Hyde Park Barracks

The assemblage excavated from the Hyde Park Barracks (HPB) during the course of its restoration is one of the largest, most comprehensive, and best-preserved archaeological assemblages derived from any 19th-century institution anywhere in the world. The bulk of the HPB collection was excavated between 1979 and 1981, with more than 50% coming from underfloor spaces of the main building and dating to the period of the Immigration Depot (1848–1886) and Destitute Asylum (1862–1886). This component of the assemblage represents a simply vast array of material culture related to women and, in some cases, children. Among the detritus of everyday life there are rosaries and religious medals, skirt lengths, sewing equipment, costume jewellery, children's toys and clothing, medicine bottles (sometimes with the names of the patients still on the labels), bits of mending, and above all snow drifts of paper from letters, newspapers, improving works and religious tracts. The collection is of great global significance, and has the capacity to tell us much about the history of women in the 19th century, specifically and the operation of institutions such as destitute asylums and their English counterparts, the workhouses and, to a lesser extent, the experience of female immigration in the mid 19th century. Over 20 years after its excavation, large components of the assemblage remain essentially unanalysed.

Jewellery discovered at Hyde Park Barracks

This project articulates the rigorous analysis of the HPB artefact assemblage with relevant historical documentation to write the historical archaeology of one of the iconic sites of Australian history. In so doing the research will underpin broader inquiries into the historical archaeology of institutions and of migration in the modern world. It builds on over ten years of research on sites in Sydney conducted by the Exploring the Archaeology of the Modern City (EAMC) Project (C00002438) and related work separately funded by the Historic Houses Trust of NSW (HHT). Analysis will occur at several levels, ranging from a single sealed deposit to comparisons between contexts across the main Barracks building. Significantly, we will broaden and deepen our understanding of life at the Barracks through comparison with other institutional sites in Australia and elsewhere, at the local, national and global levels.


Aims and objectives of the Hyde Park Barracks project

Background and Significance

Place specific histories at Hyde Park Barracks

Research Plan and Methodology

Building on methodologies developed in Melbourne and Sydney.

References and Publications

References and Publications

Project Staff

Project Staff


photos and descriptions of the artefacts found on site