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.

Online catalogues 

Plate depicting Georgian furniture from periodical relating to decoration and ornament, architecture, furniture, fashion and social custom of early-19th cnetury.

Library catalogue

Search our full library catalogue for printed books, sample books, periodicals, pictures, manuscripts, personal papers and other documentary materials.

[Wingate album] : pencil drawings, watercolour sketches, photographs / Thomas Wingate [pictorial material]

Pictures catalogue

Search here for paintings, drawings and photographs.

1. Bossiaea kiamensis 2. Scaevola ramosissima: watercolour by Gertrude Lovegrove, c1891

Colonial plants

This database includes more than 11,000 listings of plants known to be available in the colony of NSW prior to the 1870s. 

Timber tools for decorative plaster work

Objects catalogue

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

Sheet music in the little drawing room, Vaucluse House


Browse or search this extensive selection of sheet music and music manuscripts from our collection.

Plate depicting door/window furniture from a trade catalogue of stained glass, casements, metal work.

Trade catalogues

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. 

About us

Plate of Renaissance design from a handbook/manual relating to decoration and ornament Mid-19th century; Architectural fragment, timber capital; Watercolour, Lyons Terrace, Hyde Park, Sydney.

About the Caroline Simpson Collection 

Home and garden design, history and life

Objects from the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection on display in the Scholars Gallery, Caroline Simpson Library

How to use the Caroline Simpson Collection

You will find items from the Caroline Simpson Collection in both our library catalogue and objects catalogue

Dr Matthew Stephens explains how to research objects at the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection

Visit us

Caroline Simpson Library, The Mint

Collection strengths

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Garden study, Harrington Park
Documenting NSW Homes

Recorded for the future: documenting NSW homes

The Caroline Simpson Library has photographically recorded homes since 1989

Cover of book, with title Home Plans. Illustration of man sitting at desk drawing plans.

Post-war Sydney home plans 1945 to 1959

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

Sydney's home furnishing stores

Sydney's home furnishing stores, 1890-1960

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 archives 

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Hugo Stossel collection : comprising photographs, photo albums, scrapbook and items of ephemera.

Hugo Stossel collection 

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.

Helen Jean Burgess : arts and crafts teacher

Helen Jean Burgess collection 

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.

Set of 16 architectural drawings

Morton Herman drawings and sketches

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


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A chair with curved timber arms that bend to become legs with a white abolstered seat.

An extraordinary collection

The Caroline Simpson Collection has become Australia’s leading source of information on the history of houses, interiors, furnishings, gardens and domestic life

Cool Colours

In Spring 2015, Museums of History NSW was asked if it could assist in the recreation of a 1950s colour palette for Hillary’s Hut, located at the Scott Base, Antarctica

A window to the past

The private collection of photographer Alan Spearman Evans reveals an exceptional photographic record of an average middle-class couple celebrating their life in suburban Sydney in the early to mid 20th century

Ornately decorated printed cover with kangaroo design at top, with title printed below.

The Stewart Symonds sheet music collection

A recently acquired collection of printed sheet music provides valuable insights into Sydney’s music trade and concert scene in the 19th century and offers opportunities for musical interpretation of MHNSW places

Finding aids

Party at Cairnsfoort, 11th January, 1949 / Alan Evans

Alan Spearman Evans collection 

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.  

Colour boxes and sample boards with swatches, Marion Best Pty Ltd, c1955-1965.

Marion Hall Best collection 

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.  

Marion Hall Best: Interiors installation view Hazelhurst Arts Centre and Regional Gallery, Gymea, NSW

SIDA collection 

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.

Candid street photograph of pedestrians taken in Martin Place, Sydney, by an unknown Ikon Studio photographer during 1950.

Ikon Studio archive  

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.

Library displays

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.

On now

Profile of man wearing tall cap
7 June, 6pm

Queer Infiltrators

An intimate conversation in the Caroline Simpson Library with distinguished Professor Peter McNeil and Mel Flyte

Eirene Mort (right) and Nora Weston, Gate Manor, Dent, Cumbria, photographer unknown, c1912. Photograph © Rob Little
Featured display

Queering the interior: London, New York, Sydney, 1882–1929

An exploration of the creative worlds and design practices of figures from queer history


Hand painted title showing the middle section of reclining figure in landscape.
Past exhibition

Lyon, Cottier & Co: 19th Century Decorators

For around fifty years, Lyon, Cottier & Co decorated the finest public buildings, private houses and churches