A short story.

Recasting sandstone country

Sydney’s sandstone tells a story of deep time, colonial geology and a future in the balance.

Shelling the prawns

A poem by Sarah Holland-Batt.

Real cricket

As an advocate for and chronicler of women's cricket in Australia, Lorna Thomas fitted more than a lifetime into three boxes.

Spring 2021

Q&A with Amani Haydar

Lawyer, artist and women’s advocate Amani Haydar honours her mother’s life in her new memoir.

The company of rats

A short story.

Going to ground

To learn the history of a town, start in its quietest place.

A glossary of tapu terms

Inspired by Amrita Hepi.

Reimagining the Pacific

While the Pacific has loomed large in Australia’s history, there is a riddle at the heart of our relationship with the region.

Coming home

A life, as much as a gathering of words, is a story of places. It begins and ends with soil beneath feet, water within heart.

A fleeting return

Beauty and rarity were irresistible in the search for the Paradise Parrot one hundred years ago, as they are for birders today.

Then and now: Corner shops

In the days before self-serve checkouts, 24/7 petrol stations and on-demand deliveries, most Aussie families flocked to their nearest corner shop.

Winter 2021

Novel thinking

Jamie Marina Lau began her second novel in a dream-like state that belies her intense research.

On kindness

The opposite of kindness is not cruelty or malice. It is reason.

New chapters

On diversity, discomfort and the turning of a new page for the Australian publishing industry.

Q&A with Vashti Hughes

Underground theatre and cabaret performer Vashti Hughes talks about her one-woman show Dictionary by a Bitch: The Journals of Bee Miles.

Strike me pink!

Has news of the demise of Australian English been greatly exaggerated?

Spine tingling

Looking closely at the spine could unlock the mystery of a rare book, or it could raise more questions.

Including others in this email

A short story.

Woman of spice

Long before Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules and Great Bake Offs, a homegrown celebrity cook introduced the newly federated Australia to a horizon of taste, practicality and sophistication.

Autumn 2021

Beyond belief

Protecting the innocent through censorship has been a fraught and — in hindsight — sometimes comic endeavour. 

The Alarm Clock

In the Schumacher household it was legendary: The Alarm Clock.

Turning pages

Sydney Writers’ Festival Artistic Director Michael Williams is ready for the challenges of 2021.

Shanty town

A recent online boom in sea shanties is a welcome surprise for longtime converts.

A lonelier planet?

A different kind of travel tale can be found amid the pandemic, if you know where to look.

Words across cities

The theme of friendship and betrayal took this writer and editor from her non-fiction debut to her first novel.

Gifts from the sea

The timeless appeal of shells has seen them preserved in many ways over the centuries.

Following the river

Darug people share a deeper story of Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury River.

SL Magazine - Winter 2020

Peas: a short story

It’s just a bag of peas, she told herself. I can order more online. So why was she crying?

Art of Newcastle: convict artists in Aboriginal Country

An Aboriginal leader’s assistance to the artists of the Newcastle penal settlement led to an unprecedented visual record of the local Indigenous people.

The world in a book: the first atlases

In the Golden Age of Cartography, the first atlases combined the skills of the mapmaker with the ingenuity of the publisher.

These strange days: writers, post COVID-19

As writers adapt to a vastly altered publishing landscape, how will they remake themselves in a post-pandemic world?

‘Unprecedented’: the Library through two pandemics

The extraordinary events of the past few months are unprecedented in our lifetimes, but the response to the Covid-19 pandemic contains echoes of the 1918–19 influenza outbreak. The Library is one of many institutions following the lead of our forebears.

Letters from Bergen-Belsen

Australian nurse Muriel Knox Doherty recorded her experiences and insights after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. 

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.

Summer 2020

Tall and trimmed

All thing must pass, and even statues have to know when it’s time to go.

New territory for maps

The world of early cartography is irresistible in the Library’s new Map Rooms.

Staging Kate

Writer and actor Kate Mulvany defies the neat stories people write about her.

The contestant: a short story

After a person dies, there is the game show.

The lost film of Nellie Stewart

Of all the Australian stage performers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Nellie Stewart was the best known and most universally loved.

Deeper history

Science and history come together in conserving the swamplands of southern Sydney.

So you want to be a poet

She found fame as a teenage poet, but Grace Perry’s startling later work and her support for fellow poets are barely remembered.

SL Magazine - Spring 2020

Mr Archimedes Moves In

The Library is the new home of award-winning children’s author and illustrator Pamela Allen’s extensive archive.

Chalk and church 

The place of religious instruction in public schools has long been controversial. 

The Diary Files 

The Library’s online diary preserves everyday experiences of Australians during the pandemic. 

The Gatherings Order 

A behind the scenes look at the new podcast series exploring the last great influenza pandemic in 1919.

A fully rounded masterpiece 

In difficult times, Australian expatriate artist George Lambert challenged himself to paint a distorted reflection. 

Probate: a short story

Stan didn’t look good at all. I could see him in the garden, through a window. Hunched forward, sucking on a cigarette, mistaking it for a sign of life.

Singing with the wind

Sydney writer and naturalist Ella McFadyen combined a love of nature, folklore and poetry. 


How can a dialogue between Indigenous ancestors and descendants forge connections to country for all Australians?

SL Magazine - Autumn 2020

Ancestry tree: a family’s escape from genocide

A collection of papers traces one family’s escape from the Armenian genocide.

A nice little business: NSW’s circulating libraries

Part of daily life in the mid twentieth century, circulating libraries have left charming traces.

Betty Archdale: leading the way

The daughter of a courageous suffragette, Betty Archdale excelled in several fields that rarely admitted women.

SL Magazine - Summer 2019

The first sugar: James Williams’ story

Sugar and slavery are intertwined in the hidden story of Australia’s early industry.

Stories in the sun

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

Reclaiming our story

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

Love is all: Myles Dunphy and romance

The well-known conservationist Myles Dunphy’s romantic side is beautifully illustrated in a new acquisition.

Peace with pestilence: the 1918–19 influenza

After four years of war, ‘normal life’ ceased again in early 1919 as an influenza epidemic spread through the country.

SL Magazine - Spring 2019

150 years ago: the Free Public Library

A vital public institution.

Electric image: 1980s poster art and one Sydney band

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

The real secret river: exploring Dyarubbin

A list of Aboriginal placenames was a trigger for seeking the ‘real secret river’.

Daidee and Eric: the first Mrs Dark

Intimate letters from 100 years ago paint a detailed self-portrait of a young Australian woman.

SL Magazine - Winter 2019

The cabin in the woods

The madness of a free settler and a convict found expression on the outskirts of the new colony.

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.

Everything: a 1980s anarchist-feminist magazine

A feminist newspaper from the early 1980s brings back memories of lively co-op meetings, nutritious sandwiches and high ideals.

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.

Mythical country: Vietnam in 1950s posters

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

River dreams

Bold plans to transform the Cooks River in Sydney are reflected in the Library's collection.

SL Magazine - Autumn 2019

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’.


Hundreds of delightful and intriguing endpapers can be found in the State Library of NSW collection.

SL Magazine - Spring 2018

Claiming space

The histories of people with disability in Australia can be found if you read ‘against the grain’.

The Magic Pudding

In October 1918 Angus & Robertson published what would become one of Australia’s best known children’s stories: The Magic Pudding.

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.

SL Magazine - Winter 2018

Working for the Weekend

Donald Horne’s unlikely editorship of the mass-market Weekend magazine was a crucial stage in the Lucky Country author’s development as a public intellectual.

Underground albums

The optimism of a city imagining its future is captured in photographs, plans and sketches.

Arresting gaze

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


An 1802 portrait of a young Eora man, by French artist Nicolas-Martin Petit, is remarkable for its attention to detail.

SL Magazine - Autumn 2018

Keeping company

A historian shares her delight in the recently acquired Fairfax Media Business Archive.

Love letters

In the current era of instant digital communication, letters between long-distance lovers have a particular poignancy.

SL Magazine - 2017

The book that Joseph Banks burned

An eccentric French nobleman, a letter about Cook’s Endeavour voyage and an enduring bibliographic mystery come together in the Library’s Banks collection. 

How Australia builds

The recently digitised Building magazine is a trove of information about twentieth century construction. 

Recipes for country living

Among the papers of the Scott brothers, who settled in the Hunter Valley in the 1820s, is a manual for frontier living.

Family business

The continuing boom in family history research is having a far-reaching impact on how people understand themselves and the world. 

A French sailor-artist on the South Seas

An enquiry from France brings to light a gem of nineteenth century travel illustration.

Under the sun: 15 artists respond to Dupain's Sunbaker

Max Dupain’s Sunbaker has inspired an exhibition of contemporary and thought-provoking artworks. 

Record catch: 80 years of east coast fishing

Merging history and science, a Library fellowship tracked 80 years of fishing off the east coast of Australia.

Red Cross under the Southern Cross

The Australian Red Cross NSW Division archive spans over 100 years of humanitarian aid.

SL Magazine - 2016

The modern garden

Outstanding gardens are revealed by leading photographers in a new exhibition.

Slide show

The quirky and obscure Hallams slide collection is a curator’s dream, revealing ordinary Australian gardens in the 1960s and 70s.

Eternally yours

Buried deep down in the cool darkness of the Library’s framed picture store hangs a beautiful portrait of the young Mrs F O’Brien. It was painted in mid-1841 by naval surgeon-turned artist Maurice Felton from a death mask.

Big things grow: the Gurindji’s struggle for land rights

The Gurindji’s struggle sparked a national network of support organisations and became a symbol of the land rights movement.

SL Magazine - 2015

Buddhist modernism

Bushwalker, feminist and pacifist Marie Byles helped to shape Buddhism in Australia.

Mitchell or burn: the Thompson family papers

Sifting through the ‘glorious clutter’ of the Thompson family papers offers a sense of early Sydney life and insights into several significant local families.

We tell the world: signwriting, decorating and Althouse & Geiger

The Library’s collection offers glimpses into Sydney signwriting and decorating firm Althouse & Geiger that once boasted, 'We tell the world everything it wants to know'.

Catching a cab

A surprise bestseller in 1886, Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab continues to intrigue.

Architect of the screen: Eric Thompson as architect, artist and filmmaker

Eric Thompson’s career as an architect, artist and filmmaker highlights the close connection between architecture and design in the development of the film industry.

Hitting the slopes: a young woman’s alpine adventure in the 1930s

Thoroughly modern Miss Emily Chambers of Burwood, NSW, was always eager to try the latest fad.

Writing at Gallipoli

First hand accounts of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

SL Magazine - Previous years

Australia and the bomb

Peace activism in Australia has a rich and complex history.

Boy oh boy!

In 25 years at the State Library, our Curator of Photographs has seen four people cry.

Contact prints

Portrait of Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung people from the 1870s show how photography shaped race relationships in the nineteenth century. 

Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this story contains names and images of deceased people.

A remote drama

A Library fellowship uncovered an archive of emotion in the correspondence of Henry Parkes and Thomas Woolner.

A distant paradise for Dickens

Charles Dickens saw Australia as a utopia for the working class — and his wayward sons.

Through Darwin's eyes

Australia played an important role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Power and influence on the Cumberland Plain

Sydney’s colonial gentry built mansions, held lavish parties and amassed fortunes beyond the imagination of their English relations.