2011 February 24 – Day 50 – Sydney, Australia (Day 4)

Our last day in Sydney was semi-lazy.  After breakfast we spent most of the morning in our room sorting photos.  About 11:30 we walked through Hyde Park again and went to the Barracks Museum, where we spent the majority of the afternoon. Hyde Park Barracks Museum covers the history of the buildings themselves.  The complex was built between 1817 and 1819 to provide secure lodging for government assigned male convicts.  From 1819-1848 there was an average of 600 men sleeping in hammocks in 12 rooms.   During the day the convicts would go out to various places around Sydney and work on roads, bridges, and buildings.  The Barracks contained a bakehouse, kitchen, mess-rooms where the men ate their meals, storerooms, cells and some apartments for the Deputy Superintendent and his assistants.

The murals in the entrance hall were well done. Betwen 1848 and 1886 the Barracks was the immigration depot for single females – mostly Irish girls orphaned during the great famine.  In a country like Australia that was very short on females it was a way to get servants as well as brides.  They altered the central dormitory and iron beds replaced the hammocks.  During these years there were also offices on the grounds such as the Government Printing Offices, the Vaccine Institute, District Court and the NSW (New South Wales) Volunteer Rifle Corps; plus more.

From 1862-1886 the top two floors of the complex was a new Government Asylum for aged, infirm and destitue women.  They had access via an outside staircase to the courtyard for laundry, kitchens and a bathouse.  About 399 women were cared for. The Government set up offices and law courts from 1887-1979 after a major overhaul of the buildings was completed.  Two large courtrooms were attached to the eastern end of the main building and others were remodeled for smaller courts or other legal entities such as the Patents, Coroners, and Weights and Measures departments.  Over time other government bodies used the space as well; such as the Industrial Courts, the Public Trustee, the Master of Lunacy, Legal Aid and the Parole Board.

For more than 185 years the Barracks has had 50 different user groups, 28 of them legal or government departments.  By 1904 there were plans to demolish the Hyde Park Barracks but no action was undertaken and in 1935 the suggestion that the complex become a museum was first broached.  It took until 1975 for a decision to be made to keep the Barracks site and a team of architects, histrorians, archaeologists and museologists began working on the plans for a museum.  The work began in 1980 and by 1984 the new museum of social history opened its doors.  Six years later the Barracks were put under the control of the Historic Houses Trust and refurbished as a museum that presents the history of the site itself.  The stories of the buildings and the experiences of its inhabitants are told through changing exhibits.

After three hours we wander across the street to Hyde Park and watched people while we ate some lunch. The Wine Festival was starting soon and workers were getting things ready; including a really long line of port-a-potties.While I did some work at the internet cafe to get more photos uploaded to my photosharing site John scoped out nearby restaurants for somewhere to eat dinner.

After dinner we returned to the internet cafe to use up the remainder of our purchased time and then headed for our hotel and bed.  The next day we began our Australian Adventure in earnest.

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