Sydney’s colonial history is on display in a clever exhibition at the State Library.

‘Dead Central’ explains the history of the cemetery that was once located where Sydney’s Central Train Station now stands.

The Devonshire Street cemetery opened in 1820, and filled up quickly. It became overgrown and then abandoned. In 1900 the government announced plans to build the new train terminal at the site of the cemetery. The train station opened in 1906.

At the heart of the exhibition are the notes and photography kept by historians Josephine Ethel Foster and husband Arthur George. They spent every weekend for two years recording the gravestones at the Devonshire Street Cemetery before it was demolished.

If you plan to visit the Dead Central exhibition, download the podcasts beforehand. It’s excellently narrated by NSW State Library senior curator Elise Edmonds. Stories of the people found buried at the cemetery are included in the Burial Files podcast. The podcast will help you appreciate the display.

The library has sourced some wonderful photos showing the construction of the train station. A video that plays on loop shows the underground ‘ghost platforms’ at Central Station – Platforms 26 and 27.

‘Dead Central’ is open until Sunday 17th November at the NSW State Library in Sydney.

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