Museums of History NSW is changing the way our past is understood and our future will be experienced.
This new ‘home’ for the history of NSW brings together the historic houses, museums and collections previously in the care of Sydney Living Museums with the vast archives and records in the NSW State Archives Collection. Dedicated to engaging people in our past, Museums of History NSW provides greater access to these assets and to a broad range of stories about our social, cultural and political histories and identities.
As custodians and storytellers, we are committed to preserving and presenting NSW’s unique history. Our places and collections comprise some of the most significant historical material in the country. With this as our foundation, we bring history to life through diverse voices and viewpoints, supporting audiences of all backgrounds to gain fresh perspectives and understandings of their past, present and future.
Central to this commitment is focusing a clear and accurate lens on the past that enables a truthful exploration of the continuing, lived impact of colonisation on First Nations communities and their connections to culture and Country. With truthtelling and respect at the core of our approach, we aim to build on our shared histories, across our shared landscapes, and heal together for a united future.
Putting history before us, not behind us, we strive to keep the history of NSW relevant, empowering and new.
Museums of History NSW is a state cultural institution, established under the Museums of History NSW Act 2022. It is an agency of the NSW Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade (DEIT).
The past can’t change, but perspectives can. We live this ethos through our programs and exhibitions, research, partnerships and collaborations, activations, and learning and digital resources, and we invite people from all backgrounds to contribute their own perspectives to the forever-growing tapestry of NSW history.
Our work is guided by our founding legislation, the Museums of History NSW Act 2022, which defines our underlying purpose as:
- to collect, manage and preserve—
- the State Archives Collection
- significant buildings and sites
- objects and materials related to significant buildings and sites
- to increase—
- public knowledge and enjoyment of the collection
- access to the collection
- to promote—
- knowledge and appreciation of history
- the stories that shape the social, historical, political and cultural identity of NSW
- to carry out these responsibilities across the state, including in regional and rural NSW.
Museums of History NSW provides multiple commercial services that contribute significantly to the sustainability of the organisation. This includes retail, food and beverage, venue hire and the Government Records Repository, which provides commercial storage, records management, digitisation and consultancy services.
While we are a new organisation, our history stretches back many decades. As Museums of History NSW, we were established in 2022 by bringing together the historic houses, museums and collections previously in the care of Sydney Living Museums with the vast archives and records in the NSW State Archives Collection.
The NSW State Archives Collection was established in 1961 under the Archives Act 1960 which created the Archives Authority of NSW. From 1999, under the State Records Act 1998, the collection was under the control of the State Archives and Records Authority of NSW (SARA), one of Australia’s pre-eminent archives and records authorities, holding a vast collection of historical records and archives dating back to the European settlement of Australia in 1788. Its core role was to preserve, store, arrange, catalogue and create access to the State Archives Collection. Over the years, the State Archives Collection has grown to include more than 14 million items.
The Historic Houses Trust of NSW, operating as Sydney Living Museums (SLM) since 2014, was established in 1980 to manage, maintain and interpret buildings and places of historic importance for the education and enjoyment of the public. In the early years, the Historic Houses Trust was responsible for just two properties: Vaucluse House, home of explorer and statesman William Charles Wentworth and his family, and Elizabeth Bay House, built in 1835 for botanist and colonial secretary Alexander Macleay. The number of sites in the Trust’s care subsequently grew to more than 12, including the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Hyde Park Barracks, while the diversity and reach of its activities and programs continued to expand.
In 2019 SARA and SLM entered into a partnership to leverage the synergies and opportunities of their collections and resources, and in 2022 they entered a new chapter together to become Museums of History NSW.