Hidden treasures in free archives website

The City’s online records portal includes over 1 million items, with almost half available to download.

If you sat each box from the City Archives collection side-by-side, they would run from Sydney Town Hall to South Head, the very tip of Watsons Bay.

Lucky for us, the collection is more readily available through the new Archives & History Resources website. The cloud-based system has over 1 million records with almost half available for download.

To respond to the thousands of public requests the City of Sydney receives for archival content each year, a team of volunteers has listed items online dating back to 1842. Here are our favourite finds.

Thomas Edison’s response to Sydney about his ‘electric light interest’

Yes. The Thomas Edison. In 1882, from his Fifth Avenue office in New York, Thomas A Edison responded to Sydney’s town clerk advising him of negotiations with “some gentlemen in London” to sell his NSW electric light interests.

Letter -Thomas A Edison regarding negotiations to sell electric light interests, 1888 (City of Sydney Archives: A-000308483)

A street view like you’ve never seen before

More than 80% of requests are location specific. These include requests for historical building plans, archival images of streetscapes or street maps. To encourage self-service, more than 80,000 items have been geo-tagged so far. You can find these through an interactive map.

Parramatta Road Camperdown, 1911 (City of Sydney Archives A-00039044)

Maps, maps and more maps

You can view maps produced by the City of Sydney, other government authorities or private surveying firms and individuals from the 19th and 20th centuries. Found in the collections tiles on the home page, the historical atlas provides background to the City of Sydney’s evolving boundaries from 1842 until today.

City of Sydney birdseye view, 1888

A historical slide show of images from your suburb’s past

Historical images from a selection of suburbs in our area are grouped together in a curated village and suburbs collection. Discover your neighbourhood when horse and cart owned the streets, parks included skating rinks and cigarette advertising plastered walls.

John Street Glebe, proposed cottages, 1920 (City of Sydney Archives: A-00035911)

Create your own collection and share it with friends and family

The Pinterest of the historical world, Archives & Historical Resources allows you to create your own collection of favourites by becoming a user. Simply register and you can pull together historical items in groups and share them on social media. As a registered user, you can also add geotags or suggest edits to content you’ve found, helping create an even better resource. Never fear, you can still use most of the catalogue without registering.

Take a look at the archives now.

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