Welcome to the Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney is a website about the history of Sydney – its urban myths, characters, political players, writers, dreamers, intellectuals, sports people, criminals – anyone and everything that contributes to Sydney’s story.

From the Hawkesbury River in the north, Port Hacking in the south, the Blue Mountains in the west and the Pacific coast in the east, our aim is to gather as much information as possible about all aspects of Sydney’s history including its natural features, built forms, structures, significant events, artefacts, organisations, places and people.

Our purpose

The Dictionary publishes historical and cultural information about Sydney for the broadest possible audience, whether residents or visitors, students or researchers, or people just interested in Sydney.

The Dictionary is updated regularly to include new content.

Our contributors

At the heart of the Dictionary is the dedicated scholarship of more than 400 volunteer authors who give their work to the project. They range from eminent professors and professional historians to local experts and enthusiasts of all kinds. A full list of authors published to date can be found here.

The Dictionary has agreements with a range of institutions and individuals that allow us to use material from their collections in the Dictionary. Without them, it would be a far less interesting and exciting project. A full list of these institutions and collections can be found here.

Our organisation

Conceived in 2004, the Dictionary of Sydney grew out of an Australian Research Council project supported by the University of Sydney in partnership with University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), State Library of New South Wales and State Records, with the City of Sydney as industry partner.

Launched in November 2009, the Dictionary of Sydney website continues to grow.

In 2014 we launched our free mobile app for smart phones and tablets which makes available several free self-guided walking tours around parts of Sydney. 

After providing support since 2006, in December 2016 the City of Sydney ceased to fund the Dictionary on an annual base. In 2017, the Dictionary’s content was moved onto a new platform at the State Library of New South Wales to ensure its preservation.

In September 2018, the Dictionary of Sydney Inc was wound up and management of the Dictionary passed to the State Library of New South Wales. As the Dictionary has no ongoing financial support, publication of new content will cease when funding runs out.

Partnerships

Since 2017 the Dictionary has been part of the State Library of New South Wales.

The Dictionary has community partnerships with many of Sydney’s other leading cultural institutions and universities as well, such as State Archives and Records NSW, History Council of NSW, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney.

Sponsors of Dictionary projects have included the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; Transport Heritage NSW; Liverpool Council; Maritime Museums of Australia; NSW Department of Environment and Heritage; Oral History NSW; Royal Australian Historical Society; Randwick City Council and the Sydney Mechanics School of the Arts.

The Dictionary continues to enter into collaborative projects that can enrich our understanding and appreciation of Sydney in areas such as:

  • History and heritage
  • Reconciliation
  • Community expression and identity
  • Academia and education
  • Local, state and federal government
  • Digital technology and multimedia
  • Arts and creative industries
  • Civic pride and public interest

Detail from MS Hill's 1888 map 'The City of Sydney',  a birds-eye view over the city looking to the south and west across Darling Harbour. http://dictionaryofsydney.org/image/97526

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