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Step back in time and see Sydney as it once was

Revisit Sydney’s past at History Week through a series of free events.

As part of History Week (5 – 12 September) 2020, you can take a trip down memory lane and explore Sydney as it was last century. We’ve curated some of the best virtual and online experiences.

History Week is the state wide festival coordinated by the History Council of NSW. The 2020 theme is “History – what is it good for?” and reflects upon the value of history in understanding contemporary events, societal changes and challenges. For more events visit

If you missed any events, or would like listen again, recordings will be available through the History Week YouTube channel curated by the History Council of NSW

Sugar bags and specked fruit

Friday 11 September 11am to 11:30am

Don’t miss this wonderful talk by award-winning author and City Historian, Dr Lisa Murray.

She will delve into recorded interviews with ordinary people sharing their life stories as to how our inner-city residents coped during the Great Depression. The City of Sydney has a collection of over 500 recorded interviews dating from the 1980s through to the 2000s.

Together you’ll listen to audio excerpts about growing up during the 1930s, and explore themes of poverty, crime, mutual help, and resourcefulness.

These personal memories allow us to reflect upon how Sydney’s social history may inform our current situation, what lessons can we learn?

Moore Park children's playground, 1936. (City of Sydney Archives, A-00055360)

Developing Sydney

Monday 7 September 1pm to 2pm

Virtually explore the early 20th century streets of Sydney during this special guided tour of the exhibition Developing Sydney: Capturing Change 1900-1920.

Professional historian Laila Ellmoos, will take you on tour of the virtual exhibition and share her favourite photographs of lost Sydney. There’ll also be plenty of opportunities to ask questions and find out more about the City's Archives & History Resources catalogue.

Location unknown, Sydney, circa 1901 (City of Sydney Archives A-01000229)

In times of need

Wednesday 9 September 11am to 11:30am

Join curator Margaret Betteridge as she takes you through the City of Sydney’s Civic Collection and City Archives. She’ll highlight ways that the City of Sydney has helped its community in times of need and distress. Especially poignant during these unprecedented pandemic times.

Mrs William Stones scrapbook of ephemera, 1930s (City of Sydney Archives, A-000529759)

Through my parents I remember...

Wednesday 9 September 1pm to 2pm

The Sydney Jewish Museum will host a panel discussion with Holocaust survivors. These amazing people all survived with at least one of their parents defying immense odds.

Through a panel discussion Dr Rebecca Kummerfeld will speak with them on the role their parents played in their survival.

Visions of futures past with space historian Kerrie Dougherty

Monday 31 August 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Join this talk with space historian Kerrie Dougherty as she reveals the amazing ideas and programs that were perhaps too ambitious, too expensive, too technically difficult to achieve at the time — or simply were not politically acceptable.

Sydney’s Culture Walks

Discover Sydney’s fascinating history by downloading this free app.

There are a number of special history walks that will take you through our amazing city via laneways, backstreets, parks and little known areas.

Stranger’s Guide to Sydney in 1861

A Sydney guidebook produced and published in 1861 by James Waugh has been recreated in the Sydney Culture Walks app.

This walk is perfect to do during History Week.

George Street, looking north, 1854-1864, drawn by F. Terry; engraved by J. Tingle. Image: Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

The Stranger’s Guide to Sydney 1861 enables you to hypothetically travel back in time to explore the city as a stranger. Starting at Sydney Town Hall and ending at Customs House, the self-guided walk encounters more than 30 of the original 100 landmarks, buildings and points of interest featured in Waugh’s guide.

Contemporary watercolours, etchings and images help bring the experience to life.

Skirting Sydney

This 55 minute self-tour takes you through the city spaces where women from Sydney’s past lived, worked, were educated and entertained.

Where pioneering activist women held meetings, published journals and in the process expanded the possibilities for all women’s lives.

Your journey will take you from Hyde Park to Circular Quay.

The talks will be available on the History Week YouTube channel curated by the History Council of NSW.

View the full History Week program.