Forgotten exhibition linking University with China in 1978

14 July 2010

(L-R) Ka Lok, Candy and Natalie in front of one of the posters in the upcoming exhibition, China & Revolution.
(L-R) Ka Lok, Candy and Natalie in front of one of the posters in the upcoming exhibition, China & Revolution.

The University of Sydney maintains strong links to China, with more than 5000 Chinese students currently studying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and a network of 10,000 alumni in China.

The steadily increasing numbers began in 1979 with just one student who benefited from the reforms of 1978 in the Peoples Republic of China with the launch of the Reform and Opening-up Policy.

A recent translation of a photographic album reveals relations between the University of Sydney and China took an important step when an exhibition of Australian animals from the Macleay Museum travelled to China in 1978.

The album was translated by Candy Yu and Lam Ka Lok, two young students from Chinese University of Hong Kong currently doing an internship with the Sydney University Museums. One more intern, Natalie Tang Wai Shan from the Baptist University in Hong Kong, is working with the Art Collections. The album will be part of a historic photographic collection available online later in the year.

Dr Jude Philp, Senior Curator of the Macleay Museum said the skills and enthusiasm of the Hong Kong students was something to look forward to each year. In this case, the translating skills of the two interns from the Chinese University of Hong Kong had proved very valuable.

"We generally aim to give varied work experience to interns, from assisting with audits of the entomology collections, to greeting visitors to the gallery and translating exhibition text," she said.

"These will be turned into flyers for VIP visitors from China who come to the museums."

The interns stay at the University of Sydney for a period of six to eight weeks and are involved in research and translation work at the Macleay Museum and University Art Gallery.

While one intern is working with the Art Collection translating key works in the East Asian collection and researching artist biographies, two other interns have translated press clippings and titles on presentation photo albums from the Macleay Museum goodwill exhibition, which was organised by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries in 1978.

"Macleay Museum's Australian Rare Animals Exhibition travelled to Guang Zhou Cultural Park and the albums document photos and press releases which are all written in Chinese."

The translations reveal the strengthening of relations between China and the University of Sydney, with the exhibition displaying more than 30 animal specimens collected from different parts of Australia, including mammals, birds and reptiles.

"The translations are valuable and it reveals a significant moment in the history of China and its relationship with the University of Sydney."

Dr Philp said the 1978 exhibition in China was an early step in an increasing relationship between China and the University of Sydney. The following year, the first Chinese international student came to study at the University.

Media enquiries: Rachel Gleeson, 0403 067 342, 9351 4312,