Repurposing an old convent into the new Heritage CentrePrint
- by Sr Suzette Clark, the chair of the Sisters Committee for the Heritage Centre
The convent at Potts Point has been transformed into the Heritage Centre. The ground floor houses the Exhibition, our Congregational Archives have a purpose- built space on the first floor and the newly added second floor is a large meeting space.
As you enter the ground floor, an Aboriginal artist’s depiction of our history will catch your eye and an Acknowledgement of Country will remind you on whose country you are standing.
This welcoming space leads you to the exhibition, which explores the history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Australia and the story of the Congregation’s contribution to God’s mission in the Australian Church and society.
At the Entrance to the Exhibition is a replica of the bust of Mary Aikenhead created by Dr Charles William MacCarthy for St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney.
Objects, imagery, text and technology tell the story. Some of the objects include the black crucifix, a copy of the Constitutions, Mass charts, a chalice and the 1828 book The conduct of Christian schools, which were among the items the first five Sisters brought with them. The Morning Prayer book of one of those earliest Sisters, Sr Xavier Williams, is on display
The four content areas of Beginnings, Health, Education, and Diverse Ministries depict our history from Mary Aikenhead through to today, including the handing over of our ministries to the Mary Aikenhead Ministries Public Juridic Person.
But there’s more!
Exploring the Exhibition is to be an experience. It is a living and interactive story of our history that engages the visitor into our mission and charism. A digital immersive experience into virtual reality directly engages the visitor. The visitor plays a character who is experiencing some form of disadvantage and helps her or him navigate a series of pathways and choices.
Through the character, we become aware of the seemingly hopelessness of the situation and the possibilities of it being alleviated by an individual, group, or organisation.
The invitation is for us to become agents of hope, advocating for the voiceless and responding to need.
From the Exhibition, visitors move through the building into a connecting courtyard which offers space and quiet, then into the Chapel and the Cause of Mary Aikenhead space.
Thank you to the members of the Sisters’ Committee, Annette Cunliffe and Laureen Dixon, who have worked since the beginning of the project, with our Curator, Jennifer Forest, and me to create this historical, creative, interactive and hopefully transformative experience.
And thank you to our Sisters. State Meetings were held in February 2016 at which Sisters met our Curator, Jennifer Forest, and were invited to give suggestions and ideas. Their interest in and support of this project continue.