I’m up in Sydney for the rest of the week, attending the Australian Historical Society conference being held at the University of Sydney. A frugal little soul, I had booked the cheapest room in my 4.5 star hotel (indeed, it was cheaper than many more humble lodgings) and was expecting a cupboard-sized room but it’s fine. I’m located close to Central railway station with a bus station at the doorstep and about a 20 minute walk from the uni. The building was previously used as a post office, and prior to that was the site for the Sydney Benevolent Asylum.
I was able to check in early, then headed off for the Art Galley of New South Wales. I passed the Lindt cafe. Even though journalists emphasized how central the location was, and the proximity of the Channel Seven building, I hadn’t really registered it.
Of course, as a historian of colonial New South Wales, I made a little pilgrimage to the Domain and the early buildings that surround it, and paid my respects to the statues of Lachlan Macquarie, a man I admired back in 1973 when I did Australian history for my VCE and who, more than forty years later and approaching a Ph D, I still admire.
Then off to the Art Gallery. You know, I don’t think that I’ve ever been to the Art Gallery here- I keep getting it mixed up with the State Library, which of course I have frequented on several occasions.
There’s usually a statue created by Mr Resident Judge’s grandfather in the major Australian galleries: the sculptor Charles Web Gilbert. The Art Gallery of NSW had a cluster of bronzes- a positive swarm of nine Mackennals, with just one Web Gilbert and an Eva Benson.
Quite a few of the pieces had resonances with books I’ve read.
It was getting late- I need to find a bus to get to Sydney University. Thousands of buses, but where was the bus stop? I must admit that the whooshing, belching buses gave me a new appreciation for Melbourne trams. The opening reception was held at the Great Hall, a sandstone building resonant of pomp and tradition, with portraits of Great Male Chancellors (and as far as I could see, two Great Women Chancellors) on the walls.
So let the conference begin!