Sydney Open 2014 @ Sydney CBD

This event ticks so many boxes in my areas of interest that I ended the day in a state of ecstasy. Architecture, design, history, art, city planning, people all come together for an enjoyable day out in Sydney CBD on a Sunday.
The event costs a $40 cover charge to gain admission to 50 buildings of various kinds. The buildings range from new built highrise apartments and offices through buildings of sugnificance and utility to marvelous places such as the Hyde Park Barracks which I have been past hundreds of times in my life but have never been inside.
I guess the highlight for me this year was the National Art school as it combined design, architecture, history and art in one venue. I got to do a tour with an architecture whose practice is neck deep in preservation. His tour explained the history and design features of the Gaol that has been converted for use of the Art school. Again as I lived at one stage not long out of high school in a back street near Taylor Square I have walked around this on the way back and forward to the Cross many times and have never been inside. It was fascinating.
In my day from 9.30am to 4.00pm I went to The Mint, The NSW Parliament, 31 Bligh St, The BMA building, History House, Deutsche Bank and several art studios.
The organisers have two intersecting loops of shuttle busses that mean that for the long hauls you do not have to walk which is nice. Every building is attended by well informed enthusiastic volunteers. I loved it and think I will make it part of my calendar for the next decade. One of the bonuses was the surprise that the covered carpark in the Domain was only $10 dollars for the whole day so that for the long drive home to Canberra the car was cool.
Some pics below:







Meroogal Historic House in Nowra

Wow did we have a great tour today. My wife spotted an announcement in a tourist brochure about a historic house called Meroogal open on Saturdays in Nowra. We could be through there on the day so we planned to go. I thought it would just be a walk through. However when we got there we joined 10 people led by a remarkably well informed guide for 90 minutes of fascinating personal history of a family which spent 100 years in this family home.

The house was first occupied in 1885 and with some structural and size changes it was the two story home for one family for nearly 100 years before it was sold to the Historic Houses Trust. It is like a family museum because it is full of the possessions of the family and is almost exclusively furnished with stuff bought and used by the family. The walls are decorated either with genuine family photographs or paintings done for or bought by the family.

The guide talked us through of the social role of the family and their unique approach to their place in the society having made money through dairy farming and gold mining. The place of the socially adventurous daughters was highlighted and the developmental and multigenerational relationship with the house was well described. The clothing. the household equipment, the roles the various rooms played in the life of the family was fascinating.The 90 minutes passed in a very quick time and we both left with  deep thankfulness for a well informed guide.

Here are some pics to give you a sense of this treasure.IMAG5231 IMAG5236 IMAG5239 IMAG5242 IMAG5249 IMAG5271 IMAG5275 IMAG5280


Beyond the Veneer PMs office OPH @ Museum of Australian Democracy


There is an interesting artist driven exhibition that threads through the preserved office suite of the Prime Minister in the Old Parliament House. The exhibition is set in the suite and consists of developed art works such as cups and saucers, vases, reading lamps, jugs and other useful artifacts embedded in the office layout.

The three artists Patsy Hely, Gilbert Riedelbauch and Dianne Firth have panels that explain the place and rationale of their creations that are in the room to help the viewer understand the objects. Below are some sample objects and artist panels


The Immgration Museum in Customs House,400 Flinders St Melbourne


I have taught post war immigration at high school for some years. My family has been in Australia since the early and mid 18th century. My wife was conceived in the Netherlands. One of my forefathers was an immigration agent for the Queensland Government and I attended schools that were populated with high numbers of post war immigrants. All of this rattles around in your head when you walk into the Immigration Museum in Flinders St Melbourne. The story this museum tells is so joyful and so inspiring that I was in tears at several times and choked up again as I thanked the guy on the counter on my way out.

The first thing that engaged me was a globe at the entry to the exhibition. On it using projection a delightful story of mass migrations that have happened on earth over the last few hundreds of years was told. Using stark statistics they showed our role as a nation in receiving people from major people movements driven by war, famine. persecution, poverty and a sense of adventure and desire for improvement.

The second thing that fascinated me was a set of illustrated wall panels that by using time lines and a well chosen set of illustrative material told the story of immigration to Victoria from 1788 to this century. What a rich, varied and constantly changing story it has been.

Woven into the exhibition were lots of personal stories of triumph and struggle. The curators have been careful in choosing varied stories over time and different waves of arrivals. I loved reading the amazing story of the people behind the Myer name – Jewish, poor but what a rich contribution they have made.

The building is the old but restored Customs House. One of the truly charming stories in the Museum is the telling of the role the House has had in the immigration story. Even the designer was a migrant using all sorts of foreign influences in its design.

Right now Australia seems to be in a phase that is less enthusiastic about immigration. It is at moments like this that a museum like this telling the glorious story of Australia’s immigration past is more important that it has ever been. I was touched by the experienced and will go back again to soak up more of its marvelous materials.

The website is below and it was great to see that an exhibition I saw at the Powerhouse in Sydney some years ago Faith Fashion Fusion is in one of the spaces here. It was an engaging display


Burke Museum at Butterworth

As a history teacher I love museums. I loved them before I became a history teacher in my mid 50s but now they hold more relevance. The Burke Museum is a rich walk through. It covers lots of local history but much more that has national significance.
To me the high point was the shop alley. They have set up what looks like an alleyway of shop fronts as a way of displaying relevant historical artifacts. So there is a haberdashery shop that has lots of historical elements of the clothes and other material making arts. There is a saddler with the artifacts connected with working on leather and horse related activities. There is a wonderful pharmacy with amazing collections of jars and potions connected with seeking wellness of fixing disease. The area is beautifully laid out and it was a great idea for grouping that artifacts. The picture below is in a furniture maker’s display and it has many of the design details of a rocking chair I have that belonged to my grandmother
Another part of the museum that engaged me was the Chinese section. I don’t think we celebrate their contribution to our nation enough. In this display there are some wonderful artifacts displaying their cultural distinctiveness and the contribution they have made.

The building in which all this is housed is a pure delight – sandstone, plastered walls, high ornate ceilings, a sense of permanence. For a nation that has a relatively short history since European takeover high quality museums like this are a delight and to have them anchored in the parts of the country where the events took place is truly special. Their website link is below.


Old Butter Factory in Myrtleford Victoria


On the way into Myrtleford in Victoria a few days ago we stopped at the Old Butter Factory. I love old buildings and especially re-purposed buildings. This is an actual Butter Factory that has now been reworked into a modern business with reference to its history. Apparently economic changes and dairy industry reconfiguration led to the factory being uneconomic and 40 years ago it closed. The current owners opened this business seven years ago and have woven several strands into it – all of which have links to the history.
They have kept the building largely intact with one section devoted to pristine dairy and butter machinery in their special gleaming stainless steel. There are tours and great information panels to explain the processes and the whole space is viewable through glass walls. They have set up wonderful shop selling all sorts or cheeses and dairy linked products and there is a cheerful and seemingly popular cafe selling the usual but also a dairy rich set of cakes to go with your drinks. It was too early for us to stop and eat and have coffee but we enjoyed just mooching around and chatting with the staff. Online that night I found their fascinating website on which you can get a much better sense of all aspects of the Old Butter Factory.