Research & discovery

Our year in review 2023

It happens everywhere, every day, across the organisation – the dual tasks of doing research and supporting others in their research and discovery.

Much of the research carried out by staff – often with the help of volunteers and other supporters – underpins our exhibitions program and collections access activities. But research is also central to developing our learning programs, conserving our collections and heritage buildings, our horticultural works, our public programming, the presentation and interpretation of our sites and collections, and to our visitor and client relationships.

Through 2023, a major research focus was the history of the Sydney Opera House in the lead-up to its 50th birthday and our exhibition The People's House. Among the many highlights of this work was bringing to light the extraordinary contribution of Wulli Wulli tenor Harold Blair AM. Blair was the first professionally trained Australian Aboriginal opera singer, and he performed at the newly completed Opera House in 1973. Other significant projects during the year included planning for a new museum within the National Heritage–listed Parramatta Female Factory and Institutions Precinct. Research has uncovered new insights into the history of this site and the experiences of the convict women, orphaned children and others detained there in institutional care.

In parallel, our critical role of supporting the needs and interests of our diverse research community continued. We worked with historians and family historians; students and educators; artists, designers and other creatives; public offices; and individuals and groups seeking evidence around the impacts of government policies and decisions. We hosted a number of fellowships and commissions, including research into the immigration histories of Albury, Broken Hill and Wagga Wagga, and the domestic and indentured labour used at Vaucluse House. We continued to enable research and discovery through our ever-active program of digitising our collections, developing research guides and finding aids, presenting webinars and information sessions, and making upgrades to our online catalogues to help researchers and visitors access and explore our collections. In October, in partnership with the Aboriginal Languages Trust NSW, we launched a program to improve the access of First Nations communities to archival material in our collections and support language revitalisation.

Research & discovery highlights


Upgrade to digitised shipping lists Index

View and download the much-loved digitised shipping lists straight from the index

External damage caused by the NSW floods in 2022 in the Alstonville area (submission 0574)

The 2022 NSW Floods

Residents’ photos and testimony submitted to the government inquiry into the devastating NSW floods of 2022 tell raw and powerful stories of the disaster and its aftermath, and expose the impact of climate change

Todd Duncan (baritone) with Harold Blair, c.1950s

Harold Blair, trailblazer

Wulli Wulli tenor Harold Blair AM was Australia’s first professionally trained Aboriginal opera singer

Ruins of Temple of Vishnu, Dondra, Ceylon

City of Gods, my early experience and toy boat

Inspired by a watercolour of the ruins of the temple of Vishnu, refugee curator in residence Jagath Dheerasekara writes about Devinuvara as a site of pilgrimage, colonisation and uprising

Newly digitised records

Digitised top half of page with the subject line 'Protest against unjust dismissal from the service'

Married women teachers' applications, 1932–35

The Married Women (Lecturers and Teachers) Act of 1932 restricted employment of married women in the Department of Public Instruction. We hold 693 digitised declarations for exemption by married women teachers for the years 1932–35

Latest News

Digitising the Rose Seidler House Collection

Over the past week, our Collection Digitisation Team has been facilitating an in-situ photoshoot at Rose Seidler House

Deutsche moebel-industrie [trade catalogue]

Trade catalogues

Sharing this unique collection through digitisation provides new opportunities for audience engagement

Digitised employment card

Public service employee cards

The digitisation of over 125,000 public service employee cards, 1911-1967 (NRS–12395) are now available in the State Archives Collection

Webinars & research guides

A handwritten list of trades and crimes

Finding resources about convict history

This session presents some essential resources for researching convict history

A colour chart of ready-mixed paints

Historic colour in the home

The many sources in the Caroline Simpson Library that can bring colour to the homes of past, with Matthew Stephens

A last will and testament from 1863

Probate packets

This webinar focuses on the sources for probate in the State Archives Collection and how to find them

Sydney Opera House

Highlighting Sydney Opera House records in the State Archives Collection

Sketch showing the proposed line of Essex Street, Sydney, St Phillip Parish

The Court of Claims

This webinar explores the records of this Court, how to find them and what they can tell you about NSW land ownership in the 19th Century

A group of children

Using sensitive collections for your research

This webinar features records of children, the aged and infirm in care and how to access them

Collections & heritage

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 ...

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