Developing Sydney – Capturing Change 1900-1920

This exhibition showcases photographs commissioned by Sydney Municipal Council from 1900 to 1920.

Sydney’s built landscape rapidly urbanised in the first two decades of the twentieth century, embracing modern buildings, sanitation, infrastructure and commerce. Old houses and pubs, little warehouses and factories, crumbling stables and quaint shops – many dating from the 1840s and untouched for over 50 years – were swept away in piecemeal demolitions and neighbourhood resumptions.

From 1900, the City Building Surveyor’s department of Sydney Municipal Council used photography to document the city’s profound transformation. These photographs inadvertently capture the largely working class neighbourhoods and people being displaced by commercial and government redevelopment. Aboriginal people are largely absent from these photographs, despite their ongoing presence in the city.

The City Building Surveyor’s Condemnation and Demolition Books is a key photographic collection held in the City Archives comprising almost 5000 photographs and associated glass plate negatives.

Visit the City of Sydney Archives and History Resources catalogue to view and download exhibition photographs.

A selection of photos can be viewed in this Sydney Morning Herald article. You can also take a virtual tour of the exhibition by clicking the button below. The link will take you to the Sydney Customs House website.