Caroline Simpson Collection
Home and garden design, history and life
From lampshade designs to linoleum samples, seed catalogues to soap recipes, the Caroline Simpson Collection is a rich and eclectic source of information and inspiration on the history of Australian homes, gardens and domestic life from the late 1700s to the present.
Search our full library catalogue for printed books, sample books, periodicals, pictures, manuscripts, personal papers and other documentary materials.
Search here for paintings, drawings and photographs.
This database includes more than 11,000 listings of plants known to be available in the colony of NSW prior to the 1870s.
Search here for collection objects such as wallpapers, floorcoverings, soft furnishings, textiles, furniture, light-fittings, window and door hardware, garden ornament, and architectural remnants held in the Caroline Simpson Library
Browse or search this extensive selection of sheet music and music manuscripts from our collection.
Browse or search this selection of digitised trade catalogues for hardware, household goods, joinery, lighting, linoleum, stained glass, terracotta, tiles, ironwork, furniture and furnishings, wallpaper, ironwork and more.
Collection strengthsBrowse all
The Caroline Simpson Library has photographically recorded homes since 1989
For architects and prospective homeowners alike, the most seductive promise of the immediate postwar years was the prospect of a clean slate, an opportunity to build new, light-filled, houses appropriate to Australian conditions
This online exhibition has been inspired by the trade literature from Sydney’s furniture and furnishing retailers, with all the illustrations sourced from the Caroline Simpson Collection.
Notable collections and archivesBrowse all
Trained as an architect in Rome and Vienna, Hugo Stossel arrived in Sydney as a refugee from Nazism in 1939. After the war, he designed several small modernist houses for fellow émigrés, as well as notable apartment blocks and commercial buildings.
Arts and crafts teacher Helen Jean Burgess undertook a diploma in design and crafts at Sydney Technical College, East Sydney, from 1943 to 1947. This collection of design, drawings, workbooks and photographs relates to her work during the five-year course.
This collection of sketches and drawings by architect, historian and author Morton Herman dates from 1952 to 1978. It includes drawings and sketches of colonial buildings, churches and residences, and restoration work to historic bridges
The Caroline Simpson Collection has become Australia’s leading source of information on the history of houses, interiors, furnishings, gardens and domestic life
Upon completion in 1923, The Astor in Sydney's Macquarie Stree twas the largest reinforced concrete building in Australia, the tallest residential block, and this country’s first company title residences
Inspired by a watercolour of the ruins of the temple of Vishnu, refugee curator in residence Jagath Dheerasekara writes about Devinuvara as a site of pilgrimage, colonisation and uprising
Watch pockets hung on the head cloth of a four-post bedstead and originally served in place of bedside tables, which were uncommon in the 19th century
A remarkable donation of over 3000 wallpaper samples by John and Phyllis Murphy adds to our existing collection to form Australia’s largest repository of historic wallpapers
Alan Spearman Evans was a Sydney-based amateur photographer who recorded his houses, gardens and workplaces, and those of his family and friends. This collection includes more than 2000 of his photographs taken between 1924 and 1957.
Marion Hall Best was one of Australia’s most influential 20th-century interior designers, and a founding member of the Society of Interior Designers of Australia. This collection includes papers, plans, photographs, wallpapers, fabrics and furnishings relating to her illustrious career.
The Society of Interior Designers of Australia was founded in 1951 to represent the interests of interior designers in Australia. The SIDA collection comprises committee minutes, membership lists and correspondence, newsletters, photographs and oral histories.
Ikon Studio operated from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, selling prints from Her Majesty’s Arcade on Market Street, Sydney. This archive of nearly 5000 images of candid street photography taken in Martin Place in 1950 documents everyday life in compelling detail.
Talks & webinarsBrowse all
Join Dr Catriona Quinn on a journey through Australia’s rich interior design heritage and a deep dive into the studios of design educators in Sydney in the 1940s, 50s and 60s
The many sources in the Caroline Simpson Library that can bring colour to the homes of past, with Matthew Stephens
A Parade of Animals in Nurseries, with Michael Lech
The self-help books of the 19th century, with Marina Grilanc
The Caroline Simpson Library hosts a number of semi-permanent and temporary displays. The displays focus on and highlight aspects of the Library's collection, which broadly covers the history of house and garden design and interior furnishing in New South Wales.
An exploration of the concept, design and construction of this iconic Sydney landmark
Past displaysBrowse all
A look at the changing fortunes of pastoral estates of the Hunter Region
An exploration of the creative worlds and design practices of figures from queer history
For around fifty years, Lyon, Cottier & Co decorated the finest public buildings, private houses and churches
In the news
Our latest Caroline Simpson Library display celebrates the centenary of The Astor, Australia’s first company title apartment block
Work has begun on documenting this valuable collection to ensure each design is preserved against the effects of time for future generations to enjoy
The Sydney Morning Herald