With a dizzying collection of art, history, science and ancient cultures sprawling over four floors, where do you start? What should you do? Well, this guide is for you.
We take you through some iconic faves, insta raves and hidden gems so that you can make the most of your experience the next time you visit the Chau Chak Wing Museum.
Ancient Egyptians belived that by speaking the names of the dead, we sustain them in the afterlife. Get to know the four individuals resting here: Meruah, Padiashaikhet, Horus and Mer-Neith-it-es. They lived in Egypt between 1200 BC and 100 AD and these days, their mummies and coffins can be found in The Mummy Room.
Not a fan of swimming in the cooler seasons? Consider checking out Sydney's best beaches from comfort of the Museum. Spanning five continents and several art movements – Impressionism, Cubism, Modernism – Coastline takes you on an art history tour of beaches and shores of Australia and beyond, including Bondi, Manly and La Perouse. Many of the artworks in this exhibition have never been on public view, and there are some heavyweights attached, too: Conrad Martens, Arthur Streeton, Clarice Beckett, Grace Cossington Smith, Emanuel Phillips Fox, just to namedrop a few.
In Chinese culture Auspicious symbols, that is, symbols to encourage success and good fortune, are dotted throughout daily life. This concept is the focus of Auspicious, the inaugural exhibition in the Museum's China Gallery. Featured is this bronze statue of Wenshu, a deity embodying wisdom and prayed to by those seeking to excel in assignments and exams. Looking for some good fortune and glow? This may well be the sign and perfect time to drop a visit, before the exhibition wraps up in early 2022.
For the Yolŋu people of eastern Arnhem land, the foundations of their ancestral and cultural knowledge is shared through art. The University of Sydney has close to 1,000 Yolŋu artworks and presenting this major showcase involved longterm, deep conversations and collaboration with Elders and art communities from Milingimbi, Ramingining and Yirrkala.
As Curator Rebecca Conway explains, “The title of the exhibition developed by the Yolŋu project team is an invitation, Gululu dhuwala djalkiri: welcome to the Yolŋu foundations.”
Gululu / welcome this; here is
Dhuwala / footsteps; spiritual foundation
Djalkiri / ancestral imprint on the landscape
Get a glimpse of daily life back in the ancient Middle East. Cuneiform – coined from a Latin word to mean “wedged-shaped” for its characteristic markings – is the oldest known system of writing in the world. It dates back to around the 4th millennium BC. In the Macleay Galleries, you can check out artefacts with cuneiform inscriptions as well as other archaeological artefacts documenting the incredible cultural innovation that has taken place throughout Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and the Levant (modern Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and southern Turkey).
Living up to its name, the titan beetle (Titanus gianteus) is one of the largest known beetles in the world. The specimen at the Museum measures 16cm long (!!) and how it eventually got here is also wild and fascinating.
The swamps of coastal French Guyana were home to this beetle before the specimen became part of colonist Baron Malouet’s collection. War between France and Britain led to the capture of Malouet’s ship, and the beetle was sold in 1778 as war booty to British entomologist Dru Drury. In 1818, Alexander Macleay purchased it from naturalist John Francillion for five guineas – one-third of a year’s wage for a labourer at that time. You can read more about its journey here (Muse Magazine), or come see the real thing for yourself.
Pre- or post-Museum exploring, settle into Sounds Sydney – the café downstairs – and enjoy coffee by The Little Marionette and views overlooking Victoria Park. Serving great food all day, it's also a picturesque spot to hide away and get some work done!