The University of Sydney's Museums & Galleries
The first day of Spring was spent in plenty of sunshine, starting with a leisurely breakfast at Tripod in Redfern (I recommend you try!). I love wandering through these streets, taking in all the houses, their plants, and unique details. If I had to choose somewhere in the city to live,it would be around this area (Redfern/Newtown/Glebe).
After dropping off my favourite breakfast buddy, I decided to visit the University of Sydney's museums and galleries. I'd first become aware of them when I'd typed "Anthropology, Sydney" into Google, to find that I was pointed firmly in their direction. They have the largest collection of antiquities, not just in Australia but in the Southern Hemisphere as a whole, and the oldest natural history collection in Australia. All, much to my benefit, entirely free. There was no reason not to go.
The Nicholson Museum holds the largest collection of antiquities. They had an exhibition called Alpha and Omega on. It examines the correlation between the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet and their root for twenty-four stories of transformation, in both Greek and Roman mythology. As someone interested in words and literature I particularly enjoyed this. It was accompanied by artefacts, and some drawings by Brett Whiteley and Jean Cocteau which I keenly noted. The museum held plenty of artefacts, a large section on Ancient Greece, and an impressive Lego model of Pompeii in its entirety. The section on the Etruscans was particularly fascinating, again as an ex-literature student I was drawn to the fact that their language is like no other on Earth, and little is known about them. The Death Magic exhibition entailed explanations of death and its rituals in Ancient Egypt, considered a 'magical experience'.
Aside from the rich cultural and historical lessons, one man's story particularly stood out to me. One George Dennis, a Victorian explorer, traveled to Etruria to document archaeological sites and research the Etruscans. He picked up Greek, Latin, and at least eight modern European languages, as well as excellent skills as a cartographer, topographer, artist, and writer, in just six years away from his job as an Excise Clerk. It is an impressive account of what people can be capable of in their passions.
Next up was a quick skim of the 'Floating Time' exhibition at the University Art Gallery. It held a variety of prints from China, dating from 1954 to 2002. Different techniques were on show, including lithographs, screenprints, woodcuts, linocuts, and etching. The prints documented people and landscapes, and gave insight into China's culture.
Finally, I visited the Macleay Museum. This is the one containing the oldest natural history collection in Australia. The story of the Macleay family's forays into the natural world was a particularly interesting documentation of some of the first collectors, and explorers, in this part of the world, including the Pacific Islands. The huge butterfly collection on show was stunning, the iridescent colours, the patterns, the details.
Side note: It's heartbreaking to read that they are killed to be preserved so carefully, something I don't agree with at all. It is hard sometimes to decide whether in appreciating them with this awareness you are at least giving some significance to their sacrifice. In the same way that, as someone who doesn't eat meat, I would hate for meat to go in the bin if I was served it incorrectly. Should I eat it? I'm interested to hear what other people think about this?
The only gallery I didn't get round to was Verge, as they were closed ahead of the opening of their newest exhibition. I hope to get there soon as it's been on my radar for some time. Afterwards, I soaked up some sunshine and appreciated the older architecture on site. It was an educational and inspiring morning, highlighting the fact that more people should visit these spaces as they are open to the public. They're not just for the University's students!