On Friday I used my lunch break to check out the latest free exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales. Now anyone who knows me well can tell you I hate shopping, yet this is an exhibition all about shops and shopping and I thought it was great!
While I've been working at the Library I've catalogued some collections of news clippings and have always enjoyed seeing the advertisements for different products and clothing styles. These days a lot of them would be entirely politically incorrect, and no doubt some of the products are even illegal. I think it's an interesting way to explore elements of the social history of New South Wales and Australia.
On Sale is, for the most part, made up of items from the State Library's collections. There are paintings, letters, newspapers, ledger books, photographs, food stamps, scrapbooks, posters, booklets, boxes, shopping bags... anything you can think of really, documenting the history of shopping in Sydney and New South Wales from the early colony to the present day.
I particularly liked seeing the development of markets in Sydney and early histories of the department stores. Then there is the washing machine - because "every woman deserves a washing machine." It's alright, you could use your new washing machine for your smart girl, interlocking stitch, dull fabric underwear!
I thought the exhibition was great and the presentation of materials was fun. I know the library is running events to coincide with On Sale (e.g. Tuesday nights in the galleries) so I'd definitely like to go again and have the opportunity to have someone talk me through what's on show.
If you get the chance, definitely pop along to visit. There's more information on the State Library website, and the exhibition brochure is free as well.
ALIA Sydney committee member & librarian at the SLNSW.
These views are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. I visited and wrote about On Sale from my own personal experience, not as a State Library employee.