Collections & heritage

Our year in review 2023

Caring for our collections, historic buildings and landscapes to preserve them for current and future generations forms the foundation of our work and our purpose.

Highlights of our collection conservation and management activities undertaken in 2023 include the treatment of thousands of vulnerable collection items, and thousands more barcoded to improve collection location tracking. Major heritage conservation projects completed or underway include the conservation of the Wentworth Mausoleum fencing on the Vaucluse House estate, Rum Hospital verandah at The Mint, and exterior joinery at Elizabeth Bay House, painting works at Meroogal, and kitchen garden and grounds works at Vaucluse House.

Every year our collections grow – the Caroline Simpson and Museum collections through donations, bequests and purchases guided by collection development policies, and the State Archives Collection through the legislated transfer of government records assessed to be of enduring value. Key acquisitions of 2023 include a group of six etchings by Wiradjuri artist David Nolan that show a First Nations inmate perspective not often seen in public collections, an extensive archive of historical wallpapers collected over many years by architects John and Phyllis Murphy, a spectacular woven model of the Sydney Opera House commissioned from master weavers Steven Russell and Phyllis Stewart, and 349 consignments from 220 series as new transfers into the State Archives Collection. These included 630 volumes of Fire and Rescue NSW records, over 104,000 probate packets, almost 10,000 plans from the Department of Spatial Services and over 65,000 images from the Geological Survey of NSW. Digital transfers included a substantial number of ministers’ records and our first digital transfer of the e-Births register from Births, Deaths and Marriages.

New acquisitions

Acquisition of the John and Phyllis Murphy wallpaper collection

Wall to wall: a marvellous wallpaper collection

A remarkable donation of over 3,000 wallpaper samples by John and Phyllis Murphy adds to our existing collection to form Australia’s largest repository of historic wallpapers

Page from a digitised probate file

Probate packets

During 2023, 16 consignments of probate records (NRS-13660) were transferred into the State Archives Collection from the Supreme Court of New South Wales, amounting to 104,000 packets

Close up view of Steven Russel and Phyllis Stewart 'Untitled (woven Sydney Opera House)', 2023 - The People's House marketing & installation photoshoot - The People's House marketing & installation photoshoot
First Nations

How to weave an opera house

Inspired by a stunning shellworked model of the Sydney Opera House by Bidjigal artist Esme Timbery, First Nations curator Tess Allas commissioned a woven model of the iconic building from master weavers Steven Russell and Phyllis Stewart

WSRC Volunteer shoot

Deposited plans

We received 46 consignments of NRS-19111 Deposited Plans from the Department of Spatial Services which amounts to over 9069 plans

Conservation at work

Wentworth Mausoleum perimeter fence
Latest News

Renewed splendour for the Wentworth Mausoleum

The conservation works to the perimeter fence of the historic Wentworth Mausoleum have been successfully completed

A women holds a large book open while she threads the pages together.

Conserving the archive

Supervising conservator Dominique Moussou talks through her work and some of the projects underway in the MHNSW conservation lab

Exterior view of Meroogal and garden
Latest News

Conservation in action: Meroogal exterior painting

We're working with specialist painters to restore damage and prevent further deterioration to the building

Heritage and collection management highlights

Objects in storage at Vaucluse House.

Barcoding our collection

During the 2021 COVID lockdown, a team was busy working behind the scenes to implement technology that will improve how we manage our collections & make them more discoverable for our audiences

Horticulturalist Stephen Goldsworthy planting seedlings in the kitchen garden

Vaucluse House kitchen garden

The Vaucluse House kitchen garden recently underwent a significant rejuvenation project to preserve the site and allow it to continue to be used as a valuable educational resource

Conservation tip: rehousing glass plate negatives

As with many conservation techniques the expertise and dexterity of the practitioner is paramount to the success of the treatment


This year, our Learning team welcomed over 81,400 students and teachers to our onsite and virtual learning programs. A further 3,380 came along to our out-of-school-hours programs and activities ...

Next page