They say Sydney is like the girl who has it all and knows it. I see that now. It’s all good. Look at this picture for example, there is architecture, people, mass transit, and a statue of the Queen. You know, Vicky?
We started our foray into Sydney by looking for a certain bookstore on Oxford St. (we found it later in Newtown; it had moved). We lunched (packed) in Hyde Park, then set out to fill our hunger for knowledge. First up, The Australian Museum. It was part Natural History Museum, part Australian History, part random. It was showing the exhibit Wildlife Photog of the Year 2010, which we had already seen in Cape Town.
First we checked out the obligatory dinos. There was a whale skeleton, but we had been there and done that.
Then, showing remarkable sense of self, they had an exhibit specifically focusing on extinct animals of Australia. Our favorite was the Tasmanian Tiger. It was more dog than cat and actually a marsupial. They had footage of the last known Taz tiger, and it was sad. The critter below is only a statue.
Then of course we have the gargantuan marsupials. I think I could have fit in its pocket, totally! The Diprotodon’s nickname is the giant wombat, but although it is giant it is not a wombat.
They also had a lovely interactive exhibit about sea creatures of Australia. The image is projected onto a table and you can interact by touching the creatures or the water. It did come with its own warning (that we would have put in Signs of Australia but w/o the context it would have been confusing).
I think our favorite part was the Aboriginal exhibits. They highlighted art, culture, the effect of Europeans in culture, the lost children, and the desire for independence. It was the most informative exhibit I had seen on Aboriginal life/culture/recent history.
Below to the left is a model of a mission church in the outback. Over the pulpit there was a looped presentation on Christianity and the Aboriginals. Most striking is the creation story and how that intrigued aboriginals, but it also focused on how they kept their beliefs alive, and the effect of Christianity.
We did not photograph it (for obvious reasons) but there was an interesting exhibit of art related to the Lost Generation of Aboriginals. Those who were taken, adopted or otherwise “lost,” and art depicting the pain.
Then we entered the exhibit describing the fight for freedom. Below you see a bus that showed a 15 minute movie about the freedom bus rides. Also I am standing by a model of a cell used to imprison aboriginals. Aboriginals were many more times more likely to die in prison than other prisoners.
The video focused on Charles Nelson Perkins (aboriginal activist, football player) who was the first indigenous aboriginal to graduate from Sydney University. He was a key player in the Australian Freedom Rides. One thing that struck was an interview with a white dude. He talks of how he was protesting because of Jim Crow. Then a visiting American commented, “Look at what you are doing to the Aboriginals.” The pure blindness to the oppression of the Aboriginals in Australia was startling.
A favorite quote from the movie was after a protest in a small Australian town. Things turned nasty. The bus had to come back to this town because it was broken down. A mob met them of “respectable” town folk. Some of the Aboriginal girls from that town were with the protestors and just as things began turning nasty a girl asked one of the men, “What’s your last name?” “Oh that’s my last name too! What a coincidence. Maybe you should ask your dad how he spends his Friday nights.”
The last exhibit we visited was the Skeleton Gallery. What I find most amusing is that you can rent this out as a venue. There were many interesting poses. It was cool to see the horse and rider.
I think this was my favorite:
After the Australian Museum we hit the Art Gallery of NSW. They had a lovely exhibit on the Teracotta Warriors (we missed it previously in Atlanta) so we checked it out. There are no pictures (again for obvious reasons) but what struck us was the amount of detail in each warrior. Each warrior took 160 or more days to make. They were the most realistic art at the time, painted down to the strands of hair. It was absolutely stunning. The artifacts found in the tomb were stunning and detailed–and the Emperor was a bit crazy. He started planning this when he was 13.
The basement of the Art Gallery had Aborginal Art, traditional and contemporary. The contemporary was the most striking. Highly recommended!