Sydney has a pretty tawdry history, which you don’t necessarily expect to be represented in a museum setting.

As part of the Sydney Living Museums After Dark series, the Justice & Police Museum is presenting an eight-week adults-only program taking a lively look at everything from the city’s history with sly grog and femme fatale figures, through to crime photography, censorship and freedom of expression.

Every Friday night from 5pm to 8pm there’ll be guest speakers, artists, performers and filmmakers alongside interactive experiences like tarot card readings and life drawing. You’ll also get after-hours access to the museum and its fascinating exhibitions. Plus if all the talk of illegal grog has you thirsty, there’s a (legal) onsite bar.

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Here’s what’s coming up.

Sly Grog: Razor Gangs: Friday May 6

World War I put strict limits on alcohol sales, opening the door for infamous Sydney criminals like Kate Leigh and Phil Jeffs to get rich selling “sly grog”. At this event, you’ll enjoy a cocktail on arrival, then join journalist Larry Writer, author of Razor, as he introduces you to Sydney’s sly groggers and razor gangs of almost a century ago.

Witches, Criminals and the Femme Fatale: Friday May 13

Black Friday’s focus is Rosaleen Norton, the controversial artist, bohemian and occultist whose interest in “sex magic” scandalised Sydney. The night includes floor talks, interactive experiences, and a screening of the documentary The Witch of Kings Cross (2020), including a Q&A session with its award-winning writer and director, Sonia Bible, hosted by Sunil Badami.

Crime on Film: Forensic and Police Photography: Friday May 20

Sydney Living Museums curator Holly Schulte will be your guide through the NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, a remarkable window into the past featuring approximately 130,000 negatives taken by police photographers. While you’re exploring the world of forensic photography, you can also dress up and have your own mugshot – well, souvenir polaroid photograph – taken.

(Un)Censored: Sex and Obscenity: Friday May 27

Things get a little risqué as the museum’s experts shares stories of collection items once considered too shocking for the public. An expert panel will explore the changing nature of obscenity and the role of censorship in society, then it’s time to visit the bar and grab a drink while listening to songs once thought too rude for radio.

Outsiders: Friday June 3

Join author Dr Rachel Franks and host Sunil Badami as they discuss the ultimate outsider, Sydney’s shunned public hangman Robert “Nosey Bob” Howard. There’ll be tarot card readings on the night, plus floor talks telling the story of husband-poisoner Louisa Collins, who swung at the end of Nosey Bob’s noose in 1889.

Bordellos and Bruisers: Friday June 10

Crime historian and raconteur Max Burns-McRuvie will bring to life the sensational stories behind the bordellos and bruisers of Sydney in the 1920s and ‘30s. Expect an evening of cocktails and stories about the colourful (and cut-throat) criminal careers of old.

The Femme Fatale: Friday June 17

The saucy stereotype of the femme fatale comes into focus in this exploration of female criminality, with some performances to spice things up between floor talks and drinks at the onsite bar.

Drag: Friday June 24

Celebrating the 44th anniversary of Sydney’s first ever Mardi Gras back in 1978, the city’s fascinating drag history is the final night’s theme. You’ll hear the stories behind some of the museum’s most striking images of female impersonators, learn about legendary ’40s burlesque female impersonator Lea Sonia and there’ll be drag-inspired life drawing alongside drag performances throughout the evening.

After Dark will run every Friday night through May and June 2022 from 5pm to 8pm. Book tickets here.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Sydney Living Museums.