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The Weird and Wonderful Sydney Town Hall Collection Geso on Public Display

SYDNEY.- A treasure trove of intriguing items from around the world went on public display in Sydney Town Hall to help celebrate the official reopening of the iconic building.

UNVAULTED features fascinating items from the Sydney Town Hall Collection, many on public display for the very first time, including a lock of Napoleon's hair, a chair from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and a lamp from one of the Japanese submarines which attacked Sydney Harbour in 1942.

"There are some 3,500 invaluable items in our unique Sydney Town Hall Collection which is the largest civic collection in Australia," said Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP.

"We look forward to sharing this eclectic mix of official gifts and some of the fascinating stories behind them. This Collection demonstrates the City's rich 160-year history and some of these items have been kept in vaults for over a century."

UNVAULTED is curated by City of Sydney historian Margaret Betteridge and is the inaugural exhibition in the newly refurbished Lower Town Hall, designed to highlight the Sydney's newest multifunctional exhibition venue within the iconic Sydney Town Hall.

The exhibition helps celebrate the return of Sydney Town Hall to City communities, following a $40 million essential service, internal safety and fire services upgrade.

The Town Hall is the civic heart of Sydney and an iconic heritage building. We've restored and made it safe for the 360,000 people who visit each year for community, corporate and charity functions; school speech days; university graduations; meetings and conferences; concerts; fashion parades; and community events.

The extensive fire safety and essential services overhaul included the installation of new fire safety measures including alarms, sprinklers and a smoke exhaust system, 58 kilometres of new electrical cabling, 1700 energy efficient lights with smart sensors, new storm water infrastructure using up to 20 per cent less water, 240 solar panels on the roof, and a new climate control system that uses 30 per cent less power.

UNVAULTED features many weird and wonderful items recalling unforgettable moments in Sydney's history and official gifts presented to the people of Sydney traditionally accepted by successive mayors, lord mayors, aldermen and women and councillors. Some of the items that will be on display include:

• UNEARTHED: Fragments of headstones uncovered from previous archaeological excavations of Sydney Town Hall, which is built on the site of the colony's first official European cemetery.

• UNCOVERED: The original suite of Council Chamber furniture has undergone major conservation, restoration and re-upholstery. Built in Australian red cedar and installed in the newly completed Council Chamber in 1883, it has returned to Sydney Town Hall this year with a new lease of life.

• UNEXPECTED: In 1873, an unknown Sydney photographer undertook a dangerous climb of the clocktower of Sydney Town Hall which was at the time, the tallest structure in Sydney. In 2007, Sydney photographer Peter Murphy used digital technology to create a single panorama of the same view.

• UNBELIEVABLE: Sydney Town Hall is renowned as one of Australia's most significant heritage buildings and its spectacular interiors never fail to impress visitors. The splendour of its architectural detail, as seen through the eyes of a camera lens, and in the meticulous work of modelmakers never fails to amaze.

• UNFORGETTABLE: To celebrate the visit of the first reigning monarch to Sydney on 5 February 1954, Lord Mayor PD Hills hosted a formal ball in Sydney Town Hall. Earlier in the day, HM Queen Elizabeth II had attended two civic functions - the ceremonial opening of the gates to Sandringham Gardens in Hyde Park and the planting of the first tree in Remembrance Driveway in Macquarie Place.

• UNIQUE: The diversity of the City's collection is a snapshot of civic duty in Sydney, recalling some of the unique contributions of colourful events and fascinating personalities associated with Sydney's civic history; and the traditions behind the ceremonial pageantry.

• UNDER ATTACK: HMAS Sydney has a long association with the City of Sydney, commencing with the recognition of Captain Glossop and his crew, following the successful defeat of the SMS Emden in 1914. In 1940, the crew of the second HMAS Sydney were presented with civic medals following their victory in the Mediterranean Sea. More recently, a plaque was unveiled to recognise the role the ship played during the Vietnam conflict.

• UNWIRED: On the night of 31 May 1941, three Japanese midget submarines assembled outside Sydney Heads in preparation for an attack on Sydney Harbour. One became tangled in the anti-torpedo net inside the heads, another attacked HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 Australian and British sailors before slipping out of the harbour.

• UNKNOWN: Two items in the Sydney Town Hall Collection continue to intrigue us. One, a lock of hair purportedly from the head of Napoleon, is accompanied by fascinating documentation. The other, a painting catalogued as a 'Lord Mayoral Group' illustrates a former mayor of Sydney wearing a chain of office, ten years before the City of Sydney acquired one.

• UNWRAPPED: The presentation of gifts in the course of official duties is an internationally recognised protocol associated with civic hospitality. Many of these gifts are presented to the City of Sydney and for the first time, a selection from around the world has been assembled for display in UNVAULTED.

Sydney Town Hall will officially reopen to the public on Friday 5 March 2010 with three days of celebrations including open days, exhibitions and two free music performances.

UNVAULTED will be on display in Sydney Town Hall (entry via Druitt Street), from 10am - 4pm Saturday 6th March to Monday 26th April 2010, (closed Good Friday and Easter Monday).

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