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An artwork featuring a man in a shiny red dress with his face obscured
Photograph: Courtesy the artist'Vaucluse House', Gerwyn Davies 2021

Top picks from Sydney Living Museums’ summer arts and culture season

The line-up of events includes online talks, virtual tours and IRL exhibitions

By Time Out in association with Sydney Living Museums
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It’s finally here: the program for Sydney Living Museums’ summer arts and culture season has landed, just in time for you to get your long-overdue fix of architecture, history and design. The next six months are shaping up to be a scorcher, with a number of digital events locked in that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home, plus exhibitions like Iridescent by Gerwyn Davies and How to Move a Zoo opening to the public. You won't want to miss a minute of the action, so start planning your summer accordingly.


Celebrate the Harbour City’s most culturally significant architectural designs, urban spaces and historic buildings when Sydney Open returns from November 5-7. Due to lockdown restrictions, the 2021 program has been reimagined to feature a mix of digital and Covid-friendly events. We’re talking everything from livestreamed panel talks and podcasts to virtual focus tours and self-guided audio walking experiences. Over the course of the weekend you’ll also be able to dive into discussions on the city’s heritage and engage with ideas on identity, sustainability and First Nations perspectives. Panel talk speakers include Cameron Logan, associate professor at Sydney University, and Emily McDaniel, curator, writer and educator from the Kalari clan of the Wiradjuri Nation.

Where: Online and various outdoor locations
When: November 5-7
How much: Free, but registration is required for panel talks

In this series of 12 large-scale works being housed at the Museum of Sydney, queer photographic artist and costume designer Gerwyn Davies responds to and reimagines the museums, historic houses and gardens under the care of Sydney Living Museums and the NSW State Archives. Davies has transformed each site into a stage, on which an over-the-top performance takes place by the artist as a dramatically costumed character. At this exhibition you’ll discover a new perspective on each property, with costume and camera being used to conjure up a range of surreal figures, and celebrate the interesting (and lesser-known) historic subplots. And for the first time ever, Davies’ costumes will also be displayed alongside the photographs.

Where: Museum of Sydney
When: December 4, 2021-April 24, 2022
How much: Tickets from $12

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For a feelgood outing that will capture the hearts of kids and adults alike, look no further than How to Move a Zoo. This interactive exhibition at the Museum of Sydney tells the remarkable story of the animals of Moore Park Zoo and their journey to the brand-new Taronga Zoological Park in 1916. Over the course of six months, a menagerie of creatures great and small – including kangaroos, lions and a four-ton elephant named Jessie – travelled through the streets of Sydney, delighting residents suffering through the trauma of the Great War. The exhibition features specially commissioned illustrations, rare historical photographs and immersive projections that recreate the sights and sounds of the voyage. You can even choose an animal and watch it walk, hop, run or fly across to its new home, plus discover how the planning of Taronga incorporated the latest zoological practices.

Where: Museum of Sydney
When: November 20, 2021-April 24, 2022
How much: Tickets from $12

If anyone asks what you’re doing at 4pm on a Tuesday for the rest of the year, tell them you’re busy, because Sydney Living Museums’ curatorial team is hosting a free online talk series and live Q&A, and you won’t want to miss a single session. Topics will range from architecture to cookery, and also include a behind-the-scenes look at many of the houses, museums and historic collections that Sydney Living Museums cares for. Upcoming talks include 'Shady Ladies: Women of the 1920s Underworld with Nerida Campbell' (which will explore how the Roaring Twenties was a golden era for female criminals like sly-grogger Kate Leigh and long-forgotten flapper Edna Lindsay), 'Madge Elliot at Elizabeth Bay House with Mel Flyte', and 'First Fleet Fare – Food and Hunger in the Early Sydney Colony with Dr Jacqui Newling'. 

Where: Online 
When: Every Tuesday at 4pm until the end of the year
How much: Free

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