A city council-employed 'block boy', photographed in 1928

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BY ISABELLE BASTIAN

The City of Sydney Council has compiled Our City: 175 years in 175 objects, a major exhibition of 175 objects representing Sydney’s past, to celebrate the council’s 175th anniversary.

The exhibition shows the immense growth of the city from 1842 until the present.
“Sydney has transformed from a penal colony in 1788 to today’s leading global city,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
“While the role of the City and its staff have evolved significantly in 175 years, our role in leading, governing and serving the community remains.”

The exhibition is centred around four major themes: governing, building, working, and inspiring. The ‘governing’ component contains artifacts such as the Council seal stamp to mark authenticity of documents, and a panorama created by the joining of photos taken from the Sydney Town Hall clock tower in 1873. It celebrates notable figures in Sydney’s history, such as the first Lord Mayor Thomas Hughes, and the first woman elected to the Council in 1965, Joan Pilone. The section underlines the shift from party politics to independent mayors and the great responsibility of the Council to the people of the city.

The exhibits under the ‘building’ theme focus on the physical growth of the city and its infrastructure, featuring historical gems such as a light bulb from 1904 when electric lights were first installed and the 1974 architect’s plans for Martin Place. This section also looks to the future and includes the Sustainable Sydney 2030 plans. The City of Sydney’s released material around the exhibition emphasised that the Council was continuing “to plan, advocate for and build a green, global and connected city.”

The ‘working’ section includes photos and artifacts from Council block boys, fruit sellers and computer workers. Through maps, it documents the city’s expansion of trains out into the suburbs.
The many jobs no longer in existence that are highlighted show the growth and changes of Sydney. For example ‘gully flushers’ removed debris and dead animals from the 1,802 channels in the sewage system before flushing them with water. Many of the flushers were boys, while older labourers did the removals.
Another now-obsolete position is that of the Inspector of Nuisances. Created in 1847, the position regulated everything from kite-flying to market inspections. Other formerly essential jobs included rat catchers, and the City’s Medical Unit who administered vaccines until 1994.

“Since its establishment, the City has grown and contracted as state governments redraw boundaries, with some powers removed and new ones gained as the city has evolved,” said the Lord Mayor.
“The City’s responsibilities have ranged from policing the city to looking after markets, roads, lighting, waste, sewerage, health and planning. This rich mix of accomplishments has made Sydney what it is today.”
The final section dedicated to ‘inspiring’ celebrates the diverse and independent community of Sydney. Artifacts range from documents relating to the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1932 to the 1967 vote to end discrimination against Aboriginal people.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that “many of our ancestors have seen Sydney evolve into the global city that it is – this is an opportunity to look back at where we began, the challenges we have overcome, and where we plan to be in the future.
“I invite all Sydneysiders to come along to the exhibition to gain an insight into the history of their city and the many men and women who first served our communities.”

The exhibition will be open for two weeks from 27 October until 12 November 2017 from 11am to 4pm in the Lower Town Hall, and entry is free.