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Satirical White Elephant Ticket, 1964 (UNSW) Image: Dennis Wolanski Collection

The Wolanski Collection

The Sydney Opera House acknowledges the long-standing support of the Wolanski family and the pioneering role of The Wolanski Foundation in enabling the Opera House’s creation and distribution of digital content, including some of the our very first performing arts and educational videos.

In many ways the trove of digital content and archival material that underpins Our Story has been enabled by The Wolanski Foundation through Dennis Wolanski OAM, 1917-1992, the Sydney businessman and sculptor, and his son Phillip Wolanski AM.

Access to the Sydney Opera House Wolanski Collection
For information held by the Sydney Opera House Trust, please contact the Corporate Archivist on +61 2 9250 7424.

The Wolanski Foundation Project
For information on the Wolanski Foundation, visit www.twf.org.au

Dennis Wolanski OAM, 1917-1992

Dennis Wolanski OAM Image: Gary Eade, 1986

Dennis Wolanski emerged from the devastating experience of the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II to achieve business success in Australia. This success allowed him to pursue artistic endeavours as a sculptor and philanthropic interests, notably the Opera House’s Dennis Wolanski Library and Archives of the Performing Arts. As a member and, later, Chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust Library Sub-Committee, he guided the development of the Library until his death in 1992. Learn more here.

From 1973 to 1996, a substantial collection of material about the Sydney Opera House, and the performing arts more generally, formed the Opera House’s Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts, established through Dennis Wolanski’s generosity and vision to serve the Opera House, the performing arts industry, students, and the broader community. The library and its staff also played significant roles in the development of corporate information systems, collection management, and a number of multimedia projects at the Opera House.

In 1997, the Library closed and a large proportion of the collection is now held by the Opera House’s cultural partners, the specialist collecting institutions of the State Library of NSW and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, as well as UNSW Sydney’s university library, Arts Centre Melbourne's Performing Arts Collection, the Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Foundation and a number of other institutions. The Opera House also retains materials from the collection which, with additional material acquired from other sources, is now known as the Sydney Opera House Wolanski Collection.

In 1998, Phillip Wolanski AM, in partnership with Paul Bentley, the Library’s manager 1973-1997, established The Wolanski Foundation to provide information on the materials previously held by the Library and to assist in providing access to this material.

In 2011, the Wolanski family, through The Wolanski Foundation, renewed its relationship with the Opera House  to enable a new approach to preserving and sharing the Opera House’s story by creating content across digital and social platforms, much of which was streamed through the Opera House’s interactive Play portal. The ground-breaking Play portal has transformed into this website, our YouTube and Facebook video platforms, and our presence on the Google Cultural Institute.

In 2013, as part of the Opera House’s 40th anniversary celebrations, The Wolanski Foundation jointly enabled, with Catriona and Simon Mordant AM, the restoration of the film Autopsy on a Dream, an invaluable digital archival record,  thought lost for 45 years. A 1968 BBC-produced, John Weiley-directed film about the building of the Opera House, Autopsy on a Dream was restored through a collaboration of the Opera House, enabled by the Wolanskis and Mordants, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation with the additional support of the BBC and Screen Australia.

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