The Macleay Collection (along with the University’s Nicholson Museum and art collections) will be incorporated into the University’s new Chau Chak Wing Museum.
The Macleay has been part of Sydney’s cultural fabric since it opened in 1892. Its eponymous origins can be traced to Alexander Macleay who came to Australia in 1826 to serve as New South Wales’ Colonial Secretary. Macleay brought with him an extensive entomological collection – widely acknowledged as one of the three best of its type at that time. That collection was on view at the family house in Elizabeth Bay for important visitors – Charles Darwin among others – but it wasn’t until Alexander’s nephew, William John, furnished the University with the money for a curator in perpetuity, along with the collections, that it became a public institution.
The museum originally occupied the entire Macleay Building but, a mere 30 years later, was downsized to occupy the third-floor attic of the building where it has remained ever since. Because of its size, the museum has only ever been able to display around one percent of its massive collection at any time. The new Chau Chak Wing Museum will provide an opportunity for more of the collection to be displayed to the public in exhibitions, study centres and education spaces.
The Macleay Collection includes: