“The exhibition grew out of the museum’s own collections,” enthuses Sydney Living Museums’ Dr Matthew Stephens.

Catherine Hayes The First Appearance of Miss Catherine Hayes at Victoria Theatre, Sydney 1854© National Library of Australia

“We manage a series of historic houses and some of those houses have really extraordinary sheet music collections. You can cut a house in many different ways and they’re full of objects, so it sometimes just comes down to the questions that are asked about what’s in them. For almost 10 years we’ve been getting the public, as well as researchers, enquiring about what kind of music and instruments were to be found in the houses, and what are the stories that goes with those? It really forces us to engage with the collections in that way.”

That public interest provided the impetus for SLM’s latest exhibition, Songs of Home, which presents the little-known story of New South Wales’ early musical culture during early settlement. Beginning with the Anglo-Australian relationship, it also explores how the musical cultures of the colonisers and the Indigenous interacted and came to shape one another, whilst also reflecting on the place of music in our...

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