After a $22 million refurbishment, the State Library of New South Wales will unveil the transformation of its historic Mitchell Building with a public open day on Saturday October 6.
The eastern wing of the building – previously used for storage and staff offices – has been converted into two exhibition galleries and a children’s learning centre.
It’s the first time some parts of the building will be accessible to the public, and the galleries will host six new exhibitions of works and artefacts unearthed from the library’s underground storage areas.
The refurbishment is part of the library’s vision to “turn the place inside out”.
“The State Library is always open – physically or online. But it’s not always easy to see just how rich and diverse its treasures really are. On October 6, we’re doing something we’ve never done before: [we’re] putting on public show representative parts of our most amazing collections,” state librarian Dr John Vallance told Broadsheet.
“It’s the beginning of a new phase in the Library’s history.”
On the ground floor, the Collectors’ Gallery will display more than 2000 Australian historical curiosities from the library’s underground “stacks”. Highlights of the permanent exhibition include a teacup and saucer belonging to My Brilliant Career writer Miles Franklin, and a Cartier hairpin box owned by opera singer Dame Nellie Melba.
The Michael Crouch Family Galleries, located on the first floor, will feature more than 300 oil paintings of Sydney life. The landscapes and portraits, some dating back to the 1870s, capture extraordinary and everyday scenes of our city.
The gallery also features Sydney Elders, a new multimedia project led by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathon Jones. He’s collaborated with four indigenous elders to tell their personal stories of Aboriginal Sydney, and how they’ve continued the legacy of their ancestors.
The library’s open day features a wide roster of curator talks throughout the day, providing insight into the new historical exhibitions. There’s a host of kid-friendly activities in the John B Fairfax Learning Centre and family space, including workshops led by Tim Harris (author of the popular Exploding Endings series), and children’s author and illustrator Aura Parker.
Onsite construction began in September 2017, with a vision of improving public access to the building, while conserving its heritage features. The galleries are lined with arch windows, which provide previously unseen views into The Domain, while ornate 1940s wooden doors have been repurposed to open to one of the gallery rooms.
The State Library’s open day is on Saturday October 6, from 10am to 4pm.