Macleay Museum - Sydney University Museums

The Macleay Museum is a museum of natural history, ethnography and history. Named in honour of William Sharp Macleay, the Macleay Museum is also a museum of the Macleay family and their centuries of commitment to scientific knowledge and museums.

The Macleay collections began as a collection of insects assembled in the late 18th century by Alexander Macleay. On his appointment as Colonial Secretary for NSW in 1826, Alexander brought the collection to Australia. At the time it was one of the largest privately owned insect collections in the world (today there are more than half a million insect specimens in the collection).

Alexander’s son William Sharp Macleay, a leading naturalist in 19th century Australia substantially increased the size of the collection during his lifetime. The collection then passed to William Sharp’s cousin William John Macleay, on the condition that on his death he should donate the collection in William Sharp’s name to either the University of Cambridge or The University of Sydney to promote the study of science.

By the time the collection arrived at The University of Sydney in 1887 and was housed in the purpose-built museum it occupies to this day, it had expanded considerably and took two years to move. The Macleays, and subsequent collectors, have expanded the original insect collections so that today they encompass several branches of natural history and include significant historic ethnographic material acquired from indigenous peoples of Australia and the Pacific region along with important collections of historic photography and scientific instruments.

Collections

Natural history, cultural history, enthnographic collections, scientific instruments, historical photography