The Sydney Harbour Bridge was one of the most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken in Australia. Construction of the bridge took nine years and used over six million rivets. It has become a symbol of Australia and features in our collection in many different ways.
Sydney Harbour Bridge opens
The opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge was a Defining Moment in Australian History.
The bridge was first proposed by government architect Francis Greenway to Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1815. This means there was talk of a bridge crossing the harbour for 107 years before construction started.
In 1922 preparation began and in 1923 construction began in earnest. More than 250 stonemasons and their families were brought to Australia, mainly from Scotland and Italy, to quarry the granite used in the foundations and pylons of the bridge.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was built during the Great Depression and created more than 1600 jobs during its nine years of construction. Unfortunately it was dangerous work, and 16 people died during the build.
On 19 March 1932 the bridge was finally opened to a crowd of more than 750,000 onlookers. Today, it is one of the most recognisable icons of Australia.
The Museum holds in its collection a boomerang believed to be associated with the La Perouse mission in Sydney. It depicts the Sydney Harbour Bridge and native flora and fauna, which is symbolic of the La Perouse style.
From the late 19th century Indigenous Australians created artefacts that documented and reflected their experiences and interactions with European settlers. Many were sold to tourists.
The iconography on this boomerang reflects the changing livelihoods of the Indigenous Australians, brought about by European settlement.
Shellwork Sydney Harbour Bridge
This ornamental shellwork Sydney Harbour Bridge was made by Bidjigal woman Esme Timbery in 2006. It is a meeting of contemporary design with traditional techniques.
Shellwork artefacts have been produced by Indigenous communities since the 1880s. Timberry is from a family of renowned shellworkers at La Perouse, on the northern shores of Botany Bay.
The history of the production of artefacts by the La Perouse community has been deeply entangled with the development of La Perouse as a tourist destination.
Symbols of Australia audio
Stand-up comedian Rod Quantock led an enjoyable and thought-provoking discussion at the Museum on Australia’s best-loved symbols, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Sit back and hear about the bridge starring in everything from tourism posters to an episode of Scooby Doo. Discover why symbols like the bridge resonate with us and learn what makes them, and us, Australian.
04 Jun 2010
Symbols of Australia public forum with Rod Quantock
We’ll keep bringing objects, collections, exhibitions and programs from the vault as part of the Museum from Home experience. Stay tuned!
In our collection