This week the Dictionary of Sydney is celebrating 10 years since it went live! I am continually amazed by the content and connections in the Dictionary and the light it sheds on Sydney’s history, so this week I thought I’d share a few links to some of my favourite entries and images that you can discover in the Dictionary. There are so many more though, so let us know some of your favourites too!
The first entries I’ve chosen to talk about today are about three of the people on the Dictionary:
- Henri L’Estrange
Aeronaut and funambulist, L’Estrange was one of the daring performers attempting unheard-of feats in Sydney during the 1870s and 1880s. Though not always successful, his exploits were usually both exciting and spectacular
- Biddy Giles
Biddy Giles was an Aboriginal woman who had extensive knowledge of Dharawal land from the south side of the Georges River to Wollongong and was a well known guide for settlers.
- Violet McKenzie
Florence Violet McKenzie was an electrical engineer who taught thousands of women, and soldiers, to use radio for signalling, founded the Wireless Weekly and pioneered technical education for women.
and then three different, perhaps unexpected, aspects of Sydney’s history that our great contributors have written about:
- Public lavatories
The provision of public toilets says a lot about the cultural history and gendered values of society.
- Reading the Roads
Lines to regulate traffic were the first messages to appear on the paving, and as motor vehicles became faster and the traffic became denser the number of regulatory marks grew. By the end of the century, the streets were covered with a vast lexicon of lines, signs, symbols and sentences that road users needed to memorise.
- Stained Glass
Sydney has a distinguished share of Australia’s rich heritage in stained glass and the Dictionary of Sydney is a great way to view them.
With over 1000 entries on the Dictionary there are lots more to explore, so head to the Entries tab (here) to browse and search them all. You can even sort them by the date they were published!
I also have some favourite images among the many thousands on the Dictionary, and the ones here showcase the range of subjects the Dictionary covers, from the quintessential to the curious. Click on the images to be taken to where they sit in the Dictionary and explore the connections around them.
- Harry Rickards on the cover of sheet music of ‘Where is my Nancy?’ c1880, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW (MUSIC FILE/HUN)
Sheet music was central to the dissemination of popular music in Sydney throughout the 19th century and early 20th century before the advent of radio. And Harry Rickards was a theatre owner and comedian who built a theatre circuit in Australia (the Tivoli circuit) and brought many legendary variety artists to Australia. And gee, what can you say about that moustache (even if it is part of the costume)!!
A different time and era. This was an aquarium and amusement park in the valley of Fletcher’s Glen at Tamarama beach.
- Women’s liberationists storm the roof at the Bidura Shelter for Girls in Glebe on International Womens Day 8 March 1974, courtesy Australian History Museum at Macquarie University (Image 42000127)
Bidura was a two storey Victorian house on Glebe Point road. From the 1920s the house was used as a girls’ home and children’s court. In the 1970s Bidura and the Shelter, along with Parramatta Girls’ Home and Hay Institution for Girls, were targeted by Bessie Guthrie and activists from the Women’s Liberation movement for abuses against young women.
Bray’s Museum of Curios was a private natural museum and associated business dealing in colonial, ethnographic and natural artefacts established by James Bray, initially in his home at 84 Forbes Street Woolloomooloo in 1884 and subsequently at 12 Queens Place (now Dalley Street) near Circular Quay in 1886.
Beach culture is central to Sydney life and this captures the moment in the 1920s when beach swimming during the daylight was becoming acceptable.
The Dictionary is made up of contributions and support from hundreds of people and organisations, making it the wonderful collaborative history resource it is today. Thank you to everyone who has helped the Dictionary come this far!
We’re especially grateful for the support of the City of Sydney, the Dictionary’s main sponsor between 2006-2016, and to the State Library of New South Wales, another of our founding partners, which has given the Dictionary a new home in recent years.
Dr Lisa Murray is the Historian of the City of Sydney and the former chair of the Dictionary of Sydney Trust. She is a Visiting Scholar at the State Library of New South Wales and the author of several books, including Sydney Cemeteries: a field guide. She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity. Thanks Lisa, for ten years of unstinting support of the Dictionary! You can follow her on Twitter here: @sydneyclio